Budget physics

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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. 

Balance Pteranodon

Get one here! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Balance Pteranodon 
From eBay: BUY NOW Balancing Pteranodon

Balance Pteranodon: weights in the forward wing tips create a center of mass below this pterosaur's beak- making a system that can rotate and oscillate about a stable equilibrium condition. No magnets used or needed for this physics! Usually this toy is found in the form of a bird (direct dinosaur descendent). Pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, but are the largest animals to ever fly, and powered flight has only evolved four times: bats, birds, pterosaurs, and insects- in reverse order. 


Magnetic Sand Hourglass

Get one from these fine sources: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Magnetic Hourglass 

Magnetic Sand Hourglass: ferromagnetic sand collects above a neodymium magnet in the wood base. Each particulate of ferromagnetic iron becomes a temporary dipole magnet in the presence of the magnetic field in the base. The tiny dipoles link up north ends to south ends, creating interesting patterns that reveal the magnetic field lines. 

Polarization Test Card

These inexpensive test cards are available here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Polarization Test Cards

Get some polarizing filter sheets here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Polarizing Sheets 

Explore many aspects of polarization with this kit: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Polarizing Filter Demo Kit 

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

Polarization Test Card: light has features that are invisible to the human eye, such as the orientation of its electric field (denoted as polarization), but can be revealed to us by a polarizing filter, used to block light with specific polarization orientations. Inexpensive test cards like this are often found in shops selling polarized sunglasses. The molecular structure of plastics can rotate the polarization of any light that passes through, and this card has such thin layers added to the top of the photo to create the hidden silhouettes seen here. 

 

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!


Tensegrity for the Desk

Get similar tensegrity sculptures here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Tensegrity Sculpture

Tensegrity for the Desk: an elegant, and stackable, desk toy version of this popular tensegrity configuration by maker/designer Micah Murdoch. Constructed from poplar wood, the design assembles easily with clever ball and socket connectors at the ends of the nylon support lines (3 long, 1 short). Stacking them seems to only increase the illusion of floating with the subtle way these structures defy gravity. Another fun configuration of tensegrity concept, invented by Kenneth Snelson and made famous by the architect Buckminster Fuller in 1949.

Mini Waving Tube Guy

Get this inexpensive and silly toy here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Guy

This power supply reccomended: BUY NOW: 9V power supply

Mini Waving Tube Guy: the physics of fluid dynamics describes the flopping behavior of the famous dancing tube guy. Bernoulli’s principle tells us that when air is moving with a velocity, the pressure in the region of the moving airmass is reduced. When the tube guy stands strait, air escapes through his head and arms allowing a temporary steady velocity of flow which reduces pressure inside and he collapses and bends. When the tube is bent, airflow is cut off, and the tube inflates like a balloon building pressure until air can again escape through the top- and the process cycles back and forth between these two states creating the iconic dance moves. This desktop version uses a 9V battery to power the fan.

Mini-Drinking Bird Heat Engine

Small and large drinking birds available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Mini-Drinking Bird Heat Engine

See more drinking birds in my collection

Mini-Drinking Bird Heat Engine: this hummingbird sized heat engine is the latest species added to my drinking bird collection. This little guy comes with the traditional top hat and his own plastic goblet- which is the perfect height for a standard drinking bird to share. Cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the pressure in the bottom bulb pushes the dichloromethane fluid 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 process repeats, and as long as the top stays wet and cooler than the bottom this heat engine will continue to cycle.


Holiday Specs Holographic Glasses

Get these designs and many more here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Holiday Specs Holographic Glasses (full set)
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Holiday Specs Holographic Glasses

Get the tree and lights here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Tree Decoration, Set of LED lights

Holiday Specs: every point-source of light gets a holographic image overlaid: stars, snowmen, trees, candy canes, and snowflakes. The "lenses" in these glasses are actually transmission holograms but with the image located at the farthest point in the depth of field. Made by American Paper Optics with many more images available.

 

 

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3D Print Kaleidocycle 

Get this beautiful 3D Print here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Kaleidocycle Fidget

Or print it yourself: Kaleidocycle print files

3D Print Kaleidocycle: this kinetic manipulation fidget toy is comprised of six hinges such that it can twist inwards continuously. Amazingly this item is 3D “printed-in-place”, which means it comes off the printer already assembled with movable links and ensures the color gradient is continuous across the joints.

 

 


Wobbler Roller

Get this very nice laser cut version here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Desk Wobbler

Check out my posts on similar geometric objects: developable rollers

Wobbler Roller: a very simple toy today- two half circle perimeters affixed at right angles which surprisingly can then roll in a straight line with a peculiar wobble motion. When rolling, a wobbler always touches the table top at two points which could be connected by a straight line, and forms the frame of the geometric shape called a sphericon (featured in a previous post). 

Pearlescent Metallic Lava Lamp

Get this metallic lava version here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Metallic Lava Lamp

From explOratorium store: BUY NOW: Metallic Lava Lamp

See aslo: Magnetic Ferrofluid Lava Lamp

The Lava Lamp: with new pearlescent metallic “lava”- kinetic art with an amazing amount of physics on display: convective heat flow, Archimedes principle, surface tension (note how the smaller blobs form into spheres), and immiscible liquids to name just some of the science behind this famous device. In this loop one can see shock waves ripple through the blobs as they detach, and as they recombine at the bottom. Manufactured by Mathmos and invented in 1963 by Edward Walker of Dorset, England. 


Animallusions Zebra

Get this illusion here: 

from Amazon: BUY NOW: Animallusions Zebra
or here: Illusion Animals

The original DIY dragon from G4G 3: Dragon.pdf

Animallusions Zebra: an amazing version of the hollow face illusion where the zebra’s head appears animated, and gives the impression that it’s always looking in the direction of the viewer. This zebra seems inspired by the dragon illusion created for the 1998 Gathering for Gardner by the Binary Arts Corporation of Bill Ritchie et al. Some fun physics of perspective and psychophysics for your shelf.

Glow Trace Chaotic Pendulum Kit

Get this super nice, affordable, and fun to assemble kit here:
From KiwiCo: BUY NOW: Glow Pendulum Kit

Get amazing quatilty science kits delievered to your home- this glow pendulum is part of the Tinker Crate subscription. 
From KiwiCo: LEARN MORE: Tinker Crate Subscription

Glow Trace Chaotic Pendulum: this fun and amazing DIY kit features a UV diode to trace the intricate path of this double pendulum system on to a phosphorescent screen, revealing the physics of chaotic motion. It’s amazing that such complex motion can arise from a simple assembly of two pendulums, one attached to the end of the other. Chaotic motion, such as that observed here, is characterized by extreme sensitivity to initial starting conditions, tiny differences in how the system is released leads to dramatically different outcomes each time.