Budget physics

Well Balanced Cabernet

Similar wine racks available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Balance Wine Rack 

Many well crafted versions avaulable here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW Wine Bottle Balance

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Well Balanced Cabernet: a carefully engineered acrylic version of this famous demonstration- the center of mass of the rack/wine bottle system is directly over the base providing unstable equilibrium for this balancing act. Suspended here is Hypothesis by Roots Run Deep, an excellent Napa cabernet sauvignon. 

Mini Wind Turbine

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

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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!


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 

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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!

Memory Spring

Available here: 
From Mindsets: BUY NOW Memory Springs 

Affordable samples and kits here:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW: Energy Wire 

Similar produces featuring Nitinol Memory Wire: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Nitinol Memory Wire Kits 

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Memory Spring: some special alloys of brass can be made to have a shape memory triggered by temperature. These springs quickly change their length from 1 cm to 2.5cm when heated above 90 C (done here with hot water) and just as quickly shrink back to original size when cooled (immersed in cold water). Useful in many applications, especially things like automatic fire sprinkler valves and thermostats in car engines. This amazing property is related to a solid state phase transition similar to that of Nitinol wire called a Martensitic transformation.

Mirascope

Similar devices available here:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Mirascope 
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Mirascope: two parabolic mirrors create a 3D image above the actual object. A repost of one of my favorite physics toys ever. The image of the dice made here is not a hologram and is produced solely by reflection of light rays between special concave mirrors. Discovered circa 1969 by Landry and Elings at UC Santa Barbara.


Fine Wood Tippe-Top

Handmade flip over tops available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Flip Over Tops

From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Tippe-Tops 

Wham-O Magic Window

Fine Wood Tippe-Top: spinning things often have surprising physics! This lathe worked version of the famous flip-over top is made of ebony and wood from the pink ivory tree. Friction with the mirror provides a torque that acts on the existing angular momentum of the top to flip it over. The top will stay flipped until the spin rate slows down enough to where its center of mass pulls it back to the resting position. 

Three Polarizing Sheets

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See this short introduction to linear polarizing filters on Hyperphysics, and many more details on polarization from Wikipedia

Three Polarizing Sheets: quantum mechanical behavior with light polarization. Two linear polarizing sheets oriented at 90 degrees blocks all light- if a third sheet is placed between, oriented at 45 degrees, an eighth of the original light then gets through! A classic example of the quantum mechanical phenomenon of superposition of states as it pertains to the polarization orientation of photons and probability of transmission. 

Time's Up

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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. 


Spin Bank

Available from these fine sources: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Coin Spin Bank 

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Spin Bank: a clever spring mechanism launches each coin into rotation along a symmetry axis on to a concave trapping surface. Angular momentum of the spinning quarter keeps it upright even as it bounces upon impact with the platform. Another spin on making saving spare change fun!

Impossible Card Case

Get this fun card case here and support this amazing museum:

From the MoMath Store: BUY NOW: Rollover Card Case

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Impossible Card Case: this business card carrier has a special double hinge that allows it to be opened from either side, and transforms from stripes of white and silver to black and silver. I use this to carry @physicsfun bling diffractive stickers. Sometimes called a magic or flip case, the ribbon construction is similar to the famous Jacob’s Ladder toy I’ve featured and dscribed. 


Hyperbolic Holes

This inexpensive kit available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Hyperbolic Holes Kit

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Hyperbolic Holes: a straight rod, in this case a pencil, glides through a symmetrical pair of curved holes. The design is based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset rotating diagonal line. This device is sold as an inexpensive kit to assemble yourself, and includes a motor with geared drive and pre-cut pieces. The pencil is my addition- sharpened to just the right size to clear the curved openings.

Rubik's Phantom

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Rubik’s Phantom: is the 3X3 cube not challenging enough for you? Here’s one where the colors are activated by the heat of your hands (or better- a light bulb) and fade back to dark as you try to solve. A thermochromic twist to this most famous of puzzles. The heating and cooling was sped up by a factor of three here to keep it interesting.


Floating Eye Toys

Look for these anumal pens in airports gift shops (can't find them online).
Gliding eyes are still available here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Gliding Eye Toy

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Floating Eyes: low center of mass spheres suspended within a liquid filled clear acrylic sphere- the inside”eyeball” maintains its eerie orientation always pointing up as the outer shell rotates. I found these animal pens at airport gift shops and notice the eyes are the same as the spooky gliding eye toys from a few years back. Fun physics of Achimedes principle and constructing a low center of mass.

Rheoscopic Fluid Flow Toy

Get this toy (and two variations) here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: GooToobz Fluid Flow toy

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Rheoscopic Fluid Flow Toy: this simple toy reveals the complexity of turbulent fluid flow as liquid travels between chambers through a series of bends. Compressing both chambers with equal pressure can temporarily halt the flow and show the lingering turbulence induced by the acceleration of the viscous fluid around the u-turn bends. Tiny flakes of mica are suspended in the fluid and these platelets reflect light only when the fluid motion brings them into a certain orientation. Oddly satisfying to the extreme. 

Sphericon Frame Roller

Get one here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Quantum Sphericon

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Sphericon Frame Roller: beautiful 3D printed version of a developable roller (an object that rolls where every point on the roller’s surface comes into contact with the plane upon which it rolls). The sphericon (based on a square) rolls in a straight line with a peculiar wobble motion and was discovered in 1980 by David Hirsch and is but one of a family of such rollers called polycons.