Best Sellers

Aquarius Fountain Lamp

These fountains are individually made by the artist hence they are priced as art reflecting the labor involved: 
From Etsy store of Stephen Co : BUY NOW Aquarius Fountain Lamp

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Aquarius Fountain Lamp: an oscillating stream of water is illuminated by strobe lights to reveal underlying structures and forms typically hidden from our vision. With the help of programmable micro-controllers, strips of addressable RBG LEDs are made to flash in sequences that make the water stream appear to move upwards, change colors, and split into multiple braided streams. Art meets physics and clever technology in this wonderful creation by computer engineer Stephen Co. With sincere appreciation to Stephen @northerncircuits for sending me one of his hand crafted high tech fountains.

Nixie Tube Clock

The Nixie Tube Clock in the video is of amazing craftsmanship- real hardwood with brass accents and solid construction. Get one from this excellent shop: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Nixie Tube Clocks 

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Nixie Tube Clock: long before there were 7 segment LED displays there was the Nixie- cold cathode tubes with a wire mesh and 10 cathodes shaped in the form of numerals 0-9 that illuminate through neon glow discharge. The “Numeric Indicator eXperimental 1” or NIX 1 was introduced in 1955 by Burroughs Corporation and manufactured until the 1990s. This clock uses modern electronics to power Russian versions called the ИH-19A where the numbers are stacked so the front symbols obscure each lighted cathode minimally: from back to front 1320984756. 

Gas Collection for Emission Spectra

I made the display holder and I got this set of gas tubes here (about $7 per tube): 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Gas Pure Element Samples

Here is the miniture tesla coil used in the video:
From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil

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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. 

Gas Collection for Emission Spectra: 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 only glows when very near the coil where the field is most intense whereas Neon and Helium have the lowest breakdown voltage and begin to glow many centimeters away from the coil. 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. The Krypton tube also exhibits interesting oscillations with this particular Tesla coil. 


The Random Walker

Galton Board version available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Galton Board 

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The Random Walker: second model of two Galton Boards designed and produced by IFA.com- this version is made to demonstrate probability in investment returns of a global stock market portfolio relating to risk capacity. Slow motion reveals the erratic path of each steel ball (second half of video). The red graph shows the distribution of 592 monthly returns (mean =1%, SD=5%) representing data from 50 years of an IFA Index fund- here the random “walk” of 3000 steel balls falling through 12 levels of branching paths always produce a close match, and both distributions tend toward the famous bell curve distribution. A wonderfully designed modern version of the Galton Box invented by Sir Francis Galton(1894) to demonstrate the Central Limit Theorem - showing how random processes gather around the mean.

In-Feed Google 5

Switch Pitch Ball

Get one here: 

From Edicational Innovations: BUY NOW: Switch Pitch Ball

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Switch Pitch Ball: this spherical assembly changes color by turning inside out when tossed into the air. A favorite of my mechanical toys with surprising physics. Interestingly the advertisements for this toy incorrectly claim air drag is involved in the transformation. To understand why the ball inverts first note that 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. 


Tesla Coil

For the price, this is the best one on the market I think and beautiful to look at in copper- the music function does not do much, but it is a great little Tesla coil and it comes with three accessories for the top. Please be sure to employ all appropriate safety precautions when utilizing any electrical circuity! 

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil

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Tesla Coil: miniature low current version of the famous air core double-tuned resonate transformer invented by Nikola Tesla in 1891. The thick copper of the primary coil is set into three windings around the many windings of the tall secondary coil. This one uses a modern transistor circuit to excite the radio frequency oscillations that produce a voltage in excess of 50kV in the form of pulses that cycle about 100k times a second. This version is fed by a 24V DC power supply and is fairly safe due to a low current (mA)- but the circuitry does get hot and demands a huge heat sink with fan (the metal base can burn skin when operating). The coils comes with attachments- the spike produces a purple corona discharge as the voltage exceeds the breakdown voltage of air with current flowing into the air or arcing over to a grounded piece of metal. The corona discharge imparts momenta, and here the ends of a bent wire are set into rotation from the slight push of the escaping electrons. Swipe to see the ejected electron stream propel the end of a thin wire into a final state circular orbit. The more interesting behavior occurs during the initial transient orbits which seem to be hypotrochoid type curves beautifully captured here using the Slow Shutter app. 

