Best Sellers

Switch Pitch Ball

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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

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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 


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. 


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. 

Acrylic Rattleback

These acrylic versions work great and are inexpensive: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Rattlebacks 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Rattlebacks 

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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


Precision Tippe Top

Get a flip over tippe-top here:   

From Amazon: BUY NOW Tippe-Tops 

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Precision Tippe-Top: spinning things often have surprising physics! This aluminum version of the famous flip-over top works better than any I’ve seen. Friction with the desk 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.

Vortex Dome

Get one from David Fowler's online shop: 
From PhysicsHack: BUY NOW: Vortex Dome Kalliroscope 
Made with extraordinary craftsmanship and high quality materials, and sold at a very reasonable price! 

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Vortex Dome Kalliroscope: kinetic art with rheoscopic fluid in a rotating base. Visualizing the invisible- the Vortex Dome is the creation of engineer/inventor and @physicsfun featured artist David Fowler aka @physicshack who creates this modern rotating kalliroscope that generates complex and beautiful structures similar to those seen in the cloud bands of the gas giants of our solar system like Jupiter. The capsule is constructed of high quality glass on a heavy stainless steel base which glides upon an included bearing set for long spin times. 

Tea Candle Steam Engine

Get one from these fine sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Tea Candle Steam Engine 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Tea Candle Steam Engine 

Other interesting engines available here: Simple Heat Engines

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Tea Candle Steam Engine: a functional piston steam engine complete with boiler and flywheel. Takes about 2 minutes to get going after the candle is lit. The invention that powered the industrial revolution on a desktop! Made by Wilesco. 


Thermochromic Beam Down Mug

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From Amazon: BUY NOW Beam Down Star Trek Mug 

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Thermochromic Beam Down Mug: Pour up some hot coffee and watch the crew of the USS Enterprise leave the ship and rematerialize on the planet surface with this color-changing physics mug. The color change employs leuco dyes, thermochromic chemicals that have two reversible forms, one colorless when wqrmed above a theshold temperature.

Raketti Puzzle

Versions of this puzzle avaioable fron these sources: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Raketti Physics Puzzle 

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Raketti Puzzle: a favorite physics brain teaser in my collection- the challenge is to remove the cone topped cylinder from the hole without touching the bottom container (no fair using sticky tape). It can be done in a matter of seconds! The solution to this puzzle (like others featured here) relies on some fun physics principles.