Budget physics

Glass Hydro-Top

Available in four colors and designs: 
From the @physicsfun collection: BUY NOW: Glass Water Tops

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!

Magnetic Sand Hourglass

Get one from these fine sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Magnetic Sand Timer 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Magnetic Hourglass 

Magnetic Sand Hourglass: ferromagnetic sand collects above a neodymium magnet in the wood base. Each particulate of ferromagnetic iron becomes a temporary dipole magnet in the presence of the magnetic field in the base. The tiny dipoles link up north ends to south ends, creating interesting patterns that reveal the magnetic field lines. 


Top Secret

This physics toy top is available here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Mystery Spinning Top 

The amazing green magnetic viewing film is also available: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Magnetic Field Viewing Film 

Here is the 1974 patent showing the very simple circuit of this device. The spinning dipole (the top itself) induces a current in one of the coils, and this current is fed to the base of the transistor turning the electromagnet on when the top is near. 
 

"Top Secret": this top will stay spinning for more than a week- because it is actually a motor! The top is a dipole magnet (as revealed by Magneview film) and the base has an electromagnet that gives the dipole a push when the top comes near the center. An ingeniously simple circuit consisting of only a battery, a coil, and a transistor, is activated when the spinning magnet nears the coil turning on the electromagnet to give a boost to the spin of the magnetic top.

Backflipping Wind-Up

Get a Back Flip wind-up toy here:

from eBay: BUY NOW: Uglydoll Backflipping Toy

from Amazon: BUY NOW: Backflipping Wind Up Toys

Backflipping Wind Up: an energy transfer toy- a wound coil spring transfers and stores energy through a set of gears to a straight spring which is suddenly released to create kinetic energy which is then converted to gravitational potential energy- sending the toy air bound into a back flip. Here the Uglydoll character Is made of clear plastic allowing the internal mechanism to be visible. In addition the feet of the character must push off with just the right rotation rate to allow for one full rotation in the air, and the tail has a foam pad to absorb the impact and stop the rotation. A lot of fun physics to consider in this toy.

 


TrueBalance

Get the full version (8 disks made of wood) or the mini (6 disks, blue or red plastic): 
From Amazon: BUY NOW TrueBalance Coordination Puzzle 

TrueBalance: coordination challenge puzzle- get the six disks, connected by bearing swivels, into a vertical stack by only tilting the handle. Harder than it looks to get each disk’s center of mass above the one below at the same time into the unstable equilibrium final state. The swivels constrain the system, limiting the degrees of freedom, and allowing strange and interesting motion. