Recent Posts

Levitating Sphere Lamp

Get this fun lamp here: 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Levitation Lamp

Levitation Lamp: tapping the floating spherical magnet turns this LED lamp off and on in this interesting design. The magnet floats a couple centimeters from the surface of the base when plugged in, and feels springy to the touch. Within the base is 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.

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

Sunlit Perspective Lamp

Get one here (a few models to choose from):

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Backlit Perspective Lamp

Sunlit Perspective Lamp: when lit from behind this flat ink line-drawing jumps into 3D via perspective shading of sunlight and some color lithophane type images placed behind the sketched windows. A fun take on the power of geometric perspective to suggest three dimensions from two.


This item came to me in my Summer 2022 Curiosity Box subsciption:
Get (or give!) a Curiosity Box subscription here: JOIN NOW: The Curiosity Box

A nice larger glass version is available from this trusted seller:
From PhysicsHack: BUY NOW: Vortex Dome Kalliroscope 

Hydrodome: kinetic art with rheoscopic fluid in a rotating base. This spin-able kalliroscope, from @thecuriositybox, is an amazing device that allows one to generate and visualize typically invisible fluid flows. Tiny flakes of mica are suspended in the fluid such that a bright light source reveals complex and beautiful transient structures- similar to those seen in the spiral arms of galaxies or the cloud bands of gas giants like Jupiter. Congratulations to the VSauce team for manufacturing yet another amazing device! 

Ruby Asterism

Get an inexpesive star ruby here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Star Ruby Synthetic Gemstone

Ruby Asterism: illuminating this cabochon of synthetic ruby reveals a six point star with a center that moves with the point light source. The rayed star is form of chatoyancy, where the light is scattered by microscopic parallel crystal fibers of rutile (titanium oxide) that grew within the red corundum mineral (aluminum oxide with trace chromium). This is similar to tiger eye chatoyancy, but here the rutile fibers grew along the three different directions of the main crystal symmetry. 

Magic Portal Illusion 

Get one, expertly printed and assembled, here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Magic Portal Illusion Desk Toy

Or print it yourself: 3D Print Files: Magic Portal Desk Toy

Magic Portal Illusion: this astonishing design utilizes the famous barber pole illusion to make it appear as though these colorful strands are passing in and out of a 4th dimension. The mechanical principle employed is similar to that of a lead screw and slider type actuator, except here translating the slider up and down rotates the helical strands at just the right rate to produce the illusion. An amazing 3D print creation of Ada Cohen, printed and assembled by Alex L. Kling. 

Neon Flicker Flame Night Light

Similar old fashion flicker bulb lights available here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW Flicker Flame Neon Bulb 

Get this diffraction grating here to explore light source spectra:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: 500 line/mm diffraction grating

Neon Flicker Flame Bulb: this charmingly designed night light evokes a theme of an old fashioned gas street lamp- however there is no flame, but instead the light is due to emission spectra from excited neon gas as a result of a discharge electric current from the 120V house mains. The flickering effect comes about because the current flow will increase the temperature near it, which raises the pressure and affects/raises the breakdown voltage near the current- so the glow from one area can only last as long as it takes to heat up and raise the breakdown voltage which then briefly kills the current in that area. In other physics, a diffraction grating shows that the gas is indeed neon, which only emits light at specific emission wavelengths- mostly reds with some bright yellow lines (and a clearly visible green line) at AC house voltages.

Reflection and Refraction of a Cyan Laser Pointer

Get this beautiful new color of laser pointer here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW: 488nm Laser Pointer (Cyan)

Blocks of polished acrylic available here:
From eBay: BUY NOW: clear acrylic block

Reflection and Refraction of a Cyan Laser Pointer: a new affordable wavelength laser pointer that just came on the market- 488nm producing a beautiful hue of blue. The beam is made brightly visible as internal reflection constrains most of the laser light to propagate along the interior of this block of acrylic (similar to the physics of fiber optics).

Electrostatic Interactions

Get a similar and fun DIY kit here:

From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Electrostatics Kit 

Electrostatic Interactions: a triboelectric effect toy from the 1990s. The styrofoam spheres are given an acquired net negative charge by shaking the PET plastic container, and the foam beads are then attracted to the container wall but repel each other. (The foam balls pick up electrons when they strike the container walls.) A segment of PVC pipe also acquires a negative charge when rubbed with a paper towel, and here the foam spheres jump a centimeter or more when the pipe segment is brought near. In contrast, a segment of acrylic tube can acquire a positive charge, and will instead attract the styrofoam pellets as it is brought near the container. A demonstration of the invisible electric fields that are part of our everyday world. 

The iTOP

Well engineered brass spinning toys by SiriusEnigmas:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: The iTOP 

From Etsy: BUY NOW: The PhiTOP

From Etsy: BUY NOW: The eTOP

From Etsy: BUY NOW: The PiTOP

The iTOP: inverting spinning disk- the equilibrium state for a spinning thing is often different from that of the same object when stationary. When spun, the iTOP almost instantly inverts to raise its center of mass (shown in slow motion because it happens so fast). However, when the rotation speed decreases to a certain rate the system becomes unstable (shown again in slow motion) and flips again before going into a rolling/spinning motion like a coin. This top completes the set of four spin tops by astrophysicist Kenneth Brecher, all made of polished brass and themed on a mathematical constant: iTOP (square-root of -1), PhiTOP (golden ratio, φ), eTOP (base of the natural log), and the PiTOP (C/D of a circle, π). 


Color Gradient Magnetic 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. The field structure of six magnetic objects can be seen here. Staring with a simple dipole neodymium in the center and going clockwise from the top left: fridge magnet with stripe pattern, magnetic rotor of a small motor, ring of poles of a stator for a stepper motor, vintage ferrous classroom “dipole”, and a coded interlocking neodymium magnet. 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).

In-Feed Google

Moire Kinetic Coasters

Get these well made illusions here:

from Etsy: BUY NOW: Laser Cut Wood Illusions 

Moiré Kinetic Coasters: various patterns of overlaid curved spokes rotate and produce interesting illusions of motion via moiré interference effects. Each in this set of four coasters had a clear acrylic top upon which to place your drink, with intricate laser cut wood components underneath. The set includes a frame that couples each rotating center into cogs in a kinetic art gear train. Explore constructive and deconstructive interference patterns with this practical yet fun manipulable toy.

Density Column Key Fob

Avialable here: Totoro Drift Bottle Keychain

Get similar liquid key fobs here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Liquid Key Fobs
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Liquid Key Fobs

Density Column Key Fob: lots of physics in the design of this ridiculously cute key fob— two immiscible fluids are sorted under gravity by density with the densest on the bottom and the lightest on top (often kerosene and mineral oil). The plastic animal (best guess: rabbit?) has a density between that of the two liquids so it stays at the boundary layer, and the critter is weighted to be bottom heavy so it keeps a vertical orientation with help from Archimedes law of buoyancy. The most recent versions of this toy have interesting opaque colored liquids, such as the gray fluid featured here. 




Sphalerite Phosphorescence 

Samples of this glow-in-the-dark mineral available here:
From eBay: BUY NOW: Phosphorescent Sphalerite

You will also want a powerful UV flashlight:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: High Power UV Light

Phosphorescence: in daylight this rock looks like an ordinary stone, but when illuminated with long wave ultraviolet light, patches of the mineral sphalerite will glow orange and dramatically fade after the light is turned off- due to the process of the zinc sulfide molecules in the mineral absorbing a UV photon and the delayed quantum transition which emits the lower energy orange photon. One of a few glow-in-the-dark naturally occurring rocks! This sample came from the Nelly James Mine near Miller Peak in Arizona.

Deja Vu II: KInetic Art

Get this amazing work of art and craftsmenship from this source:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Deja Vu II Kinetic Art

See this other amazing device from this creator: Impossible Marble Machine 

Deja Vu II: astonishing spring powered kinetic art. Crafted from wood this device has two disks (swipe to see partly disassembled) and each has a pattern of curved spokes that can rotate at different rates and direction to produce interesting illusions of motion via moiré interference effects. A ribbon spring drives an ingenious mechanism that uses ratchets (and the rotational momentum of the disks) to create the various visual modes- a half rotation of the disks will result in 20+ minutes of motion. With a full loading of the spring hours of motion will ensue. Another amazing creation by artist and designer William Le. 

Electric Motor Build

Get an easy to assemble kit here (or just buy the replacement wire to build your own like in the video): 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Simplest Motor Kit 

Electric Motor Build: One of the most important inventions consists of only three basic components as shown here: coil, magnet, and a battery with lead wire posts. The wire of the spinning coil has an insulating coating on it- and this coating is carefully scrapped off one side of the thin wire on each end. When current passes through the coil it becomes an electromagnet and the permanent magnet repels it making it spin- as it turns the current goes on and off depending on if the copper wire posts are in contact with the bare wire side (current on) or the part of the wire with the insulating coating intact (current off). When the current is off momentum keeps the rotation going until the next push. The physics of converting electric energy to rotational kinetic energy- and a fun DIY project!