Budget physics

UFO Spin Top

Get this fun and well made top here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: UFO Spin Top
or collect the whole set: UFO Spin Top Collection

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UFO Spin Top: this whimsical flying saucer shaped top is made of stainless steel and features a ceramic sphere to reduce friction at the contact point, allowing this heavy and well balanced top to spin for more than 5 minutes with a good snap of the fingers (start up and final seconds of wind down shown here). Spin tops- classic physics toys of antiquity! 

Kinetic Magnetic Wave Wires

Get this affordable kit here: 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Kinetic Magnet Wires Kit

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Kinetic Magnetic Wave Wires Kit: explore the surprising ways oscillating kinetic energy is exchanged when repulsive magnetic fields allow masses on springs to interact with each other. Here three weighted springs dance in chaotic motion as they trade kinetic energy. This educational coupled oscillator kit comes with wire springs of equal length capped at both ends with magnets of equal mass and equal field strength which can be configured in myriad way by the experimenter on the included metal base.

Low CoM Balancing Beasts

Get these and similar balancing toys here:

from Amazon: BUY NOW: Balancing Beasts

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Low CoM Balancing Toys: weights in the wing tips create a center of mass below the heads of these cute mythical creatures, making systems that are in stable equilibrium. Just like the famous balancing bird toy, no magnets used, instead the magic comes from engineering the center of mass to be outside the body of the object and below the balance point. 

Phenakistiscope Spinner Set

Get these amazing spinners from aPyroDesign;

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Animation Spinners

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Phénakisticope Spinner Set: two spinners- one a laser cut and printed acrylic with a set of images similar to the animation design of a flip book (but in a repeating cycle)- and the second a black disk with thin slit openings. Spin them in opposite directions and then look through the black disk at the first to reveal an animated image, in this case a running stick person. The effect looks better in person in that the frame rate of the video capture process adds some artifacts. Using the second black disk like this turns the spinners into a phenakistiscope, the 1833 invention that started moving media animation that lead to the development of movies and video. Under very bright light the animation can also be seen using a smartphone camera in video mode, but the black disk allows one to see the animation without such technology.

Neon Flicker Flame Night Light

Similar old fashion flicker bulb lights available here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW Flicker Flame Neon Bulb 

Get this diffraction grating here to explore light source spectra:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: 500 line/mm diffraction grating

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Neon Flicker Flame Bulb: this charmingly designed night light evokes a theme of an old fashioned gas street lamp- however there is no flame, but instead the light is due to emission spectra from excited neon gas as a result of a discharge electric current from the 120V house mains. The flickering effect comes about because the current flow will increase the temperature near it, which raises the pressure and affects/raises the breakdown voltage near the current- so the glow from one area can only last as long as it takes to heat up and raise the breakdown voltage which then briefly kills the current in that area. In other physics, a diffraction grating shows that the gas is indeed neon, which only emits light at specific emission wavelengths- mostly reds with some bright yellow lines (and a clearly visible green line) at AC house voltages.

Density Column Key Fob

Avialable here: Totoro Drift Bottle Keychain

Get similar liquid key fobs here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Liquid Key Fobs
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Liquid Key Fobs

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Density Column Key Fob: lots of physics in the design of this ridiculously cute key fob— two immiscible fluids are sorted under gravity by density with the densest on the bottom and the lightest on top (often kerosene and mineral oil). The plastic animal (best guess: rabbit?) has a density between that of the two liquids so it stays at the boundary layer, and the critter is weighted to be bottom heavy so it keeps a vertical orientation with help from Archimedes law of buoyancy. The most recent versions of this toy have interesting opaque colored liquids, such as the gray fluid featured here. 




1 mole Carbon Block

Avialable exclusively from:

STEMCell Science Shop: BUY NOW: 1 mole Carbon Block

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1 mole Carbon Block: by Avogadro’s famous number there are 6.022×10^23 atoms contained within a mole of substance- a very large number because atoms are very tiny. This chunk of graphite is precisely cut to weigh 12.011 grams, and hence when you pick it up you will have, in your hand, 6.022×10^23 Carbon atoms (to better than 1 part per thousand). That’s 602.2 billion, times a trillion, atoms! Such numbers are a challenge to conceptualize, so in collaboration with STEMCell Science Shop we introduce our specially cut and engraved “1 mole of Carbon Block”— to put an Avogadro’s Number of atoms on your shelf. 

You might also like: our Earth Mass Blackhole Replica

Simple Stirling Engine

Get this amazing model engine here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Simple Stilring Engine

See other featured DYI devices here: EngineDIY Models

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Simple Stirling Engine: Perhaps the simplest piston engine ever devised- a single piston powered by a tiny alcohol lamp. Glass components allow a view of the internal workings of this design, and the interesting startup behavior from oscillation to full rotation. Heat engines produce mechanical motion from a difference in temperature- here the piston side is near room temperature (the central aluminum post is an excellent conductor and acts as a heat sink as the gas flows through), and the test tube is kept at high temperature via the flame, with metal fibers to help conduct the heat into the air (this component is called the regenerator). Swipe to see the elegant assembly of this model, and swipe again to see the engine power down. This external combustion design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816.

In-Feed Google 5

Daruma Otoshi

Get this traditional physics toy here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Daruma Drop Toy

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Daruma Otoshi (Dropping Daruma): a traditional Japanese physics toy. Use the hammer to knock out pieces, but without tipping over the stack. Newton’s 1st Law as seen in slow motion- a mass at rest tends to stay at rest.

Sunlit Perspective Lamp

Get one here (a few models to choose from):

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Backlit Perspective Lamp

\Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Sunlit Perspective Lamp: when lit from behind this flat ink line-drawing jumps into 3D via perspective shading of sunlight and some color lithophane type images placed behind the sketched windows. A fun take on the power of geometric perspective to suggest three dimensions from two.

Centripetal Switch

Get a siimilar light up top here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: light up spin top

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Centripetal Switch: a very simple design allows sustained power to the LED only when the top is spinning. A floppy spring is attached to one side of the LED and when the top is spinning centripetal acceleration bends the spring to touch the metal flange to complete the circuit. Note that in operation the LED is not on the whole time, but flashes on and off due to vibrations affecting the simple spring switch contact, and when coupled with the frame rate of the camera, creates the light patterns seen here. Simple design, but lots of physics! 

Kitty Cat Fireworks Lamp

Variations (bear, spaceman) avaialable from these sources: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Fireworks Infinity Lamps
From Amazon: BUY NOW Fireworks Infinity Lamps

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The Kitty Cat Lamp I found: here

Kitty Cat Fireworks Lamp: illusion of depth from multiple refections. This glass cat sculpture is partially coated inside and out with a thin metal layer. The metal layer is made thinner in a pattern of small circles and stars to produce iridescent colors through thin-film interference effects. When lit from within by white LEDs, multiple reflections on the curved contour of the glass creates the firework like spray of light and color.


Drop & Pop

Available from these fine sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Dropper Popper
From Amazon: BUY NOW Drop and Pop Toys

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Drop & Pop: stored elastic energy. The elastic potential energy of the inverted rubber is released upon impact sending the half-sphere to hit the ceiling. Upon impact the popper reconfigures back to its original shape in the blink of an eye, shown here recorded at approximately 480fps.