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. 

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. 

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).

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). 

Elastic Equilibrium Puzzle

Get this puzzle here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Atomic Cherry Puzzle

Elastic Equilibrium Puzzle: six spheres held together by three plastic springs. When assembled each sphere exerts the same force on its four neighboring spheres, producing this equilibrium state only if all six spheres are used to balance all the forces. A fun configuration to analyze in a 1st year physics course- the Atomic Cherry by Brainwright puzzles. 

Sphere Sticks Geometric Puzzle

Get this affordable and amazing puzzle here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Sphere Sticks

Sphere Sticks Puzzle: 30 identical wood pieces, each with two notches as shown, can create 12 interlocking pentagons in a perfect symmetry- look carefully and you can see that each rod is in an identical configuration with the 4 others that connect with it. Precision cut notches on the rods allow them to interlock with elastic tension such that vector sum of the 4 forces sum to zero in this tensegrity type equilibrium. The dodecahedron, with its 30 edges and 12 sides, is the basis of this puzzle sculpture. 


Soma and Rhoma Puzzles

The Rhoma Cube is a vintage item and can sometimes be found on eBay:

From eBay: Search NOW: Rhoma and Soma Puzzles

Soma Cubes are available in a wide viariety: 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Soma Cube

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Soma Cube

SOMA and RHOMA Puzzles: Replace every cube in the Soma puzzle with a rhombohedron to create the Rhoma puzzle- where the seven slanted pieces now make a larger rhombohedron. Here I’ve painted the corresponding Soma and Rhoma pieces to match on these sister puzzles that share identical edge lengths. While there are 240 ways to make the larger cube from the 7 Soma pieces, there is only one solution for the 7 Rhoma pieces. The original Soma Cube is a math toy has an interesting connection to physics- 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 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.

Impossible Bottle with Arrow

Get an impossibe object from this artist here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Impossible Bottles and Objects

Impossible Bottle with Arrow Sculpture Puzzle: a new seemingly impossible object in my collection- Created with clever engineering, this “impossible” syrup bottle contains a wooden arrow that should not fit through its neck. The wood of the arrow is notably one uncut piece, and yet a metal washer is also somehow trapped on the shaft of the arrow. 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 Brad Byers is an expertly crated example of the impossible object genre.

Cone of Apollonius

Similar models available here:

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.

Impossible Knot

Follow the link below for full explanation and instructions. 
From mathematician/artist George Hart: Tying the Knot Puzzle 

Impossible Knot: how did this overhand knot get into this closed continuous band of rubber? It did not get there by cutting the loop, tying a knot, and rejoining it. Amazingly this band was once a rubber o-ring. How was it cut to produce a knot? An “impossible object” related to the Möbius strip by mathematician and artist George Hart- a brain teaser puzzle he calls “Tying the Knot”. 


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! 

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.

Repelling Marbles Puzzle

Get this affordable and fun kit here:

From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Mystery Marbles Puzzle Kit 

Mystery Marbles Puzzle: a physics brain teaser (now available as a kit) what's going on here? Three glass marbles can move but stay separated in this liquid filled tube no matter the orientation- why do they not touch? Swipe for reveal of components. 

See also: Poly-acrylamide Polymer Vanishing Act

Pythagorean Puzzle

Available here: 
From Creative Crafthouse: BUY NOW Pythagorean Puzzle

Pythagorean Puzzle: a proof, in physical form, of one of the most famous equations concerning the sides of any right triangle. The area of a square with side c of the hypotenuse is indeed equal to the sum of the areas of the squares of side a and b. This kit also allows at least two other ways to prove this theorem named after the famous Greek mathematician from 500 BC. One of the most used formulas when calculating vectors in physics classes ?