Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine: a working model reciprocating piston steam engine complete with boiler, flywheel, governor, and whistle. The invention that powered the industrial revolution on a desktop! My father bought this model D16 in 1970- with just a little cleaning and oiling it fired right up. Wilesco has been producing model steam engines since 1960 and still manufactures and sells the D16.
From Kainen and Wollard:
From Amazon: BUY NOW Dinosaur: Photicular Book
Photicular Dinosaur Book: the latest in the photicular series- this time with scientific reconstructions of ancient beasts! This amazing book of 8 astonishing moving and looping lenticular images is the creation of photographer/artist/inventor Dan Kainen where the moving images use Kainen's patented process where a specially processed image slides under a thin film of lenticular lenses. Kainen has teamed up this time with Kathy Willard who puts each image into context incorporating fun paleontology facts appropriate for kids yet informative to all.
For the price of a vinyl LP you can own the amazing artwork of Tristan Duke. This album by Jack White is damn good as well (I also got the digital download with the vinyl purchase).
From Amazon: BUY NOW Jack White Lazaretto (Vinyl)
Specular Hologram on Vinyl: the album Lazaretto by Jack White features this amazing "scratch hologram" of a twirling angel (shown here accompanied by the opening bars from the title track of the album). The hologram was hand etched on the metal master by artist Tristan Duke of Infinity Light Science. The etched grooves reflect a point source of light as sharp glints and the groves are arranged so that each eye sees a slightly different pattern such that, via stereopsis, the shiny points appear to float above or below the surface. This album has a lot of other interesting features including dual grooves that allows for two different intros to one track (depending on where the needled is dropped) and side A plays from the inside out- fun!
These lamps can often be found on eBay:
From eBay: BUY NOW Fiber Optic Lamps
Fiber Optic Galaxy Lamp: a vintage 1970s fiber optic lamp with a chrome “UFO” base. Note the beautiful spherical symmetry of the fiber spray- they don’t make them like this anymore! The fiber bundle is illuminated by a lamp in the base and the color shifting patterns are generated by a rotating color wheel placed between the light source and the fiber optic bundle. Fun physics at a thrift store price.
Light Pipe: internal reflection constrains most of the laser light to propagate along the bent acrylic rod- the physics of fiber optics. This plastic stand is sold as a hanging ornament display- repurposed here as a great light-pipe demonstration.
From eBay: BUY NOW MicroBank Coin Illusion
MicroBank: coin shrinking bank- clever use of symmetry, mirrors, and a concave Fresnel lens combine to create this illusion. Magic with physics!
The PhiTOP: spinning things often have surprising physics! This unique top is made of solid aluminum in the shape of a prolate elIipsoid- and the name of the top is derived from the following design requirement: the ratio of the semi minor (short) axis to the semi major (long) axis is made equal to the mathematical constant the golden ratio φ (phi). Invented by astrophysicist Kenneth Brecher, this top stands up vertically (when spun with sufficient rotational velocity) due to physics similar to that of the tippy-top.
These acrylic versions work great and are inexpensive:
From STEMCell Science: BUY NOW: Rattlebacks
Acrylic Rattleback: a favorite from my collection- prefers to spin counter clockwise. If spun clockwise, a complicated combination of friction, precession, and instability induced vibrations transforms the rotational energy into into rattling (energy of oscillations) and then into rotational energy in the opposite direction! This behavior is related to the asymmetric shape of the bottom of this kind of rattleback, it's somewhat propeller shaped with an "S" curve along the bottom ridge
These are fairly inexpensive and use two AA batteries. Great for a rave or a physics class!
From Amazon: BUY NOW Plasma Disk
From eBay: BUY NOW Plasma Disk
Larger versions available here:
From eBay: BUY NOW Luminglas Plasma Disk
Luminglass: with audio modulation. Tesla (high frequency) coil within a noble gas discharge tube just like a plasma globe- these lightning disks also have phosphor covered dielectric pellets that create most of the light when excited by current flow. The intro to Tool's Sober provides audio with sufficient dynamic range to demonstrate the modulation effect.
Get a set here:
From eBay:(best selecton) BUY NOW Ring Chain Catch
From Amazon: BUY NOW Ring and Chain Set
The physics of this trick in great detail with more slow motion: Ring Falling into a Chain: No Magic — Just Physics
Ring Catch Chain Trick: a solid ring will be caught by a loop of chain if it tumbles during its fall. By Newton's Third law, when the ring twists into and hits the chain, the impact transfers momentum to the end of the chain, which rises up and over the ring- seen here in 480 fps slow motion.
Get a set here!
From Amazon: BUY NOW Buzzing Magnet Set
Rattlesnake Eggs: polished barium- strontium ferrite ceramic magnets influence each other when many centimeters apart. Turn sound on--Wait for it! Sold as "buzzers" these magnets come together with multiple bounces creating a characteristic zipper sound. Most shops and online vendors incorrectly label these as hematite- a completely different substance that does not magnetize well.
Precision machined tungsten alloy spheres avaulable here:
From STEMCell Science: ORDER NOW: Tungsten Black Hole Replica
Earth Mass Black Hole: this sphere of tungsten alloy has a diameter of 17.7mm, a precision representation of the size of the event horizon of a black hole with a mass equal to that of the Earth! If the entire mass of the earth could somehow be compressed to the size of this sphere, it would indeed collapse to a black hole with an event horizon defined by a Schwarzschild radius of 8.87mm. For comparison a black hole with the mass of the sun would be 6km across. This black hole replica is made of one of the densest materials available, a tungsten alloy with ?=18.5 g/cm³ which produces a strange sensation when you hold it, with a weight of twice that of a ball bearing of equal size.
Get one here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW Helicone Interactive Kinetic
This manipulable kinetic art available here:
From Art of Play: BUY NOW
The Helicone: an interactive kinetic sculpture designed by @john.edmark and distributed by playableArt. With a bit of practice I finally mastered the transformation in both directions: A snap of the wrist imparts angular momentum to the laser cut wood petals which then rotate until an internal mechanism stops their motion with predetermined spacing- a helix transforms to an abstract pine cone. A second snap of the wrist in the opposite direction returns the helix.
Get the levitating/rotating platform here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW Levitron Revolution
From eBay: BUY NOW Levitron Maglev Platform
Versions of the floating rings illusion can be found at the Exploratorium, at the Carnegie Science Center,
and is also famously featured in the 1981 Superman movie:
Levitron Revolution: well engineered control system uses an adjustable electromagnet and and a Hall effect sensor to levitate an 8cm diameter neodymium magnet platform 5 cm in mid-air. The feedback loop allows fine tuning of the magnetic field to exactly balance the pull of gravity. The platform also rotates, perfect for this floating rings illusion sculpture I constructed.
Get a MaBoRun here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW MaBoRun Mini Marble Run
MaBoRun Mini III: rolling marbles doing tricks as potential energy of gravity is converted to kinetic energy. In this mini-marble run a battery powered scissor linkage translates the rotation of the motor into linear motion to lift the marbles to the top.
From Amazon: BUY NOW Daruma Otoshi Toy
Daruma Otoshi (Dropping Priest): Traditional Japanese physics toy. Use the hammer to knock out pieces, but without tipping over the stack. Newton's 1st Law as seen in slow motion- a mass at rest tends to stay at rest.