Physics & Math Puzzles

Soma Cube

The Soma Cube is available in a variety of materials and colors:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Soma Cube

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Soma Cube

Soma Cube: Math toy invented by Danish scientist and artist Piet Hein, who claimed that this puzzle idea came to him as he was listening to a lecture on Quantum Mechanics by Werner Heisenberg (yes- that Heisenberg) in 1933. The seven pieces are all the ways 3 or 4 cubes can be joined, such that each piece has at least one inside corner. Amazingly there are 240 ways to make the larger cube from these 7 pieces- still not that easy! 

Penrose Aperiodic Rhombs

This set avaiable here:
From : Search NOW Penrose P3 Tiling
Wikipedia has the details on Penrose Tilings and their inventor Sir Roger Penrose (Recently won Nobel Prize!) 
Another nice version of Penrose Tilings is available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Penrose Tiles 

Penrose Aperiodic Rhombs: a famous aperiodic tiling with just two shapes- a pair of rhombuses with equal sides, but with the ratio of their areas made to equal the golden ratio. Note that although the starting pattern of 10 tiles is symmetrical, adding any further tiles breaks the symmetry, as highlighted by the path of the double curves. Sir Roger Penrose- who just 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! In this construction, single and double line patterns must align 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.

Rhombic Blocks Mathematical Puzzle

This beautifully made puzzle available here:: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW 
Rhombic Blocks 

Rhombic Blocks Mathematical Puzzle: There are 9 possible ways three rhombuses can be joined together along a common edge, and similar to pentominoes, these 9 tri-rhombs can tile a polyhedron, in this case a hexagon. There are 14 solutions to this puzzle, and one where no same-colored pieces touch. A beautiful math discovery by puzzle master Stuart Coffin.


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.

Flippe Puzzle Ball

Get this puzzle ball here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Flippe Puzzle Ball

Flippe Ball Puzzle: this ball is a puzzle that explodes and flies apart when spun. The puzzle is made of three identical pieces and a ball bearing which mysteriously locks the pieces together only to release them after a period of spinning. The main challenge is to fully explain why this spontaneous disassembly occurs. Swipe to see a slow motion boomerang loop of it coming apart- and how conservation of momentum has the three equal mass pieces on equally spaced trajectories (120°) with the ball bearing remaining stationary at the center. A product of puzzle master George Bell.

Impossible Jar with Golf Ball

Get this "impossible" jar and other amazing things from this shop:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Impossible Jar & Golf Ball

Impossible Jar with Golf Ball: a regular off the shelf golf ball somehow trapped within a standard glass jar. Neither the ball nor the jar were cut or glued in the fabrication process. The puzzle aspect is to consider how this object was produced (again, I have some theories- but I do not know the secrets of this artist). This incredible piece was made by craftsman and artist Nathan Nickerson, and comes with the golf tee display stand (a nice touch!)


Impossible Arrow

One of many creative illusions and curiosities of Victoria Skye. See her work here:

Visit Now: Victoria's Illusion Art

Click here for to explore more "impossible objects" 

Impossible Arrow: an arrow made of wood through the center of standard steel hex nut. The arrow was carved and somehow placed through the nut- neither the wood nor the steel nut was cut or glued to produce this object. Not impossible, but creating this does depend on the use of some obscure physical properties of wood (similar to the impossible nail sculpture). 

Ambiguous Superhero Object 

Available now- 3D printed ambiguous object Illusion:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Superhero Ambiguous Object Illusion

From eBay: BUY NOW: Superhero Ambiguous Object Illusion

More of this type hereAmbiguous Object Illusions on @physicsfun 

Ambiguous Superhero Object: A very fun fan art 3D print which makes use of the ambiguous object illusion invented by mathematician Kokichi Sugihara- a clever combination of reflection, perspective, and viewing angle. Printed and sold by 3DNY Design. 

Poly Density Puzzle

Get the kit here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Polydensity Bottle Kit 

Folow the link above for details of the physics explanation. 

Poly Density Puzzle: my favorite science brain teaser- white beads and blue beads "float" oddly separated beneath the surface of a clear liquid. If the contents are mixed by shaking the container, the white beads gather at the top and the blue sink to bottom! Adding to the mystery; after about 30 seconds the two layers of beads will have slowly moved back to the middle. What is your guess as to the physics behind this behavior?


Bubble Trouble Puzzle

This hard to find puzzle is sold as a magic trick here: 
From magicorum.com: Bubble Puzzle 

See more physics puzzles: featured physics based puzzles

Bubble Trouble Puzzle: physics brain teaser- the trick here is to move all air bubbles to the center bulb. As with all puzzles featured here on @physicsfun, the solution relies on some fun basic physics principles- can you figure out which ones? Answer below and swipe to reveal solution.

Pentominoes

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. 


Impossible Bottle Sculpture Puzzle

Mr. Evans makes a variety of amazing impossible bottle sculptures: 
From impossiblebottle.co.uk: Buy NOW Impossible Bottles by Philip Evans 

Nice Impossible bottles are often available on Etsy: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Impossible Bottles

Impossible Bottle Sculpture Puzzle: seemingly impossible, but created with clever engineering, this “impossible” bottle contains a padlock and full deck of cards still in the wrapper (a cut out in the side of the box reveals that all the cards are inside). The puzzle aspect is to consider how the bottle was produced (I personally have some theories- but I do not know the secrets of this artist). I can tell you with high certainty that the bottle was never cut or altered in anyway, and it was not somehow formed around the objects. This bottle by Phil Evans is one of the best I’ve seen. 

Impossible Nail

Nice versions are curretnly available from Etsy:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Impossible Nail

Impossible Nail: An eighteen-penny nail driven through the inner notches of a solid piece of wood. The wood was notched and the nail added- no glue used or cuts made, and the nail is solid and in one piece. Not impossible, but creating this does depend on the use of some amazing physical properties of wood. I won’t reveal the method here but a quick search on YouTube produces a few how-to videos showing the process. 

Impossible Caged Golf Ball 

Some nice versions of this impossible object available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Golf Ball in Wood Cage

See more of these thought puzzles in my collection here: Impossible Objects

Impossible Caged Golf Ball: Here a regular off-the-shelf golf ball is somehow trapped within a cage made from a solid piece of hardwood walnut. Neither the ball nor the wood were cut or glued in the fabrication process. The puzzle aspect is to consider how this object was produced (I have some theories- but I do not know the secrets of this artist).


Ice Melt Demo

Get this similar demonstration kit here:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW
Ice Blocks Melt Demo

Ice Melt Demonstration: Wood or Aluminum- which will melt the ice fastest and why? Both blocks start at the same temperature (room temp) and have the same shape and volume. Swipe to reveal result shown in real time (not sped up!) Hint: Although both blocks are at the same temperature, the aluminum feels cool to the touch and the wood block feels warm. Those who have taken basic physics should have an advantage on this question- one block is an excellent insulator and the other a conductor.

In-Feed Google 2

Coin Escape Puzzle

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

From Amazon: 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.