Budget physics

Photochromic Frisbee

Get this quality flying disk here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: UV Chameleon by Discraft

You may also want a powerful UV flashlight:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: High Power UV Light

Photochromic Frisbee: the plastic of the UV Chameleon by Discraft contains photochromic pigment molecules that actually change shape when struck by photons of UV light, and the new shape alters their absorption properties such that they reflect a deep purple color. The color is temporary- room temperature thermal energy bumps the molecules back into their original configuration, and the color fades back to white in about 3 minutes (shown here sped up x7). A long wave UV flashlight is used to “paint” the disk purple, and sunlight will do the same very quickly.

Micro Racer in a Glass

These micro racer cars are sold under many brand names, and most come with a clear sphere to demonstrate this centripetal acceleration phenomenon. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Micro Racer + Sphere

Micro Racer in a Glass: This tiny battery powered car overcomes gravity through centripetal acceleration and slight friction with the glass surface. With sufficient velocity the surface normal force supplies the centripetal acceleration. The car’s battery last for many minutes and is USB rechargeable.

Reaction Rocket

The essence of a great physics toy: simple design showing comlex physics 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Reaction Rocket 

Reaction Rocket: projectile launch via momentum transfer in slow motion. The superball/straw base bounces off the table top and then immediately collides with the bottom of the rocket sending it off with a velocity slightly less than 3 times the velocity of the rising ball (true if the ball is more than three times the mass of the rocket). Newton's third law in action! Note that the rocket rises much higher than the drop height (up to 9 times higher).


Top Secret

This physics toy top is available here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Mystery Spinning Top 

From Amazon: BUY NOW Mystery Spinning Top


The amazing green magnetic viewing film is also available: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Magnetic Field Viewing Film 

Here is the 1974 patent showing the very simple circuit of this device. The spinning dipole (the top itself) induces a current in one of the coils, and this current is fed to the base of the transistor turning the electromagnet on when the top is near. 
 

"Top Secret": this top will stay spinning for more than a week- because it is actually a motor! The top is a dipole magnet (as revealed by Magneview film) and the base has an electromagnet that gives the dipole a push when the top comes near the center. An ingeniously simple circuit consisting of only a battery, a coil, and a transistor, is activated when the spinning magnet nears the coil turning on the electromagnet to give a boost to the spin of the magnetic top.

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Drinking Bird Heat Engine

Get this famous physics toy from these sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW 
Drinking Bird Engine 

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Drinking Bird Engine 


Wikipedia has wonderful details about the rich history (and further descriptions of the operational principals) of the Drinking Bird
Drinking Bird Heat Engine: time lapse of 15 minutes into 15 seconds (4 cycles). Cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the dichloromethane fluid rises up the neck making the bird top heavy and the bird tips over dipping its beak and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The time lapse allows a clearer picture of how the fluid rises, shifting the center of mass, and how tipping makes the glass column lift out of the fluid in the bottom allowing the pressure to equalize and letting gravity pull the fluid to return to the base. Process repeats as long as the top stays wet. So much physics in one hypnotic toy!


Strandbeest Mini

Get one here! Make sure to get the Jr. Scientist version of this kit for best results. 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Strandbeest Model Kit 

Read about Theo Jansen and his novel leg linkage mechanism for the Strandbeests via these Wiki pages. 

Strandbeest Mini: A fully working model of artist Theo Jansen's Strandbeest kinetic sculpture which features Jansen's linkage- a unique leg mechanism which converts rotary motion of a crackshaft into smooth walking motion. Jansen's creations are usually a couple meters high and walk the beaches of the Netherlands powered by the wind. This version comes as a model kit that snaps together with no glue- a really fun project!

Mini Wind Turbine

Nice little unit for the price! 
From eBay: BUY NOW Mini Wind Turbine 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Mini Wind Turbine 

Mini Wind Turbine: self-contained miniature horizontal axis wind turbine generates enough power to light three LEDs. A small turbine blade is attached to the rotor of a tiny generator that powers the LEDs. Conversion of energy- wind kinetic energy to rotational kinetic energy to electrical energy to light energy. I like how the wind vane and tower are also designed from acrylic as light pipes for the LED light. A fun little toy that demonstrates the physics of renewable energy!


Mini-Lollipopter

Available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Lollipopter Kinetics

From eBay: BUY NOW: Lollipopter Kinetics

Mini-Lollipopter: new smaller cousin of one of my favorite interactive kinetic sculpture designs. A snap of the wrist imparts angular momentum to the "petals" which then rotate until an internal mechanism stops their motion with predetermined spacing- clockwise rotation transforms a helix to an abstract pine cone, counterclockwise returns the helix. Created by @john.edmark.

Pixelated Playing Cards

Available from these fine sources: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pixel Cards 
From eBay: BUY NOW Pixel Cards

Pixelated Playing Cards: what one sees is all about the lighting with this transparent deck of cards. When backlit these poker sized cards become simply a grid of dots- reminding us that what we see not only concerns the physical properties of the perceived object, but also the location of the light source and the frequency and intensity of its emissions.


Time's Up

Similar timers available from these sources: 
From eBay: BUY NOW 
Inverted Timer 


From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Inverted Timer 


Time's Up: inverse of the sandglass- tiny plastic beads are less dense than the water and thus ascend to the top of the container under the influence of a buoyant force in accordance with Archimedes' principle. This timer takes almost exactly 6 minutes to complete shown here at normal speed for the first half of this video, and the second half is condensed to 24 seconds in time-lapse. 

Impossible Braid 

Get this nice example of mystery braid here:

From Art of Play: BUY NOW: Impossible Braid Key Fob

Here is a great video on how to make the mystery braid

See other Impossible Objects in my collection. 

Mystery Braid: challenge- how can three strands be braided if both sets of ends are connected? (swipe for reveal) A new addition to my collection of “impossible objects”, this leather key fob is braided from a single piece of leather, constructed by making two parallel slits but not cutting the ends. The solution is well known to those in the field of leatherwork- due to a twist of topology it’s possible to make this braid if the number of left strand over right crossings equals the times the right strand crosses over the left. Four strands braided this way is not mathematically possible, but 3, 5, or any odd number can be done!

 

 


LASER Pointers + Diffraction Grating

Need a laser pointer? Incredibly, you can get 3 (one of each color) for under $20 (including S&H): 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Red+Green+Purple Laser Pointer

Rainbow Symphony has a nice selection of diffraction gratings and sun catchers:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Diffraction Grating Toys

LASER Pointers + Diffraction Grating: three frequencies of laser pointer- Red (635 nm), Green (532 nm), and Blue (450 nm). Note that the distance between the intensity maxima (bright spots) is greatest for the red (long wavelength) and closest for blue (shortest wavelength) with the green in between. The diffraction grating is the same form as one of those rainbow fireworks glasses- this one from has 13500 lines per inch. 

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Backflipping Wind-Up

Get a Back Flip wind-up toy here:

from eBay: BUY NOW: Uglydoll Backflipping Toy

from Amazon: BUY NOW: Backflipping Wind Up Toys

Backflipping Wind Up: an energy transfer toy- a wound coil spring transfers and stores energy through a set of gears to a straight spring which is suddenly released to create kinetic energy which is then converted to gravitational potential energy- sending the toy air bound into a back flip. Here the Uglydoll character Is made of clear plastic allowing the internal mechanism to be visible. In addition the feet of the character must push off with just the right rotation rate to allow for one full rotation in the air, and the tail has a foam pad to absorb the impact and stop the rotation. A lot of fun physics to consider in this toy.