DIY

Floating Rings Illusion: Dr. Manhattan Booth

Created in my shop with these parts:

From Amazon: plastic rings, plastic sphere, blue paint

Inspired by the Phone Booths in the new Watchmen series.

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Calling Dr. Manhattan: floating rings illusion device inspired by the recent Watchmen series. Two attached rings appear to roll in an impossible way around an orb, featured in a number of scenes on top of blue interplanetary phone booths in the new Watchmen series. Created in my shop with plastic rings and some blue spray paint. 

Cartesian Diver

Glass divers available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Glass Divers or this complete set Cartesian Diver Kit

Inexpensive and fun diver kits to make in a bottle available here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Cartesian Diver Kits 

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

Cartesian Divers: increasing pressure on the water compresses the air bubbles in the small glass vials filling them further with water making them sink. Pascal's principle states that any change in pressure on an enclosed fluid (such as pushing on the rubber cover) is transmitted evenly to every part of the fluid- the physics of hydraulic brakes! Named after the physicist and philosopher Rene Descartes.

Hoberman Actuator with Sphere

The Actuator mechanism is out of production but can still be found on eBay, comes with power supply, Expandagon kit, and connecotors that snap on to a Hoberman Sphere

The spheres are still in production and come in various sizes and colors: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Hoberman Spheres 

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Hoberman Actuator with Sphere: This actuator mechanism creates kinetic art out of a Hoberman sphere, designed to smoothly expand and contract the isokinentic structure. The Hoberman sphere itself is a special assembly of foldable linkages consisting of rigid bars and simple hinges is kinematically over constrained- motion can only occur along the radial direction and the movement of any hinge creates motion in all the joints. The engineering and physics behind deployable space structures!


3D Print Planetary Gearset

Similar 3D prints available as fidget toys here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Gear Spinner Fidget Toy

Or print it yourself! (.stl files are available here):
From Thingverse:
Emmett Lalish Download: Gear Bearing 
Refined version featured here by Don Stewart Download: Honeycomb Gear Bearing 

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3D Print Planetary Gearset: amazingly this gear set is printed assembled, with interlocking herringbone teeth. The gears will not come apart, in fact this design can only be accomplished by 3D printing the gears interlocked with each other. Designed and first printed by Emmett Lalish in 2013, and this version with refined precision and honeycomb by Don Stewart. 

Disappearing Spoon

Gallimum metal and a silicone mold to produce the spoon- available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Gallium Mold Spoon Kit 

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Disappearing Spoon: the metal gallium has a melting point of 30°C (86°F) and will melt quickly when exposed to tea temperature hot water- or melt in one’s hand if handled too long. This spoon was made with a silicone mold (swipe to see process), and feels and sounds just like a regular spoon, except solid gallium is brittle and the spoon can shatter like glass if dropped. An amazing parlor trick as well as a classic and historical class demonstration.

Curie Point Heat Engine

This DIY project is pretty easy to build. One half of one of these inexpensive magnetic necklace clasps will work well for the heated magnet. 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: magnets for curie point engine

A full engine is available from my friends at Grand Illusions Ltd: 
From GI LTD: BUY NOW: Curie Engine 

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Curie Point Heat Engine: when the magnet on the end of the wire heats up to a particular temperature (the Curie point) its magnetic field is temporarily lost until it cools. This engine design uses a second magnet to pull the swinging magnet back into the heat source once the magnetic field is reestablished. Repetition of this process creates mechanical motion as long as the heat source is fueled.


Tessellation Origami

See more of Ekaterina's amazing work on her website gallery: Kusudama me!

Contact her to buy her artwork, or you can buy her books and learn how to fold amazing geometries!

