Budget physics

Gyroscopically Stabilized Rail Runner

Get this inexpensive toy here:

From eBay: BUY NOW: Gyroscope Rail Toy

Gyroscopically Stabilized Rail Runner: this toy remains upright on a single wheel as it travels along any thin rail or tightrope. A flywheel with considerable mass is ramped up to high RPMs via a small motor powered by two AA batteries (a stand is provided for this initial process to complete). Once operating speed is obtained the device will keep its orientation due to conservation of angular momentum, allowing it to seemingly magically balance on one point. The motor also turns the drive wheel which propels the device along any thin guide rail. 

Happy/Sad Spheres

Get a set here: 

From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW: Happy/Sad Balls

Happy/Sad Spheres: one ball bounces the other stops dead. The bouncy ball is made of neoprene rubber and exhibits high elasticity. The "sad" ball is made of polynorbornene and converts almost all kinetic energy into heat and sound- approximating/demonstrating the case of a completely inelastic collision. Polynorbrene is used in vehicle bumpers, for soundproofing, vibration damping, and other applications where recoil motion is unwanted.

Sandscape Spontaneous Stratification 

Get this particular sand kinetic art here:

From eBay: BUY NOW: Sandscape Kinetic Desk Toy

Click here for more amazing types of kinetic sand art. 

Sandscape Spontaneous Stratification: a striking feature of this sand motion desk toy is the formation of striped layers. Typically pouring stuff together results in further mixing, yet here, when the sand mixture descends through a gap, the resulting pile is ordered into sorted layers. The larger rounded dark grains separate from the smaller sharp-edged white grains forming the layers you see here. The darker grains alone would stack into a steeper pile (larger angle of repose) than the white which would form a less steep pile. 


Magnetic Suspsension Sculpture

This DIY magneits sculpture can be assemebled with these parts.  Bring a magnet into a craft shop to find some necklace chain that is non-magnetic. 
From Amazon/eBay: BUY NOW: Quilting HoopNeodyumium Sphere Magnets

Magnetic Flux Gyroscope art and other amazing science inspired jewelry available here:
From Foxtail Jewelry: BUY NOW: Kinetic Magnetic Pendants
From Foxtail Jewelry: BUY NOW: Tabletop Magnetic Kinetic Art

Magnetic Suspension Sculpture: two neodymium magnets on chains suspended by their mutual magnetic attraction in this prototype kinetic sculpture (swipe to see scaled fine jewelry version by foxtailjewelry). These powerful magnets hold the chains taut with about a 2cm gap. Made from a quilting hoop where the magnets connect under their own force to steel nails soldered on to non-magnetic chain.

Electric Motor/Generator

Amazingly this motor is available for less than $10 US. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Brushless Motor/Generator with LED

Electric Motor/Generator: this inexpensive and common motor can also serve as a generator of AC electricity- here lightning an LED when the shaft of the rotor is spun by hand. Most electrical energy we use today is produced by moving a magnet near a coil of wire (known as Faraday’s law of induction) to produce an electric current. Removing the permanent magnet casing reveals this design to use 9 separate copper windings. I made a transparent second rotor with six neodymium magnets- and when these magnets are made to move near the windings the LED again lights with the flow of current. Swipe to see the beautiful magnetic field pattern of the rotor design using magneview film.


Wireframe Ambiguous Cube

Get the files (or order one printed) here:
From MakeAnything's MyMiniFactory: BUY NOW: Illusion Cube 3D Print Files
From Shapeways: BUY NOW: Ambiguous Cube Illusion

See the other illusions my collection: Ambiguous Objects

Wireframe Ambiguous Cube: another innovation of the ambiguous object illusion invented by mathematician Kokichi Sugihara of Meiji University- this time a 3D frame of a cube transforms to a cylinder! A new 3D print design from @make.anything

Poly acrylamide Polymer Vanishing Act

Get some of these grow-spheres here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Growing Spheres 

Poly-acrylamide Polymer Vanishing Act: these spheres of hydrophilic polymer have an almost identical index of refraction as that of water- thus when submersed they become invisible. Note the elasticity of these spheres from the way they bounce, while at the same time they refract their surroundings as a spherical lens. The super absorbent spheres start as hard crystals with a radius of 2mm and grow to 11mm when immersed in water. So much physics going on here! 

Tiny Leaf Blower Coanda Effect Toy

Get the "World's Smallest Leaf Blower" here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Smallest Leaf Blower

An inexpensive supply of styrofoam balls available here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Styrofoam Balls Assorted

Tiny Leaf Blower Toy: this little battery operated blower is great for experimenting with the Coandă effect. Here an air stream attaches and wraps around the styrofoam ball trapping it in the center of the stream. As the air changes direction to flow around the ball, momentum is imparted to push the ball against gravity and levitating it in equilibrium. A cylinder constrains the airflow and temporarily changes the dynamics which allows the airstream to push the ball up and out- and if one aims carefully the ball will fall back into the Coandă effect trap. 


Thermochromic Safety Sticker

These stickers transition back and forth and can be used on many surfaces. Get some here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Thermochromic Saftey Sticker

Thermochromic Safety Sticker: the liquid crystal ester dye in this reusable sticker is calibrated to change color when the surface temperature exceeds 50°C (122°F)- that at which prolonged contact (more than 0.5s) will burn skin. Here the safety sticker is attached to a slab of aluminum and heated with a simple candle- it took about 3.5 minutes for the heat to distribute and bring the aluminum to the threshold temperature. When the surface cools the sticker again appears blank and can transition over and over again

Thermochromic Liquid Crystal Mood Necklace

Similar mood jewelry available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Liquid crystal jewelry 

Thermochromic Liquid Crystal “Mood” Necklace: heat from a hand brings out the temperature dependent color change of the liquid crystal. The molecules of the liquid crystal change orientation and spacing during the phase transition from liquid (warm) to crystal (cool). The molecular configuration shift allows for different diffraction effects producing the color shift. 

Vortex by Lava Lamp

A DIY kit by the makers of Lava Lamp, home experimentation set with booklet of ideas to try:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Lava Lamp LED Vortex kit

From eBay: BUY NOW: Lava Lamp LED Vortex kit

Vortex Lamp: a simple whirlpool powered by a magnetic stirrer like those in a chemistry lab and lit by LEDs. A DIY kit by Lava Lamp brand- which comes with glitter and beads, but I found the water vortex alone was mesmerizing to watch. Note the intricately changing structure of the vortex in the slow motion close up. 


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). 

Spinnobi Springy Spinner 

Get one here! 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spinnobi Spinner

Spinnobi: a spinner with bounce! With springs mounted along the axis on both sides of the dense rotating silicone disk, this spinner demonstrates gyroscopic stability- keeping its orientation as it falls and bounces. Conservation of angular momentum on display with this improved take on the spinner.

Reaction Rocket

The essence of a great physics toy: simple inexpensive design showing complex 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).


Tail Spin Geared Kinetic Toy

Get one here: 

From eBay: BUY NOW: Tail Spin Kinetic Toy

Tail Spin Geared Kinetic Toy: fourteen gears arranged on seven linked segments meshed in such a way that the configuration can roll up and stack compactly or extend into a line. With a flick of the wrist, one can impart enough angular momentum to the assembly to cycle it through its full range of motion- shown also in 240fps slow motion at the end of the video. Invented by Oskar van Deventer and produced by Think Fun toys.