Budget physics

Spring Launcher Toy

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From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spring Launcher Monsters

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Spring Launcher Toy: spring force vs. suction cup, or more specifically, Hooke’s law vs. fluid pressure of air. Initially the spring remains compressed (with potential energy stored) due to some part of the always present 14.7 pounds per square inch of air pressure pressing down on the flattened elastic cup. The toy suddenly launches when enough air leaks past the imperfect seal and reduces the partial vacuum under the cup, so that the spring can overcome the force of the fluid pressure of the air- rather catastrophically! So much physics behind this common toy. 

Cartesian Jellyfish Divers

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Cartesian Jellyfish: increasing pressure in the water compresses air bubbles inside the plastic capsules, filling them further with water making them sink in this cute version of the famous Cartesian Diver toy. In this whimsical version the jellyfish also spin when the pressure is released as the water is channeled out of the capsule/head in a sideways jet. Pascal’s principle states that any change in pressure on an enclosed fluid (such as squeezing the plastic bottle) is transmitted evenly to every part of the fluid- the physics of hydraulic brakes! Named after the physicist and philosopher Rene Descartes.

Ambiguous Suits & Hearts 

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From SEO Magic: BUY NOW: Heart Metamorphosis by Kokichi Sugihara

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See other: ambigous object illusions in my collection

Ambiguous Suits & Hearts: I first discovered and posted the work of mathematician Kokichi Sugihara’s amazing ambiguous object illusions in 2017. Here is one more really nice example of his original work that was sent to me by my good friend Tim Rowett.


RGB Lightpipe Bracelet

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From Amazon: BUY NOW: Color Changing RGB Bracelet

Personalized bracelets avialable here: BUY NOW: Color Changing Personalized Bracelet

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

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RGB Lightpipe Rave Bracelet: three LEDs (red, green,blue) combine to make an entire pallet of colors that are transmitted through the translucent band via internal reflection and refraction like a fiber optic cable. A diffraction grating reveals the variety of colors produced is simply a mixture of red, green, and blue (note that white = R+B+G), the same way pixels on your phone or laptop use RGB mixing to produce color images. The bracelet can be personalized and has a magnetic clasp- fun physics for your next rave! 

 

Helicone Kinetic Fidget Pen

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From Amazon: BUY NOW: Lollipopter Kinetics

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Helicone Kinetic Pen: a gift shop find of fidget physics fun on the end of a ballpoint pen. 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 

Fire Piston

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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Fire Piston Demonstration 

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Fire Piston: rapid adiabatic compression creates enough heat to ignite and incinerate a small ball of cotton. Similar physics to how Diesel engines ignite fuel without a sparkplug. Adiabatic processes are those in which heat does not flow from the system to the environment, achieved here by the short duration of the compression- to get a flame it has to be done quickly with some force! 


Balancing Seabird 

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From Etsy: BUY NOW: Balance Seagull

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Balancing Seabird: this bird balances on its tail rather than its beak in this variation of the famous physics toy. The weight of the elongated wings creates a center of mass below the bird’s tail- making a system in stable equilibrium. No magnets used or needed! This hand carved and painted bird comes with this optimal display stand. Inexpensive physics fun!

Thumbler Gyroscopic Desk toy

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From Top Secret Toys: BUY NOW: Thumbler gyro toy

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Gyroscopic Desk Toy: a new unique take on spinning tops and gyroscope type toys where the spin rate is induced by forced precession- that is, by swirling the device by hand at just the right rate. The top of the enclosed top is constrained to move in a circular trough that keeps it at the required precession angle. The physics is similar to the “Dyna Bee” wrist exercisers, but much easier to engage and spin up, and with a unique motion path. The toy is also equipped with LEDs that turn on with a centripetal switch and then create interesting patterns (that are hard to capture due to frame rate issues). A creation of physicist/inventor Gregory Ojakangas. 

Ooze Tube Viscosity Contrast

Many colors (and two sizes) to choose from: 

From Amazon: BUY NOW  Ooze Tube 3 Colors 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Ooze Tubes 

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Ooze Tube Viscosity Contrast: this set of ooze tube timers comes with 3 mixtures of polyisobutene fluid, each with a different viscosity where green always wins the race: green (thin), yellow (medium), and red (thickest). A curious periodicity in the rate of flow is related to the formation of non-spherical bubbles as the air and fluid trade places (an hour shown in time-lapse). The fluid also displays the “liquid rope-coil effect” where the fluid thread coils and stacks as it lands on the pooling surface.The physics of the liquid rope-coil effect is pretty complex. Here is a recent scientific paper on the topic with nice illustrations. 
Journal of Fluid Mechanics: Multiple coexisting states of liquid rope coiling 

