Recent Posts

Super Absorbent Polymer

Get some of these grow-spheres here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Growing Spheres 

Super Absorbent Polymer: poly-acrylamide polymer crystals are able to absorb up to 200 times their volume of water. Here seven small spheres, approximately 4mm in diameter, were immersed in water for three hours, after which they were slightly more than 23mm across. The final gel sphere is more than 99.5% water- and they bounce! 

Incline Gravity Clock

These vintage clocks are sometimes found on eBay. Some take 24 hours to descend (affordable) and some take 7 days (expensive). 

From eBay: Search NOW: Incline Gravity Clock

Ancient Clockwork Zamberlan posted theses nice photos of the inner workings of this clock

See other amazing clocks in my collection here: Unusual Clocks

Incline Gravity Clock: powered by gravity this clock has no batteries or mainspring- however, once each day the clock must be picked up and placed back at the top of the ramp. As the clock rolls down the incline (here 12 hours are captured in time-lapse of 24 seconds), gravitational potential energy is translated into the kinetic energy of the moving clock gear train and oscillating balance wheel. The clock face and mechanism hang suspended with a counterweight that keeps them upright- although you might notice the mechanism of this vintage clock sticks a little at 7 o’clock. After some research I believe this clock was produced in China about 50 years ago.

3-Shuttle Trammel of Archimedes

Get this device here:

BUY NOW: 3 shuttle device

This device 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 (New box will ship soon- get a great deal now)

Get similar (two shuttle) devices here: 

From Etsy: BUY NOW 
Trammel of Archimedes

3-Shuttle Trammel of Archimedes: as the shuttles take turns completing their straight line journeys, the end of the crank arm traces an ellipse. This precision 3-shuttle version by the VSauce team came in my @thecuriositybox - made with high quality molded plastic parts that produce very smooth movement- a wonderful addition to my collection! Sometimes sold as a “do nothing machine” or “nothing grinder”, far from doing nothing this simple and crucially important mechanism demonstrates how rotational motion can be converted into translational oscillatory motion- such as how a piston can drive an engine’s crankshaft.

 


Color Gradient Magnetic Viewing Film

Get this new technology here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Color Magnetic Viewing Film

Color Gradient Magnetic Film: making the invisible visible and revealing the hidden beauty of the physics in our everyday world. Microscopic cavities in this thin film are filled with suspended magnetic nanoparticles that interact with magnetic fields producing different colors from orange (low field strength) to dark blue (high field strength). Here three “fridge magnets” and a coded neodymium magnet show surprising field complexity when placed under this film.

Spring/Latch Polymagnets

Avilable here: 
From Polymagnet.com: BUY NOW 
Spring/Latch Pair Demo 


Get some magnetic viewing film here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW 
Magnetic Viewing Film 

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Magnetic Viewing Film 

Spring Latch Polymagnets: this pair of coded magnets attract but don’t touch in a state of stable equilibrium at a distance of 1/2 cm- but if one magnet is turned a half twist they latch together. Magnetic viewing film reveals the specific and complex arrangement of N and S poles that allow for this set to act like a spring or a latch (although only if constrained to an axis along their centers). 

Magnetic Top and Snake

Available in a variety of styles: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Magnetic Top and Snake 

Magnetic Top and Snake: the magnetic tipped top stays on the perimeter of the steel snake (or is it a planarian?)- but since the top has much more mass, the snake moves the most slithering to and fro. This kinetic art toy has been around for decades and takes advantage of Newton's 3rd law and rotational kinetic energy. 


Designer Kaleidoscope

Tom and Carol Paretti create some of the finest kaleidoscope art in the world: Paretti Kaleidoscopes 

Often found on eBay: BUY NOW: Paretti Kaleidoscpes

Other Fine art kaleidoscopes avaibable here from this trusted seller:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Fine Art Kaleidoscopes

More amazing kaliedocsopes from my collection here

Designer Kaleidoscope: the beautiful symmetry of multiple reflections. Tiny glass beads and a collection of shiny objects provide the viewing material in this side-lit precision kaleidoscope by Carol Verde-Paretti. Invented by the famous Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), the kaleidoscope is an ultimate physics toy and entire field of artistic endeavor.

Diffractive Optical Element

Amazing application of high resolution far field holograms. The only available source I know of for projection holograms at this high resolution is this supplier of industrial samples 
From MaterialSampleShop.com: Diffractive Optical Element Sample 

Need a laser pointer? Incredibly, you can get 3 (one of each color) for under $20 (including S&H): 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Red+Green+Purple Laser Pointer

Diffractive Optical Element: images produced by constructive and deconstructive interference of coherent laser light. The patches of microstructure on the surface of this transparent plastic are far field holograms- transmission holograms, but with the image at infinity. Side by side images from two different laser wavelengths (red 635 nm, green 520 nm) shows clearly the red image is larger than the green since diffraction angle is proportional the wavelength. So much physics here!

Cosmic Eye Rheoscopic Display

A KickStarter campaign for resonably priced interactive art: 

From KS: Pledge NOW: Cosmic Eye

Cosmic Eye Rheoscopic Device: visualizing the invisible- where suspended microscopic flat crystals reflect light and allow visualization of the fluid's motion. This rheoscopic fluid is special in that the suspended microscopic particles are slightly ferromagnetic and will align with any external magnetic field that is brought near the device. A small magnet within allows interesting interactions as well. From creator and artist Robert Spillner.

 


Tea-Light Floating Engine

Get one from my friends at Grand Illusions! 
From Grand Illusions Ltd.: BUY NOW Floating Steam Engine 

Engines of similar design are used in pop-pop boats 

Tea-Light Floating Engine: a candle powered super simple steam engine. The engine is just a coil of copper tubing filled with water. Steam builds up pushing water out with an explosive jet- which then results in a vacuum in the coil which pulls more water in to repeat the process. The water expulsion is in the form of jet directed out the end of the tube whereas the refill comes back in to the tube from a larger range of angles- so on balance the engine moves opposite to the direction of the jets. 

