kinetic Art

In Defiance of Gravity

Neodymium magnets will produce the largest gap when suspending a nail or other iron rich objects.
Please use exterme caution when handling these magnets. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Neodymium Super Magnet

In Defiance of Gravity: a 3 oz plumb bob in suspension between a chain and a powerful neodymium magnet. Ferromagnetic attraction over a distance of many millimeters, and a reminder of the presence of the typically invisible electromagnetic forces all around us. Sculpture: oak, stainless steel chain and hardware, neodymium super magnet, standard plumb bob tool. Iron filings in oil align and chain together to reveal the magnetic field lines of the equilibrium configuration.

Mercury Maze

These vintage items from the 1980s can be found on eBay and Etsy quite often (two available as of this posting): 
From eBay: BUY NOW 
Mercury Maze 

 

Mercury Maze: metal mercury (Hg) is liquid at room temperature, and small blobs of it roll in a peculiar way. The curious properties of elemental mercury are showcased in this vintage toy from the 1970s. Mercury is very toxic and toys like this are now banned in most countries. Mostly dangerous if the toy were to break open- contact with the skin and breathing vapors are to be avoided with mercury. 

Maxwell's Dynamical Top: Historical Replica

Get this accurate and beautiful 1/2 scale replica here:

From Machined Marvels: BUY NOW: Maxwell's Dynamical Top

Maxwell’s Dynamical Top: one of my favorite demonstrations of the strange properties of rotating bodies- shown here with a 1/2 scale but exacting replica (@machinedmarvels) of the famous “Dynamical Top” created and demonstrated by the great physicist James Clerk Maxwell in 1857. When this brass bell shaped top is spinning an interesting stability can occur- push on the pointed stem and the top will push back, forcing the stem against that object, and friction will cause the stem to roll along and trace the edge of the object. Note- magnets are NOT involved here. The key to this design is to make the contact point/tip of the top at its own center of mass, then any frictional force in contact with the stem will produce a torque about the contact point at a right angle to the direction of friction that creates the stabilizing force (students of physics may recognize application of the right hand rule here). This beautiful historical replica is now available from machinist and creator Jim Peever @machinedmarvels- and as far as I know the only other replicas of this device where made in the 1880’s!


Levitating Inq Lamp

Get a Curiority Box subscription here:
From curiositybox.com: JOIN NOW: The Curiosity Box

Get a squish Inq the Octopus here:
BUY NOW: Squish Inq 

Similar lamps available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Heng Balance Lamp 

Modify a lamp to levitate a heavier onject:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Neodymium Super Magnet

Levitating Inq Lamp: Inq (the curious orange octopus) hangs illuminated and suspended by magnetic forces. I modified this lamp to incorporate the squish version of the @thecuriositybox mascot with a powerful neodymium magnet on top and a smaller magnet embedded with in Inq’s head- when the octopus is floating the bottom cord engages the light switch. 

Surfs Up Wave Machine

This Simpson's themed wave machine was made back in 1999-2000 and is hard to find. Here is a fairly inexpensive wave machine that has a similar base mechanism: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Liquid Wave Machine

Surf's Up Wave Machine: Bart rides a surfboard between two immiscible liquids which are sorted under gravity by density with the densest (dyed water) on the bottom and the lightest (mineral oil) on top. Bart’s board has a density between that of the two liquids so it stays at the boundary layer, and a capsule of air above Bart’s head keeps him upright. The motorized rocking mechanism in the base is powered by one C cell battery and produces the waves at the boundary layer by sloshing and colliding the dense liquid off each end. Found this rare 1999 toy on eBay.  


Kalliroscope with Heating Element Stand

Vintage (1970s) Kalliroscopes are sometimes available here: 
From eBay: Search NOW Kalliroscopes 

Click this link for the best Kalliroscope currently in production and available.

Kalliroscope with Heating Element Stand: visualizing the invisible- convection currents. This wonderful vintage device was invented and produced by artist Paul Matisse in the 1970s, where suspended microscopic flat crystals of guanine reflect light and allow visualization of the fluid's motion. This rheoscopic fluid is special in that the guanine crystals are the same density as the tetrachloroethylene liquid so the crystals never settle to the bottom making the fluid reactive to showing the slightest movement. Here the stand option (that was sold separately) has a resistive element in contact with the back of the kalliroscope which generates heat at about body temperature to establish these convection currents.

The Random Walker

Galton Board version available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Galton Board 

The Random Walker: second model of two Galton Boards designed and produced by IFA.com- this version is made to demonstrate probability in investment returns of a global stock market portfolio relating to risk capacity. Slow motion reveals the erratic path of each steel ball (second half of video). The red graph shows the distribution of 592 monthly returns (mean =1%, SD=5%) representing data from 50 years of an IFA Index fund- here the random “walk” of 3000 steel balls falling through 12 levels of branching paths always produce a close match, and both distributions tend toward the famous bell curve distribution. A wonderfully designed modern version of the Galton Box invented by Sir Francis Galton(1894) to demonstrate the Central Limit Theorem - showing how random processes gather around the mean.


