Budget physics

Ramp Walker Physics

Vintage Ramp Walkers available on eBay:
From eBay: BUY NOW: Disney Elephant Ramp Walker

Similar toys here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Ramp Walkers

Another interesting one: Spacemen Ramp Walker

Ramp Walker Toy: dragged to the edge but never over. Physics puzzle- why does the toy stop at the edge? (hint below) Patented in 1888, ramp walkers exhibit complex motion with very simple construction. This one features a character from Disney’s Jungle Book circa 1966. ✏️ physics hint: Note that as the toy approaches the edge, the direction of pull becomes straight down.

 

Mini Acoustic Levitator

Get this inexpensive device here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Acoustic Levitator

Mini Acoustic Levitator: small pieces of styrofoam become trapped between areas of higher pressure induced by high frequency sound waves. Ultrasonic transducers placed at the top and bottom are basically speakers that emit sound waves at a frequency of 43,000 Hz, which corresponds to a wavelength of 8mm for dry air. If the transducers are positioned just right standing waves are produce with nodes of low pressure at half wavelength intervals- and low mass objects like these foam pellets will be suspended against gravity when placed near one of these nodes. Here we see a stack of three pellets with a spacing of about 4mm which is the expected distribution of the nodes. To place the pellets into the sound stream without disrupting the standing waves this device comes with a small screen with a handle which allows the sound waves to flow through the holes in the mesh and trap piece of foam. Although the device uses sound it appears silent as the frequency used is way above that which humans can hear (20Hz to 20kHz).

 

Light Pipe Sculpture

Get an affordable pre-bent light pipe demo here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Light Pipe Demo

Blue laser pointers (445nm) available here:
From eBay: BUY NOW: Blue Laser
but any color laser will work. 

Make your own abstract light pipe sculpture, an inexpesive heat gun is the only needed tool:
Materials from eBay: BUY NOW: Acrylic Rod
Tool from Amazon: BUY NOW: Heat Gun

Light Pipe Sculpture: internal reflection constrains most of the laser light to propagate along the bent acrylic rod- the physics of fiber optics. This abstract sculpture was created by applying a heat gun to a 3/8” diameter acrylic rod. The laser pointer used here is blue at a wavelength of 445nm.


Convection Turbine Candle with Elephants 

Get similar candles here (many themes to choose from):

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Spinning tea-light candle

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spinning tea-light candle

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. 

UFO Mirascope

Similar devices available here:

From Curiosity Box: BUY NOW: Mirascope with tiny Orange Octopus
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Mirascope 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Mirascope 

UFO Mirascope: two parabolic mirrors create a 3D image above the actual object. The image of the tiny alien made here is not a hologram and is produced solely by reflection of light rays between special concave mirrors. Love the space saucer theme on this version. The mirascope design principle was discovered circa 1969 by Landry and Elings at UC Santa Barbara.

Magnetic Soma Cube

Get this inexpensive SomaCube here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Magnetic Soma Cube

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!