Physics & Math Puzzles

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. 

RPSLK Dice 

These dice are available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock Dice

RPSLK Dice: the famous Lizard Spock extension to the Rock, Paper, Scissors game expressed on 10 sided dice allowing the study of the non-associative nature of the game (Rock wins Scissors, and Scissors wins Paper, but Rock does not win Paper, etc.), and other interesting math. The original RPS game had three “weapons” and only three rules are needed to play the game. Adding Lizard-Spock makes for 5 gestures, but now 10 rules must be used, including “Spock vaporizes Rock”, “Lizard poisons Spock”, and my favorite “Paper disproves Spock” (swipe to see famous graphic). Interestingly, mathematical analysis shows a similar four weapon game with equal odds of winning is not possible. It was also found that the next possible game with 7 gestures would require 21 rules to play. The Lizard-Spock extension was invented by Sam Kass and Karen Bryla in 2005 and made famous on the sitcom Big Bang Theory. 

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.


In-Feed Google 2

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. 

Tessellating Geckos

These laser cut hardwood 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.


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.

Frabjous Geometric Sculpture Puzzle

Get one here- five colors to choose from:

From MoMath: BUY NOW: Frabjous Sculpture Puzzle

Frabjous Geometric Sculpture Puzzle: 30 identical laser cut acrylic pieces interlock into 12 interconnected five point stars (each with a spiral vortex center) in this puzzle based of the Frabjous sculpture by artist and professor of mathematics George Hart (Prof. Hart is now on Instagram, follow him at @george.hart.sculptor to see more of his amazing work.) Note that if one connects the tips of the stars one gets the outline of a dodecahedron, with its 30 edges and 12 sides, and if one considers the face planes of the linked pentagrams the underlying shape is a polyhedron called the “great rhombic triacontahedron”. A year or so ago I got to visit the National Museum of Mathematics in NYC where I bought this puzzle in the @momath1 museum shop. This puzzle was great fun to assemble- buy one to support this inspirational museum, and make a great sculpture for your bookshelf! 

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.


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.

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.

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.


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. 

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. 

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). 


Cone of Apollonius

Similar models available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Cone of Apollonius

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Cone of Apollonius

Cone of Apollonius: Slicing a cone with a plane will produce the famous curves known as the conic sections, as demonstrated with this beautiful vintage wood model by Nasco. Slicing at a right angle to the cone’s axis of symmetry produces a circle, and tilting the intersecting plane a bit produces an ellipse. When the plane is tilted parallel to the side of the cone the curve produced is a parabola, and tilting even further creates a hyperbola. The discovery of the mathematics demonstrated here are attributed to Apollonius of Perga from about 250 BC- thousands of years later Kepler, Newton, and others showed these conic sections to be intricately connected to many branches of physics such as planetary orbits and the optics of telescopes.

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! 

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.