Square Wave Horizon

Get this amazing sculpture here: 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Square Wave Horizon

See also: The Square Wave (Original)

Square Wave Horizon: a second incarnation of Ivan Black’s Square Wave interactive kinetic sculpture- in this version 20 interlocking right angle metal rods are mounted horizontally with accompanying base and grips at each end which allows one to rotate the structure to and fro. Waves propagate, folding the structure into a tight curl- and a reverse snap will bring it back to the initial flat square state. An important design feature is that each right angle rod is limited to move through about 45 degrees, and all through parallel axes, allowing for the beautiful rotational wave motion via a cascade of angular momentum transfer. 

Maxwell's Dynamical Top: with Color Wheel

Get this accurate and beautiful 1/2 scale replica here:

From Machined Marvels: BUY NOW: Maxwell's Dynamical Top

Maxwell’s Dynamical Top: A 1/2 scale precision replica of the famous “Dynamical Top” created and demonstrated by the great physicist James Clerk Maxwell in 1857. The four color disk allowed Maxwell to see and study the direction of the angular momentum vector when a spinning object is subjected to a jolt/impact. After the top gets a flick from my hand note that one can see a circle of evenly changing color- the angular momentum vector points outward through the center of that circle. Balanced such that the spin point was placed at its center of mass, this unique top was used by Maxwell to experimentally test many theories about how the Earth and planets wobble as they spin. Swipe to see another astonishing property of this top described in a previous post. This beautiful historical replica is now available from machinist and creator Jim Peever @machinedmarvels- and as far as I know the only other replicas of this device where made in the 1880’s! 

Dual Spiral Kinetic Art

Here are some available kinetic illusions that operate on the same principle: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Spiral Spinner Illusion 
From eBay: BUY NOW Spiral Spinner Illusion 

Dual Spiral Kinetic Art: hanging by fishing line, thick gauge steel wire is shaped into connected helixes- a pair twisting clockwise and a single coiled counterclockwise. When spinning the rotational motion creates translational motion both upwards and downwards along the vertical direction, and also the striking illusion that the quartz sphere is climbing or descending.


Magnetic Flux Gyroscope Pendant: V2

Magnetic Flux Pendants and other amazing science inspired fine jewelry available here:

From Foxtail Jewelry: BUY NOW: Kinetic Magnetic Pendants

Magnetic Flux Gyroscope Pendant: version 2 of the @foxtailjewelry - @physicsfun collab! Two half-sphere neodymium magnets on chains remain suspended under centripetal acceleration. Another kinetic art necklace design by artist Betsy Yates of @foxtailjewelry who brings this concept to life so elegantly and is currently featuring @physicsfun inspired pendants in her gallery and store.

Polage

Click on any image to see a short video of more polage in action: 
From Austine Studios: Polarized Light Art 

Sometimes Austine's work can be found on eBay: 
From eBay: SEARCH Polage by Austine 

Click this link for more physics fun with polarization. 

Here is a very nice discussion about polarization that pertains to Polage: Experiments With Polarized Light by Donald E. Simanek 

Polage: art with polarized light using polarizing sheets and cellulose to create changing forms and colors. Rotation of the filter allows the artist to incorporate more than one image and produce colorful metamorphosis. This piece was created by Austine Wood Comarow- the main developer of this art form- and this piece is signed "Young Rose 1987 28/50". Light has an orientation, denoted as polarization, and a polarizing filter can be used to block certain orientations. The colors in polage come from how the molecular structure of plastics can rotate the polarization of any light that passes through- but only light corresponding to yellows and greens gets rotated in plastic, reds and blues not so much. Polage uses different layers of plastic to rotate the light, and then polarizing filters are added to allow only certain frequencies (colors) of light through. 

Tricolor Plasma Globe with Glow Wand

Get a globe and glow wand here:

From Aurora Plasma Designs: BUY NOW: Globes and Glow Wands

Click here for other amazing: Glow Discharge Designs

Tricolor Plasma Globe and Glow Wand: an engineered mix of low pressure noble gasses exhibit three colors of glow discharge in the plasma filaments that rise upward due to heating. A separate glass wand has a different gas mixture and phosphor coated beads that glow when in contact with the globe. A small high frequency coil at center creates the high voltage potential between the center electrode and the metal coated glass globe. Current flow through the thin gas produces the colorful emission spectra from the gasses. 


Pendulum Clock

Affordable gravity powered pendulum clocks available here in a number of styles:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Pendulum Clock

The version featured in the video is the: Hermle Ravensburg Clock

Gravity Powered Pendulum Clock: invented in 1656 by Christian Huygens, the physics properties of a swinging pendulum was the basis of all precision clocks until the 1940s. As noted by Galileo, the period of swing of a pendulum can be made very precise and stable depending only on its length. This modern version is made faithfully in the original design powered only by gravity as the potential energy of the descending weight is transferred to the kinetic energy of the drive train gears and pendulum. The key feature of any pendulum clock is the anchor escapement mechanism- a curved piece attached to the pendulum with two prongs that only allows the escapement wheel to move forward one tooth per swing cycle, and producing the characteristic “tick-tock” sound. The weight descends about 1 cm per hour, and when hanging from a wall the chain needs to be pulled once a week, raising the weight up about 2 m to keep the clock in operation. This beautiful clock, made by Hermle, features a chime that sounds upon the hour.