Physics & Math Puzzles

Anamorphic Harry Potter Puzzle

No longer in production but available on eBay: 

From eBay: BUY NOW: Harry Potter On Reflection Puzzle

Mirror Anamorphic Harry Potter: the conical mirror of the silver container reflects and reveals the distorted scenes in this 200 piece jigsaw puzzle of the famous wizard and school. The shape of the mirror allows for a mathematical operation, a type of affine transformation, to map the distorted image of the puzzle to the restored image reflected by the mirror. Real magic! 

Impossible Pipe Elbows

These are very hard to find- I had to make this one. Contact @physicsfun via DM if you really want one.

Many other types of impossible objects are avialable- see these links and videos: Impossible Objects

Impossible Pipe Elbows: made from standard pipe fittings held together only by their threads. No glue of any kind was used in its making. Design inspired by puzzle maker and artist Saul Bobroff.

Tessellating Geckos

Laser cut geckos are available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Tessellating Geckos 

Tessellating Geckos: MC Escher inspired lizard cutouts interlock precisely to tile a surface with no overlaps or gaps. Laser cut from maple, walnut, and cherry wood by maker/artist Craig Caesar and inspired by MC Escher’s “Study of Regular Division of a Plane with Reptiles” 1939. G4G week: Martin Gardner wrote about the art and math of Escher in 1961- which helped create the popularity that his work has experienced ever since.


Get this set here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Hardwood Pentominoes 

Many versions available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pentominoes 

The book by mathematician Solomon Golomb that started the polyonomo recreational math craze:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Polyominoes 

Pentominoes: The 12 possible arrangements of five identical squares joined edge to edge. Since 5x12=60, the pentominoes can tile a 6 x 10 rectangle with no gaps (2339 ways to do this- yet even finding one solution is a challenge). I love this beautiful set from artist/woodworker Ron Moore where each pentomino is made from a different kind of hard wood. 

Penrose Tiling Puzzle

This puzzle was produced and sold in the 1990s. 
The individual tiles can be found on eBay (and sometimes the whole puzzle): 

From eBay: Search NOW Penrose Pentaplex Puzzle 
Wikipedia has the details on Penrose Tilings and their inventor Sir Roger Penrose (Recently won Nobel Prize!) 
A nice basic version of Penrose Tilings is available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Penrose Tiles 

Penrose Tiling Puzzle: a challenging puzzle with pieces that come in only two shapes. Sir Roger Penrose- who just yesterday won the Nobel prize in physics for his contributions to General Relativity- also discovered tessellations (tilings) that are aperiodic even though the two tile types are regularly shaped polygons. If one tries to shift a part of a Penrose tiling, the shifted part will not align or match up with any other part of the same tiling- all the way out to infinity! This puzzle, entitled “Perplexing Poultry”, created and sold by Penrose himself, uses polygons modified into crazy looking birds such that the tiles can only connect in specific ways to ensure the non-repetitive nature of the Penrose tiling structure. Shown here is one way these two tile types will fill the plane.

Balance Stacking Sculpture

Another wonderful desing by BinDesign- get one here in black or natural wood:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Bin Design Balancer Puzzle

Balance Stacking Sculpture: a series of torques in unstable equilibrium complete this Calder-esque structure. As each component is added its weighted end balances all the others before it, with the initial small piece weighing about a gram or so. Remove the end piece and the whole structure comes down. Another wonderful design by artist Bin Xu.

Uphill Roller

This set available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Uphill Roller Double Cone

Uphill Roller: a double cone (like two funnels connect by their tops) will roll up a set of inclined rails. Although the bi-cone rolls toward the higher end, its center of mass descends due to the geometry of the rails. This curious construction was first published in 1694 by the noted surveyor William Leybourn to promote “recreation of diverse kinds” towards the “sublime sciences”. Physics fun from three centuries ago!

Jacob’s Ladder Image Flip

Available from this shop in Spain: 
From Punto Verna: Reproduction Jacob's Ladder 

Classic versions of this toy available here: 
Amazon: BUY NOW Jacob's Ladder Toys 

The same ribbon hinge mechanism is used to make the "magic" wallet click here

Jacob’s Ladder Image Flip: with a twist of the wrist this reproduction flips back and forth between an image of Queen Victoria and that of Prince Albert with a satisfying click-clack sound. The earliest description of the ribbon hinge mechanism that creates this kinetic illusion of cascading blocks comes from a magazine article in Scientific American in 1889.

