Physics & Math Puzzles

Impossible Bottle Sculpture Puzzle

Mr. Evans makes a variety of amazing impossible bottle sculptures: 
From 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. 

Dudeney's Dissection 3D Print

Get this set here!

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Dudeney's Dissection 3D Print

Dudeney's Dissection: an equilateral triangle canbe cut (dissected) into four pieces that will then assemble into a square. This 3D printed version comes as a puzzle- fit the pieces in each of two containers- a square and a triangle, which also makes it clear the two supplied shapes are of equal area. Fun fact: It is not known if a similar three piece dissection is possible. Also called Haberdasher's problem and described in 1907 by Henry Dudeney it is the only 4 piece solution known.

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). 

10 Hex Puzzle

This and other beautiful and well made puzzles are available on Etsy: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW 10 Hex Puzzle 

Two great resources about these polyhexs: polyform puzzler page and puzzleworld page 

10 Hex Puzzle: this puzzle is comprised of pieces which are the set of all ways three and four hexagons can be joined with a common edge. There are 3 trihexs and 7 possible tetrahexs, and similar to pentominoes, these 10 polyhexs can assemble into a large hexagon. Amazingly there are exactly 12,290 solutions to this puzzle- but it’s still a challenge to find just one! 

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.

Trisected Cube

Get this puzzle here:
BUY NOW: Trisected Cube Puzzle

This puzzle came in my Curiosity Box subscrition. A great way to start collecting your own physics toys (and other brain food):
From the Vsauce team: BUY NOW: The Curiosity Box

Trisected Cube Puzzle: three identical pieces interlock to form a cube in this ingenious dissection puzzle. The cube is sliced following a helical path along a corner to corner diagonal, creating a smooth disassembly, and a smooth but surprisingly challenging initial reassembly. Invented by Robert Reid and designed by puzzle master Oskar van Deventer.


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.

Perspective Puzzle

Vintage puzzles in this series are sometimes available on eBay: 
From eBay: Search NOW Virtual Illusion 3D Puzzle

Perspective Puzzle: ten flat images, when ordered and spaced correctly, combine to produce this 3D illusion of structure and depth. This vintage toy by Mattel was sold as “Virtual Illusion 3D Puzzle” where the challenge is to scramble/shuffle the 12 sheets and then place them in the correct orientation and order to complete the image. A fun application of the math and physics of anamorphosis and perspective. 

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?