Budget physics

Repelling Marbles Puzzle

Get this affordable and fun kit here:

From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Mystery Marbles Puzzle Kit 

Mystery Marbles Puzzle: a physics brain teaser (now available as a kit) what's going on here? Three glass marbles can move but stay separated in this liquid filled tube no matter the orientation- why do they not touch? Swipe for reveal of components. 

See also: Poly-acrylamide Polymer Vanishing Act

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.

Pikachu Phonotrope Spinner

Get this fun spinner here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Pikachu Animation Spinner

Phonotrope Spinner: When viewed through video from a smartphone an animated Pikachu springs into motion. The laser cut and printed acrylic is specifically designed to interact with the frame rate of the video process, similar to the animation effect of a flip book, but in a repeating cycle. The effect can also be seen without a camera by using a mirror and viewing through the spaces between the cutouts (swipe to see demo which looks much better in person)- using a mirror like this turns the spinner into a phenakistiscope, the 1833 invention that started moving media animation that lead to the development of movies and video. 


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.

Moiré Kinetic Wheel

Get this device (and other variations) here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Moiré Fidget Device

Moiré Kinetic Wheel: sold as a fidget toy this device has two plastic disks and each has a pattern of curved spokes that can rotate independently and produce interesting illusions of motion via moiré interference effects. Explore constructive and deconstructive interference patterns with this minimalist toy.

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! 

Drinking Dino Heat Engine

This dinosaur themed heat engine available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Drinking T-rex Desk Toy

Get also: the related Drinking Bird Heat Engine 

Drinking Dino Heat Engine: So what physics presents did you get this year? I got this Dippy Dino heat engine- where cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb such that the dichloromethane fluid (colored green) rises up the neck making the T-Rex top heavy and the dino tips over dipping its face in the water and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The process repeats as long as the top stays wet. A fun and silly variation on the famous drinking bird physics toy- and the T-Rex was a closely related ancestor to the dinosaurs that live today- birds! 

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.