Glow Trace Chaotic Pendulum Kit

Get this super nice, affordable, and fun to assemble kit here:
From KiwiCo: BUY NOW: Glow Pendulum Kit

Get amazing quatilty science kits delievered to your home- this glow pendulum is part of the Tinker Crate subscription. 
From KiwiCo: LEARN MORE: Tinker Crate Subscription

Glow Trace Chaotic Pendulum: this fun and amazing DIY kit features a UV diode to trace the intricate path of this double pendulum system on to a phosphorescent screen, revealing the physics of chaotic motion. It’s amazing that such complex motion can arise from a simple assembly of two pendulums, one attached to the end of the other. Chaotic motion, such as that observed here, is characterized by extreme sensitivity to initial starting conditions, tiny differences in how the system is released leads to dramatically different outcomes each time. 

 

High Tech Rain Stick

Available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Acrylic Rain Stick 

From eBay: BUY NOW 
Acrylic Rain Stick 

Get the spectrum analysis app here: SpectrumView - Oxford Wave Research Ltd.

Wikipedia has nice articles about white noise and other colors of noise described with the math of spectrum analysis 

High Tech Rain Stick: white noise- the sound of two thousand metal spheres falling and bouncing through a plastic labyrinth creates a power spectrum of sound waves with all frequencies at equal intensity, creating the shhh sound we often encounter from many random processes. Part of the cascade slowed to 240 FPS midway through video.


Lenz's Law

Get a similar kit here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Eddy Current tubes

Get some magnetic viewing film here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Magnetic Viewing Film 

Lenz's Law: a strong neodymium magnet falls slowly down a copper bus bar as though passing through a viscous liquid. Since magnetic fields pass through copper, magneview film reveals the location of the falling dipole magnet. Moving magnetic fields from the falling magnet produce electric currents in the copper. These currents then produce magnetic fields that have the opposite polarity to the initial field. So a falling magnet makes the copper pipe briefly into an electromagnet that repels the magnet. The rectangular copper “pipe” is from a water-cooled electromagnet power supply line, 1.5 x 2 in (4 x 5 cm) in cross-section, designed to supply a steady DC current of 5000 amps. This 40cm long piece weighs in at 6kg and has a 1.5cm diameter hole for cooling water to flow down its center. From a decommissioned particle accelerator magnet. 

Sun Sculpture: Magnetic Field Lines of the Solar Corona

This wonderful 3D rendering of the Sun available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Sun Sculpture

See more 3D laser astronomy/astrophysics sculptures here

Solar Sculpture: the paths of 5000 magnetic field lines etched into optical quality glass map the complex flow of plasma in the Sun’s outermost atmosphere replicating how the solar corona appeared on Oct 21, 2000. This sculpture is based on a sophisticated computer model from a group of research scientists at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, and the rendering contains 300,000 etched points to create the image. A map of our wonderful and complex star that can be held in the palm of your hand.

 


Am-241 in Wilson Cloud Chamber

I found this vintage apparatus on eBay. Here is a similar device made for classroom demonstrations (a bit pricey though): 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Wilson Cloud Chamber 


Diffusion cloud chambers that use dry ice are more affordable: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW 
Diffusion Cloud Chamber 


Wikipedia has nice descriptions of Am-241 and the history and operation of Wilson Cloud Chambers 

Am-241 in Wilson Cloud Chamber: the typically invisible ionization tracks of alpha particles emitted from a radioactive source are revealed in this miniature expansion type cloud chamber. When an americium nuclei disintegrates it ejects a high speed cluster of protons and neutrons (2 of each) called an alpha particle which then plows through the air creating a trail of ions, tearing electrons off any nearby molecules it passes by. A rapid decrease of pressure (releasing the squeeze bulb) drops the temperature in this chamber allowing cloud formation. Alcohol droplets prefer to condense on ionized molecules/atoms and so reveal the tracks. Amazingly the synthetic element americium-241 is found in common smoke detectors, where a few micrograms will emit thousands of alphas per second. Of course please use great caution if you choose to mess around with any Am-241- it’s safe inside the smoke detector, much less so if removed. 

Magnetic Chaotic Pendulum

Often available here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW 
Magnetic Chaotic Pendulum 

Chick here for similar chaotic systems

Magnetic Chaotic Pendulum: adding magnetic forces to gravity gives this pendulum chaotic motion- not random, but very sensitive to slight differences in initial launch conditions. Arranging the dipoles magnets on the base leads to different patterns of motion- here the center magnet attracts and the rest are set to repel. ROMP pendulum by Hog Wild toy company. 

STORY Clock

This very high-tech clock is also high end (more expensive than most items I feature), with excellent craftmaship and technology that is clearly hard to replicate so that it is only made by, and available from, the FLYTE team:

From Art of Play: BUY NOW: Story Clock

From FLYTE: BUY NOW: US & Global Sales Story Clock or in EU Story Clock

STORY Clock: a spherical magnet hovers one centimeter from the face of this amazing clock and orbits in a circle to indicate the time- for this video I selected an orbit period of 40 seconds to show off the motion. The orbit of the magnetic ball can be set to any period but also has default selectable presets to indicate the current hour, minute, or second. This kind of levitation uses a control system with adjustable electromagnet coils in a feedback loop with Hall effect sensors which allow for fine tuning of a magnetic field to precisely balance the pull of gravity. Amazing magnetic levitation physics demonstrated by clever engineering by the @flyte.se team, this clock will work lying flat or hung on a wall vertically!