Cylindrical Lens Puzzle

A similar puzzle (but taking advantage of horizontal symmetry) available here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Cylindrical Lens Puzzle 

Cylindrical Lens Puzzle: this cylinder of acrylic acts as lens that focuses light along a line rather than a point- and thus it can invert an image along its symmetry axis. Puzzle question: the word "GREEN" is flipped by this lens but the word "TOMATO" seems unaffected. Is the physics significantly different for red wavelengths as compare to green? Or is there another explanation/trick? Answer below.

Coin Escape Puzzle

Available here: 
From eBay: Search NOW: Coin Escape Puzzle

From Grand Illusions: BUY NOW: Coin Escape Puzzle

Another coin escape puzzle (fits US Dollar), the YOT: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Silver Dollar Escape Puzzle

Coin Escape Puzzle: physics brain teaser- remove the coin without breaking the container or using any tools other than your hands. Of course you spin it to get the quarter out- but exactly how? The solution to this puzzle (like others featured here) relies on some fun basic physics of spinning things. Answer below and swipe to reveal solution. 

Anti-Gravity Puzzle

This particular puzzle by is no longer in production.

However (spoiler), it's possible to creat a version of this puzzle with these: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Growing Spheres 

"Anti-Gravity" Puzzle: a physics brain teaser- what's the trick here? Four glass marbles can move but stay separated in this liquid filled tube no matter the orientation- why do they not touch? 


Aqua Drop Puzzle

Three models/colors to choose from: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Aqua Drop Puzzles 

From eBay: BUY NOW: Aqua Drop Puzzle

Aqua Drop Puzzle: a superhydrophobic coating allows this dexterity puzzle to use a drop of water as the "pinball". The white surface is a silica nano-coating that makes water roll off- a condition sometimes referred to as the Lotus effect because leaves of the Lotus plant have this property. 

Magnetic Cube

Many colors to choose from: 
From BUY NOW Magnetic Dice Cube 

See also the original indestructibles post: Magnetic Acrylic Rubik's Cube 

Magnetic Cube: a twisty Rubik’s Cube puzzle made from 27 dice and 108 neodymium magnets. This cube includes the scrambled states and solutions of the original 3x3 Rubik’s Cube but is held together only by magnets! The magnets, in this special configuration, lock the dice together with a satisfying click upon rotation. This beautiful cube was produced by Owen Lillywhite of and is based on a gfixler design posted on instructables.

Wooden Trapped Sphere in Cube

(out of production)

Trapped Sphere in Cube: a surprising aspect of the geometry of spheres and cubes- carved from a single block of wood is a sphere trapped within a cube frame. A classic folk woodworking novelty reconceived here with precision machining to create this seemingly impossible object. 

Hydrophobic Water Maze

Wonderfully well crafted and available from this shop :
From Etsy store TheSmallestWorkshop:

BUY NOW Hydrophobic Water Maze

Hydrophobic Water Maze: a superhydrophobic coating allows this dynamic puzzle to use a drop of water as the "pinball", which can split into multiple smaller drops and recombine along the way. The wood surface is treated with silica nano-coating that makes water roll off- a condition sometimes referred to as the Lotus effect because leaves of the Lotus plant have this property.

Magic Sand Wand Puzzle

This puzzle was produced in the 1990s, sometimes found on eBay (currently two avialable):

From eBay: SEARCH NOW: Magic Sand Wand Puzzle

Wikipedia has a good introduction to the possible mechanisms of the Brazil nut effect 

Magic Sand Wand Puzzle: this week’s physics brain teaser- move the steel ball through the sand to the other end of the tube. Amazingly it can be done in less than 6 seconds! Hint: spinning won’t help this time. The solution to this vintage puzzle relies on some interesting physics concerning granular convection. Answer below and swipe to reveal solution. 

3D Pentominoes

The set I used for this video is called Pocket Katamino and is available here
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pentominoes 

3D Pentominoes: the 12 possible arrangements of five identical squares, joined edge to edge, form the set of all pentominoes. Since 12x5=60, the pentominoes can tile a 6 x 10 rectangle with no gaps (2339 ways to do this- yet even finding one solution is a challenge). This set of colorful pentominoes is made so that the height of each piece is the same as the width of the constituent squares, such that 3D constructions can be made. Since 3x4x5=60 one can build a box with these dimensions (amazingly, 3940 ways to do this- but again, finding one is still a fun challenge).