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Ekaterina Lukasheva: Papercraft and Origami

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Tessellation Origami: nested spirals and triangles created from one flat sheet of paper! This beautiful work by Ekaterina Lukasheva also demonstrates how folded paper can obtain very different physical properties than that of the original flat paper. When stretched out this paper sculpture prefers to snap back into spirals and triangles, and although most materials bulge out when compressed along one direction, here the design compresses evenly along all three axis of the hexagonal symmetry. Title: Electricity-A Variaton of Spaced unit Opus_T-142.

Magnetic Suspension Sculpture

The DIY version can be assemebled with these parts. Steel wire of guage 10 or 12 should work well. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Quilting Hoop, Neodyumium Magnet, Steel Wire

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Magnetic Hoops Suspension Sculpture: Steel circles are suspended by a magnet (black sphere) and held down to the base by a thin thread. The tops of the steel hoops, being ferromagnetic, become a north pole in the presence of the south pole end of the black magnet, so they are attracted to the black magnet, but repel each other. Made by Rathcon Inc. in 1970. Swipe to see my DIY version made from a quilting hoop, neodymium magnets, and some bailing wire. 

Vibration Unthreading

Get inexpensive small motors and accesories for DIY projects here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW DC Motors Kit

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Vibration Unthreading: a DIY project to see if just shaking a bolt at the right frequency could make a standard nut rotate and fall off. I believe the mechanism is based on similar physics to the phase locking propeller toys featured in my recent posts. Motivated by videos seen on Instagram where a brass bolt is placed in magnetic putty and the nut mysteriously rotates up and off- now convinced that vibration is how that effect is produced. Here a small DC motor spins an offset mass to produce the vibrations. 


Unmixing Density Column

The bottle used here is from Voss Water: a nice cylinder and the labels come off easily. Amazon has the ingedients:

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
acetoneblue glitterfood coloring, Voss Water

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The density column I made for this video is based on blend of two ideas: this "science snack" from the exploratorium: Klutz-Proof Density Column and this ChemED X post: Blog of Prof. Tom Kuntzleman  

See my Salt Fractionation post for details. 

Unmixing Density Column: three liquids that won’t stay mixed! Acetone (dyed blue) floats on top of the higher density vegetable oil, which in turn floats atop salt water (dyed orange) which is more dense than oil. Acetone usually dissolves in water through hydrogen bonding interactions, but solubility can be altered. In a process called “salting out” a sufficient amount of salt is dissolved such that the water molecules, which are much more attracted to the resulting Na+ and Cl- ions (through ion-dipole bonds), will then ignore the weaker acetone hydrogen bonds. This results in the spontaneous separation of these three liquids no matter how well shaken up. 

Spinner Fidget Trick

Click this link for a gyroscope that will perform the same trick! 

Spinner Fidget Trick: defy gravity!- a trick to try with a fidget spinner you might have in a drawer somewhere. For the trick to work the spinner needs to have most of its mass far from the center (not all spinners will work)- and you may need to drill a hole down its center to attach an axle. This Spinpal spinner has three heavy steel spheres placed to maximize rotational inertia, that along with precision bearings, gives this fidget toy properties of a quality gyroscope. Give the spinner significant RPMs and it will suspend from, and precess around, a string! Thanks to @spinpal for sending me this a while back. 

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Reverse Cartesian Diver

Glass divers available here: From Amazon: BUY NOW Glass Divers 

The reverse diver needs a bottle with a oval shaped cross section. I used the bottle from this product- it has the right shape and size and the label comes off easily: 
 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Oval Shaped Bottle Source 

Inexpensive and fun diver kits available here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Cartesian Diver Kits 

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

Wikipedia has the details on the Cartesian diver (and reverse diver)

Reverse Cartesian Diver: physics puzzle (swipe for hint). On the left is a Cartesian diver- pressing on the bottle forces water into the glass diver, which then compresses the bubble in diver’s head allowing it to sink. On the right is a reverse Cartesian diver- again the bottle is pinched but this time the diver ascends- why? 