 


Invisible Ink and UV LED Pen

This item came to me in my Winter 2022 Curiosity Box subsciption:
Get (or give!) a Curiosity Box subscription here: JOIN NOW: The Curiosity Box

Get this amazing and inexpensive version of the Spirograph here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spirograph Animator

Get a similar pen and UV light here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW UV Pen

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Invisible Ink and UV Pen: this pen utilizes a clear ink that when dry is barely noticeable, but contains fluorescent compounds that reveals its presence under long wave ultraviolet light. This cool pen with UV LED light came in my @thecuriositybox yesterday where I applied it to make some hypotrochoid roulette curves with this pocket Spirograph set. 

 

 

Mag Flip Inverted Pendulum Fidget

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From Etsy: BUY NOW: Mag Flip Desk Toy

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Mag Flip Inverted Pendulum Fidget: three embedded neodymium magnets provide tactile repulsive forces in this simple but intriguing system. Pressing down on one side increases the magnetic potential energy that will then send the pendulum into frantic motion until the kinetic energy is damped out after a series of oscillations. This fidget can also be used as a random coin flip with respect to which side it will land. 

 

Magnetic Soma Cube

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From Amazon: BUY NOW: Magnetic Soma Cube

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Magnetic Soma Cube: a new fun variant of the famous math toy invented by Danish scientist and artist Piet Hein, who claimed that this puzzle came to him as he was listening to a lecture on Quantum Mechanics by Werner Heisenberg (yes- that Heisenberg). The seven pieces of this puzzle are all the ways 3 or 4 cubes can be joined such that the piece has at least one inside corner. In this version small magnets are encased in cleverly designed cavities such that they will always flip over to attract a counterpart in another puzzle piece, allowing the puzzle to stick together- or hang from the side of the refrigerator. Amazingly there are 240 ways to make the cube from these 7 pieces- still not that easy! 


Convection Turbine Candle with Elephants 

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From Etsy: BUY NOW: Spinning tea-light candle

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spinning tea-light candle

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Convection Turbine Candle: pachyderms on parade via this whimsical tea-light candle holder which is actually a simple turbine heat engine where rotational motion results from the convection of hot air from the candle flame. All moving parts are of thin stainless steel with some assembly required. Energy transfer: chemical bonds- to heat- to kinetic energy of the rising air- to rotational kinetic energy of the turbine and elephants. 

Spirograph Animator

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From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spirograph Animator

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Spirograph Animator: a turntable adds an ingenious embellishment to this classic math toy. When the centerpiece is put into rotation a strobe light turns on and the cyclic designs spring into a complex dance. Spirographs produce mathematical roulette curves called hypotrochoids, cyclical designs that repeat at varying integer multiples. When the strobe light frequency, and rotation frequency, match up with an integer multiple of one of the patterns, that roulette curve appears stationary while the other patterns stay in motion. Shown here is but one combination of many possible overlapping patterns that can be produced by the supplied set of gears and colored pens. 


Fractal Tree Ornament

Get this and other mathematical creations by George Bell:

from Etsy: BUY NOW: Koch Snowflake Ornament

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Fractal Tree Ornament: four iterations of the famous Koch Snowflake fractal are ingeniously combined as the four symmetry planes of a cuboctahedron. A very seasonal mathematical object to hang on the tree! Designed and 3D printed by artist and maker George Bell. 

Thermochromic Pencils

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Get similar pencils here: Thermochromic Pencils

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Themochromic Pencils: some amazing pencils I found in the @exploratorium gift shop last week that exhibit reversible color change. The warm air from a hair dryer can quickly shift the color of these pencils, and then as they cool back to room temperature the original color slowly fades back in. The color change can also be achieved by body heat from the hand (swipe for demo). The color change seen here most likely employs leuco dyes, thermochromic chemicals that have two reversible forms, one colorless when warmed above a threshold temperature.

PDLC Electric Field Induced Transparancy

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From Amazon: BUY NOW: PDLC Smartwindow Sample

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and click here for the balancing dragon toy

PDLC Electric Field Induced Transparency: when a voltage is placed across Polymer-Dispersed Liquid-Crystal film, long skinny molecules align with the electric field allowing light to pass through without scattering- with the field off the molecules thermally randomize and then do scatter the light passing through, producing a milky white translucent appearance. This sample of a “smart window” is powered by a 1.5 Volt AA battery and has very thin metallic coating on the front and back. A fun demonstration of electrochromic materials.