All physicsfun toys

Kaleidoscope Symmetry Physics

Many designs to choose from- all with precision aligned high quality front surface mirrors: 
From Etsy store Colorado Scopes : BUY NOW Precision Teleidoscopes 

Fine art kaleidoscopes avaibable here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Fine Art Kaleidoscopes

Get a Gyrobi here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Gyrobi Kinetic Toy 

Kaleidoscope Symmetry Physics: Two adjacent mirrors form the repeating image of a kaleidoscope, but the shape of the image is determined by the angle between the mirrors. This principle is demonstrated with three different symmetrical patterns using this beautiful set of precision teleidoscopes- angles of 36° (blue tube), 30° (green tube), and 22.5° (red tube), creating mandala stars with 5, 6, and 8 points. The angle for any symmetric star pattern of n points is just 180°/n. A teleidoscope is a kaleidoscope but with a lens on the end, such that the kaleidoscopic image is formed by whatever is put in front of it. Here the complex motion of a Gyrobi toy is used as the observation object. 

Logarithmic Spiral Gears

Amazing creations made here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW 
Spiral Gear Set 


Original 3D print files available here: 
From Thingverse: Spiral Gear Set 

Logarithmic Spiral Gears: an extreme example of non-circular gear sets. This set is based on the famous Fibonacci spiral and evokes the cross section of nautilus shell with internal chambers. If one gear of this set is turned at constant speed, the other will turn with an varying speed. A kind gift laser cut at @hsvsteamworks and based on 3D prints of Misha Tikh and the research of Balint et al. 

Hyperbola Clock

This amazing clock available here: 
From Maths Gear: BUY NOW 
Hyperbola Clock 

Hyperbola Clock: a straight rod glides through a curved hole in this unconventional clock based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by rotating diagonal line. In this creation by Robert Darwen of Fibonacci Clocks, the rod serves as the hour hand with a smaller minute hand above the center of the base disk. (The time adjustment dial of the clock mechanism was connected to a small motor to produce the sped up motion in this video so that 1 second = 1 hour) 


The Physics of Tippe-Top Inversion

Get some tippe-tops here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Tippe-Tops 

The Physics of Tippe-Top Inversion: spinning things often have surprising physics! This video is from a segment of my talk I’ll be presenting tomorrow at PhysicsCon 2020 (Caltech’s Feynman Lecture Hall, Jan 4) where I will talk about flip over tops and other physics toys. In brief: friction with the surface provides a torque that acts on the existing angular momentum of the top to flip it over. The top will stay flipped until the spin rate slows down enough to where its center of mass pulls it back to the resting position. Inversion phase shown at 240fps- note the little hop the top takes as it goes on to its stem! 

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 Etsy: BUY NOW: Fine Art Kaleidoscopes

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.

Switch Pitch Ball

Many colors to choose from- get one here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Switch Pitch

Switch Pitch Ball: this spherical assembly changes color by turning inside out when tossed into the air. Advertisements for this toy incorrectly claim air drag is involved in the transformation. The ball is made of multiple components hinged together. In launching the ball from the hand an upward acceleration results in a torque that pivots each component around its center of mass, causing the rotation of these components in an organized way leading to the transformation. Imagine tossing a stick straight up. If the stick is perfectly vertical upon launch it will move straight up- but if it is initially slanted at all it will also begin to rotate upon launch. Similar physics underlies the motion of each component of the ball- shown here in 240 fps slow motion. The Switch Pitch is produced by the makers of the Hoberman Sphere.


Magic Sun Stone

Get a magic sun stone (rough gem quality iolite) here: 

From eBay: BUY NOW: Iolite Sample
From Amazon: BUY NOW Iolite Sample 

Affordable polarization filters and other polarization physics available here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Polarizing Film Kit 

The kit also includes a birefringent crystal, colorful optically active mica sheets, and a polarimetry demo that reveals when structures are under stress. A great value for so much physics fun! 
Get the nice display stand here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Caliper Display Stand 

Magic Sun Stone: gem quality iolite shows very strong pleochroism- its color depends on the polarization of light as it is transmitted through the crystal. The color of this rough iolite gemstone changes dramatically from clear to opaque purple as the orientation of a linear polarizing filter is rotated through 90 degrees. Also known as a "Viking sky compass" since it can detect the polarization of sunlight in the sky and thereby locate the sun for navigation even on cloudy days or when the sun is below the horizon- useful for this time of year far north. 

Water Drop Pulse Kinetic Sculpture

Art by Philippe Bouveret available here:
From the artist: BUY NOW philippebouveret.com 

Water Drop Pulse Kinetic Sculpture: “Heart In A Bottle” is a kinetic art sculpture by Philippe Bouveret that utilizes the amazingly strong surface tension and adhesive properties of water. Two halves of a heart are attached to a wire spring which is periodically pulled together in a zipper like fashion by a single drop of water (as seen in 240 flp slow motion). The engineered system in the top bulb emits a water drop that adheres to the two wires, and as it falls surface tension pulls and connects the spring wires, which stay stuck together until gravity pulls down and thins the water coating enough such that the spring force can overcome the water’s adhesion. The halves of the heart then undergo vibrations that damp out until another drop forms in a process that repeats a few times a minute. 

Vsauce Drinking Bird Heat Engine

This orange drinking bird came in my subscrioton to The Curiostiy Box- highly reccomended!
From the Vsauce team: subscribe today: The Curiosity Box

The classic drinking bird heat engine can be found here:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW 
Drinking Bird Engine 

Drinking Bird Heat Engine: this classic physics toy came in my The Curiosity Box which provided this orange species of the bird complete with dapper top hat emblazoned with the Vsauce logo. Cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the pressure in the bottom bulb pushes the dichloromethane fluid up the neck making the bird top heavy and the bird tips over dipping its beak and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The process repeats, and as long as the top stays wet and cooler than the bottom this heat engine will continue to cycle.