Salt Fractionation

All the ingredients are available from your local market/drugstore. The trick is to find a dye that works for acetone, but will not color water- believe it on not blue glitter will color the acetone nicely and not change the salt water. Follow this link for details: 
ChemEd X: Blog of Prof. Tom Kuntzleman 

Of course Amazon has what you will need:

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
acetoneblue glitterfood coloring, cool bottle 

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

Salt Fractionation: two liquids that won’t stay mixed! Acetone (dyed blue) floats on top of the higher density salt water (dyed orange). Acetone usually dissolves in water through hydrogen bonding interactions, but solubility can be altered. In a process called “salting out” a sufficient amount of salt is dissolved such that the water molecules, which are much more attracted to the resulting Na+ and Cl- ions (through ion-dipole bonds), will then ignore the weaker acetone hydrogen bonds. This results in the spontaneous separation (shown here in real time) of the liquids no matter how well shaken up. 

The Orb Drop IV

A new KickStarter campaign from engineer and maker extraordinaire Rian Suiter. Rian has delivered on each all 11 (eleven!) of his creative physics toy related KickStarter campaigns to date. Check out his latest here: 
From KickStarter: Order NOW Orb Drop IV marble run track 

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The Orb Drop IV: @orbdrop has created another fun DIY marble run- this one uses an Archimedean screw mechanism to bring the marbles continuously back to the top where they are launched along one of three paths- including a vortex funnel. Gravitational potential energy is transformed to the kinetic energy of the orbs as they loop and negotiate the banked turns of the snaking tracks. Three AA batteries and a small motor power the transport assembly. 


Chain Fountain

The best effect (highest fountain) is obtained by using #10 size chain with a bead diameter of 3/16" (4.8mm). This spool has 100 feet of chain, the same length as used in the video. 
From Amazon: BUY NOW #10 ball chain 
Wikipedia has the details on the discovery of the chain fountain, and for those that want the physics here is the paper: Understanding the Chain Fountain from Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 2014 

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Chain Fountain: as the chain flows out of the glass under the pull of gravity the beads don't simply roll over the edge but instead arc up upward like a fountain. As each link is pulled and tilted upward the adjacent link is tilted downward and pressed into the pile- by Newton's 3rd law the pile presses back pushing each bead upward into the air. A segment of the video is shown in slow motion where the fountain is at maximum height. This phenomena was recently discovered by Steve Mould (more to be seen at his YouTube channel) and the details of the physics is described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society by Biggins & Warner (2014). 

Volta’s Hailstorm and Electrophorus

This inexpensive electrophorus set works great! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Electrophorus Demonstration Set 

The container is just the middle part cut from a plastic water bottle, and the "hail" stones are Styrofoam craft beads: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Styrofoam Craft Beads 

For Volta's Hailstorm to work, the beads must be coated with a conducting spray (here is what I used): 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Staticide Spray 

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Wikipedia has a very nice description of the physics of the Electrophorus and how it is used to transfer electric charge. 

Volta’s Hailstorm and Electrophorus: electrical forces due to electrostatic charge send foam beads flying in this version of the historic demonstration by physicist Alessandro Volta. The beads are covered with an electrically conductive coating allowing them to transfer charge from the environment to the plate of the electrophorus. The acrylic platform becomes negatively charged when rubbed with a paper napkin, but it is also an insulator so the charge on it can not flow on to the aluminum plate of the electrophorus. Instead the charge on the platform pushes electrons to the top of the plate (like signs repel) and touching the plate results in a spark that removes the electrons giving the plate a significant positive charge that will then attract the beads. 

Tumble Rings

I made this set of tumble rings from reading Martin Gardner's description in his famous mathematical recreations books- highly recommended: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Knots and Borromean Rings by Martin GardnerDescribes the Tumble Rings 

From Amazon: BUY NOW Books on recreational math and puzzles by Martin Gardner Lots of physics and math toys in these pages! 

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Tumble Rings: the links in this chain are connected in a special way such that the top ring appears to tumble to the bottom- a compelling illusion!