Recent Posts

Impossible Braid 

Get this nice example of mystery braid here:

From Art of Play: BUY NOW: Impossible Braid Key Fob

Here is a great video on how to make the mystery braid

See other Impossible Objects in my collection. 

Mystery Braid: challenge- how can three strands be braided if both sets of ends are connected? (swipe for reveal) A new addition to my collection of “impossible objects”, this leather key fob is braided from a single piece of leather, constructed by making two parallel slits but not cutting the ends. The solution is well known to those in the field of leatherwork- due to a twist of topology it’s possible to make this braid if the number of left strand over right crossings equals the times the right strand crosses over the left. Four strands braided this way is not mathematically possible, but 3, 5, or any odd number can be done!



Tessellation Origami

See more of Ekaterina's amazing work on her website gallery: Kusudama me!

Contact her to buy her artwork, or you can buy her books and learn how to fold amazing geometries!

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Ekaterina Lukasheva: Papercraft and Origami

Tessellation Origami: nested spirals and triangles created from one flat sheet of paper! This beautiful work by Ekaterina Lukasheva also demonstrates how folded paper can obtain very different physical properties than that of the original flat paper. When stretched out this paper sculpture prefers to snap back into spirals and triangles, and although most materials bulge out when compressed along one direction, here the design compresses evenly along all three axis of the hexagonal symmetry. Title: Electricity-A Variaton of Spaced unit Opus_T-142.

Balancing Seabird 

Get this carved wooden bird here:

From eBay: BUY NOW: Balance Seagull

Balancing Seabird: this bird balances on its tail rather than its beak in this variation of the famous physics toy. The weight of the elongated wings creates a center of mass below the bird’s tail- making a system in stable equilibrium. No magnets used or needed! This hand carved and painted bird comes with this optimal display stand. Inexpensive physics fun!

Laser Fog Light Show

Limited supply available here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Laser Fog Show

Laser Fog Light Show: making the invisible visible - a rotating mirror produces a cone of laser illumination revealing the complex and beautiful patterns of nondiffusive turbulent flow as the air sodden with fog droplets mixes into the ambient air. When engaged the fog mechanism sprays puffs of droplets into the top part of the cylindrical chamber in approximately two second intervals. 

Impossibly Linked Tape Rolls

These linked rolls are not curretnly produced. 

Check out other "impossible" objects in my collection. 

Impossibly Linked Sellotape: two rolls of unused tape are linked like rings of a chain, but even when carefully scrutinized with a magnifying glass there is no evidence of cutting or splicing. Created by artist and puzzle maker Angus Lavery who seems to have access to a 4th spatial dimension-- because I have no idea how he linked these rolls! Thanks to my dear friend Tim Rowett for sending this amazing addition to my expanding sub-collection of “impossible objects”. 

Sphere and other Orbiforms

Similar items available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Sphere and Orbiforms

Sphere and other Orbiforms: pi day special post- volumes of constant width made from solid brass. These shapes have constant diameter no matter their orientation and will roll like spheres between two planes- note how the acrylic plate stays parallel to the table as the sphere and other orbiforms roll underneath. The first orbiform is based on the Reuleaux triangle and the second on a Reuleaux pentagon. Fun pi fact- the perimeter of any shape of constant width is alway equal to the diameter(width) multiplied by pi: P=πd.

Disappearing Spoon

Gallimum metal and a silicone mold to produce the spoon- available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Gallium Mold Spoon Kit 

Disappearing Spoon: the metal gallium has a melting point of 30°C (86°F) and will melt quickly when exposed to tea temperature hot water- or melt in one’s hand if handled too long. This spoon was made with a silicone mold (swipe to see process), and feels and sounds just like a regular spoon, except solid gallium is brittle and the spoon can shatter like glass if dropped. An amazing parlor trick as well as a classic and historical class demonstration.

Squaring a Circle Sculpture

This sculpture available as a 3D print:

From ShapeWays: BUY NOW: Square Circle Illusion

See other amazing geometric illusions here: Ambiguous Objects

Squaring a Circle: from one particular point of view this wireframe sculpture looks like a circle, from another it’s a square! From other viewing angles one can see that the underlying curve is comprised of four identical segments of a parabola. A wonderful example of how a single perspective can be misleading! A math sculpture available as a 3D print by Matt Enlow. 

Perspective Puzzle 2

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

Perspective Puzzle: twelve 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. 

Emission Spectra Gases on Radial Mount

I made the display holder and I got this set of gas tubes here (about $9 per tube): 
From eBay: BUY NOW: Gas Pure Element Samples

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil
For the price, this is the best one on the market- and beautiful to look at in copper- and it comes with three accessories for the top. Please be sure to employ all appropriate safety precautions when utilizing any electrical circuity!

The mount is made by driling holes in this acrylic tube: 4" Acrylic Tube

The breakdown voltages of the elements featured in this post are described by Paschen's Law: 
Here is a excellent article with an overview of the physics of glow discharge and its application in lighting and other technologies. 