Vortex Marble

Some examples of O'Grady's vortex marbles are available on eBay: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Vortex Marbles by Kevin O'Grady 

A number of artists now offer vortex marble art on Etsy 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Vortex Marbles 

Vortex Marble: glass art intersects with the physics of optics in this lampwork art form invented by Kevin O’Grady circa 1994- and this marble bears his signature mark on the back. The clear glass face on these marbles acts as a convex lens giving the illusion that the spiral goes deeper than the diameter of the marble. Different kinds of dichroic glass (doped with thin layers of metals and oxides) is mixed in to the borosilicate marble to create the intense colors.

Giant Newton's Cradle

This industrial grade museum quality device available here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Giant Newton's Cradle

Regular sized Newton's cradles availabe here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Newton's Cradle

Newton's Cradle: industrial model made with galvanized aircraft cable, aircraft aluminum for the frame, and 1.5 inch one-half pound nickel plated chrome steel spheres. (0.23 kg and 3.8cm in diameter each) The classic demonstration that shows the curious behavior due to conservation of both momentum and kinetic energy. Swipe to see comparison to standard version.

Fluorescent Ooze Tube with UV Laser

Click these links for ooze tube sources (green works best).
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW 
Ooze Tube 

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Ooze Tube 

Get an inexpensive UV laser pointer here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
UV (405 nm) Laser pointer 

Fluorescent Ooze Tube with UV Laser: stunning visual effects from a 405 nm laser pointer interacting with the viscous polyisobutene fluid in this ooze tube timer toy. The fluorescent dye converts the UV laser light to visible green light as the fluid stretches into thin ropes that act as light pipes while bubbles reflect and fan the beam. Perhaps the next generation Lava Lamp? 

 


Mercury Maze

These vintage items from the 1980s can be found on eBay and Etsy quite often (two available as of this posting): 
From eBay: BUY NOW 
Mercury Maze 

 

Mercury Maze: metal mercury (Hg) is liquid at room temperature, and small blobs of it roll in a peculiar way. The curious properties of elemental mercury are showcased in this vintage toy from the 1970s. Mercury is very toxic and toys like this are now banned in most countries. Mostly dangerous if the toy were to break open- contact with the skin and breathing vapors are to be avoided with mercury. 

Woodwork Rattleback

The amazing work of Emmanuel Péluchon can be purchased here:
From Boisselier.ca: BUY NOW: Fine Woodworked Rattleback

Inexpensive rattlebacks can be found here:
From STEMCell Science: BUY NOW: Rattlebacks 

Woodwork Rattleback: 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 an asymmetry in weight along the left/right symmetry axis- the dark wood is Apple which has twice the density of the light colored Basswood(Linden). This asymmetry in weight induces an instability, quite like the vibrations that arise from an unbalanced tire, that transfers the rotational energy to the intermediate rocking vibrations. This beautiful physics toy was produced by Emmanuel Péluchon.


Coins of Constant Width

These triangle coins are often available on eBay.

Fron eBay: Search NOW: Bermuda Triangle Coin

The silver proof versions can be expansive, but sometimes the circulated coins (like those in the video) are available at a lower price.

Click to see more: shapes of constant width

Coins of Constant Width: the only coins produced in the shape of the Reuleaux triangle, issued in 1997 and 1998 by Bermuda. The special convex shape of the Reuleaux triangle will roll, because like a circle they have the same diameter from one side to the other, no matter their orientation. To demonstrate this property note here how two straightedge rulers remain parallel as the coins rotate between them, just as one would expect circles to behave! Bermuda triangle (ha!) coins were only produced for two years and featured Elizabeth II on the front and shipwrecks on the back- this one depicts the wreck of the Sea Venture.

Pentominoes

Get this set here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Hardwood Pentominoes 

Many versions available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pentominoes 

The book by mathematician Solomon Golomb that started the polyonomo recreational math craze:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Polyominoes 

Pentominoes: The 12 possible arrangements of five identical squares joined edge to edge. Since 5x12=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). I love this beautiful set from artist/woodworker Ron Moore where each pentomino is made from a different kind of hard wood. 

Phase Locking Folk Toy 2.0

This plastic version of the toy is from the 1990s and I'm not sure of its orgin. However, it is not hard to construct these toys. 

See the regular version here: Phase Locking Folk Toy

A detailed physics analysis of this toy was publisehd in 2018 (open acess): Physics of the mechanical toy Gee-Haw Whammy Diddle

Versions of the regular Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle available from these sources:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Hooey Stick Folk Toy
From Amazon: BUY NOW Hooey Stick Folk Toy
From eBay: BUY NOW Hooey Stick Folk Toy

Phase Locking Folk Toy 2.0: this version of the “hooey stick” toy has two rotors- and often they will rotate in opposite directions! (Shown here in slow motion for clarity.) Just as with the regular version of this toy (see yesterday’s post) rubbing the stick over the notches creates vibrations- and can lead to an up and down motion of the shaft in the center of the rotors. The hole in each rotor is larger than the shaft, and when the shaft/notched stick is vibrating it only touches the rotor for a short time each cycle- if the timing is right the stick collides with the rotor such that friction gives it nudge with each vibration to set it spinning- and this can work either clockwise or counterclockwise. Sometimes they spin the same direction and sometimes opposite, which seems to depend on initial conditions and a bit of luck.