Mendocino Motor

Get one here: 
From engineDIY: BUY NOW Solar Levitating Motor (on all models here-remove brown protective film to reveal clear acrylic on rotor)

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Mendocino Motor: each face of solar cell is connected to a coil of copper wire under the opposing solar cell. When the rotor is lit from above the top solar cell provides electric current to the coil in the bottom position which becomes a temporary electromagnet that pushes against the permanent magnet in the base propelling the rotor to rotate. As the rotor turns, the coil that moves into the bottom position is likewise energized by the solar cell currently at the top- one can say the light commutates this motor. 2D magnetic levitation is provided by permanent magnets where an acrylic plate constrains the third dimension, and makes for a nice bearing surface for minimal friction. Invented in the 1960s by Daryl Chapin of Bell Labs and popularized by Larry Springs of Mendocino CA 

Star Wars Specular Hologram on Vinyl

Get the soundtrack by John Williams (which comes with two wonderful examples of Tristan Duke's holography artwork) here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW The Force Awakens Soundtrack + Holograms 

Click on this link for another amazing work by Mr. Duke

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Star Wars Specular Hologram on Vinyl: the two LP soundtrack from The Force Awakens featuring two amazing "scratch holograms" of a Tie fighter and the Millennium Falcon- the video barely captures the fullness of the 3D effect as the spaceships seem to hover above the surface of the record. These holograms were hand etched on the metal masters 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.


Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine

Available from these sellers: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Wilesco Model Steam Engines 

Click this link for the: small candle engine

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Wikipedia has a very nice description of the history and inner workings of steam engines 

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.

Glass Hydro-Top

Available in four colors and designs: 
BUY NOW: Glass Water Tops

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Glass Hydro-Top: under centripetal acceleration a liquid will flow to create a cylindrical surface parallel to the axis of rotation. This blown glass dreidel contains a small amount of colored water that when spun resembles a blue gemstone banded around the rim. A unique design with fun physics!

Well Balanced Cabernet

From Etsy: BUY NOW Balance Wine Racks 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Balance Wine Racks 

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Well Balanced Cabernet: the center of mass of the rack/wine-bottle system is directly over the base providing unstable equilibrium for this balancing act. A fine wine rack for one bottle except during a 5+ earthquake, or if you own a cat. The oak wood for this wine rack was repurposed from the stave of a used wine barrel. 


Strandbeest Mini

Get one here! Make sure to get the Jr. Scientist version of this kit for best results. 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Strandbeest Model Kit 

Read about Theo Jansen and his novel leg linkage mechanism for the Strandbeests via these Wiki pages.

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Strandbeest Mini: A fully working model of artist Theo Jansen's Strandbeest kinetic sculpture which features Jansen's linkage- a unique leg mechanism which converts rotary motion of a crackshaft into smooth walking motion. Jansen's creations are usually a couple meters high and walk the beaches of the Netherlands powered by the wind. This version comes as a model kit that snaps together with no glue- a really fun project!

Magswitch

The smallest Magswitch in this product line, yet it can lift 17 lbs! The Magjig 60: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Magswitch 60 
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Magswitch: switchable permanent magnet- a twist of a knob turns on a magnetic field strong enough to lift this 5.2 kilogram (11 pound) chunk of railroad rail. Magnetic fields, when combined, can be either additive or subtractive. This Magswitch model, the Magjig 60, works by aligning and counter-aligning two strong neodymium dipole magnets within a field channeling ferromagnetic casing.

Levitron Revolution

Get the levitating/rotating platform here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Levitron Revolution 

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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. 


Oil Drop Timer

Available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Drop Timer 

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Oil Drop Timer: immiscible liquids (typically, colored oils in kerosine) in two connected containers with interesting semi-translucent white and opaque black oils in this variation on the bubble timer theme. The oil in each container falls through a small drop forming hole in between clear walls of acrylic- note how surface tension forms the drops into nearly perfect circles and regulates the size of the drop formation. In addition the drops fall at terminal velocity with smaller drops falling faster than larger ones. One of my favorite inexpensive physics toys. 

Aqua Drop Puzzle

Three models/colors to choose from: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Aqua Drop Puzzles 

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Aqua Drop Puzzle: a superhydrophobic coating allows this dexterity puzzle to use a drop of water as the "pinball". The white surface is a silica nano-coating that makes water roll off- a condition sometimes referred to as the Lotus effect because leaves of the Lotus plant have this property. 

Chaotic Fidget

This is the exact one used in the video- works well! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Double Pendulum Chaotic Fidget 

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Chaotic Fidget: a double pendulum spinner- chaos in the palm of your hand! This miniature double pendulum is made from stainless steel, which provides high mass so one can feel the unbalanced center of gravity shift about, and bearings in the joints allow for smooth and sustained motion. Slow motion reveals the intricacies of the chaotic motion, characterized by extreme sensitivity to initial starting conditions, tiny differences in how the system is released leads to dramatically different outcomes each time.