Click this link to see the mini Tesla coil in action

Emission Spectra Gas Samples: pure samples of hydrogen, nitrogen and five noble gasses are subjected to the high frequency pulsed field of a miniature Tesla coil. Each gas has a characteristic breakdown voltage and emission spectrum- note that Nitrogen has the highest breakdown voltage and begins to glow after the presence of my hand temporarily lowers the resistance to current flow for that tube. The color of each gas is due to a mix of the colors emitted from electron energy transitions specific to each element- the basis of spectroscopy. Notice also that the purple color of the brush discharge at the top of the Tesla coil matches closely to the color of the nitrogen sample, which makes sense as air is 78% nitrogen. 

Wringing Guage Blocks

Guage block sets can be a bit pricy, but some fairly inexpensive pieces and small sets can be found for demonstrations and such:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Gauge Blocks

Wikipedia has a nice description of Gauge Blocks and the Phenomenon of Wringing

Wringing Gauge Blocks: two blocks of metal (not magnets!) will stick together by a process called wringing if their surfaces are flat to high precision- such as these gauge blocks found in most machine shops. Here two blocks are forced apart with a snap, and then wrung back together with the characteristic sliding motion technique. Gauge blocks are flat to less that one millionth of a meter and are used by machinists for precision length measurements and calibration. The science of the wring force remains somewhat a mystery and no one has yet found a fully excepted physics description- but we do know that blocks will wring in a vacuum and that the force can be up to 30 times that of weight of the blocks. Fun physics from the shop!

3D Wordflip Sculpture

Create your own here:

From BUY NOW: 3D Wordflip

3D WordFlip Sculpture: from one point of view my logo appears, rotate 90 degrees and the sculpture reveals my tagline phrase “real magic”. Alternatively the messages can be cast as shadows (swipe to view). Amazingly you can create and print any two phrases of your choosing from the webpage of artist and designer Joris Sparenberg.

Simple Polarimeter and Polarization Art

This DIY device is part of the polarization kit that you will get from a MEL Physics subscription:

Subscribe to: MEL Physics (click to see the contents of this great kit). 

Simple Polarimeter and Polarization Art: another amazing experiment from the MEL Physics polarization science kit. Geometric patterns of overlapping cellophane tape with color revealed when viewed with linear polarizing filters- create your own polarization art! This kit provides two linear polarizing sheets that when oriented at 90 degrees creates this device that reveals rainbows hidden within the patterns of polarization in the light transmitted by various objects. In the first video the layers of cellophane rotate the polarization of some light frequencies more than others. In the second video the polarimeter colorfully reveals the trapped internal stresses created in many plastics from their formation process (typically cooling of a liquid in a mold). All items shown included in this kit (plus much more). 

Thumbler Gyroscopic Desk toy

Avilable here:

From Top Secret Toys: BUY NOW: Thumbler gyro toy

Gyroscopic Desk Toy: a new unique take on spinning tops and gyroscope type toys where the spin rate is induced by forced precession- that is, by swirling the device by hand at just the right rate. The top of the enclosed top is constrained to move in a circular trough that keeps it at the required precession angle. The physics is similar to the “Dyna Bee” wrist exercisers, but much easier to engage and spin up, and with a unique motion path. The toy is also equipped with LEDs that turn on with a centripetal switch and then create interesting patterns (that are hard to capture due to frame rate issues). A creation of physicist/inventor Gregory Ojakangas. 

Praesentia: Felipe Pantone

Learn more about this limited edition book here:
Praesentia: Felipe Pantone

His art is sometimes found at auction:
From eBay: Search Now: Felipe Pantone

Praesentia: a monograph showcasing the evolution of artist Felipe Pantone in 308 pages of images and descriptive text. Pantone is an innovator of neo op art and dynamic art forms involving a unique saturated color pallet, and his book, with its precision designed acrylic slipcover, is itself a piece of fine kinetic art. The exterior of this hardcover exhibits Mioré effects which create waves of shimmer and motion as the book moves within the case, or as the angle of illumination is altered as seen here under rotation. I purchased this book last Friday from the gift shop of the @controlgallery during the opening reception of Kosmos, his first ever show in Los Angeles.

Hula Hoop Top

Often avaiable from this shop:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Specialty Top Shop

Hula Hoop Top: a stack of wooden rings are dropped on to the shaft of a spinning top resulting in surprisingly organized motion as the rings position themselves with a bit of lag as a function of height. This interesting behavior results from the transfer of rotation kinetic energy from the top to the rings, where the rings do not rotate about their symmetry axis. One of more than 100 unique spinning tops in my collection, received as gift from my friend and fellow collector Tim Rowett, and a product of KreiselArt (Ulrich Büker).

Invisible Ink and UV LED Pen

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

Get this amazing and inexpensive version of the Spirograph here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spirograph Animator

Get a similar pen and UV light here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW UV Pen

Invisible Ink and UV Pen: this pen utilizes a clear ink that when dry is barely noticeable, but contains fluorescent compounds that reveals its presence under long wave ultraviolet light. This cool pen with UV LED light came in my @thecuriositybox yesterday where I applied it to make some hypotrochoid roulette curves with this pocket Spirograph set. 



Mag Flip Inverted Pendulum Fidget

Available from this fine vendor:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Mag Flip Desk Toy

Mag Flip Inverted Pendulum Fidget: three embedded neodymium magnets provide tactile repulsive forces in this simple but intriguing system. Pressing down on one side increases the magnetic potential energy that will then send the pendulum into frantic motion until the kinetic energy is damped out after a series of oscillations. This fidget can also be used as a random coin flip with respect to which side it will land.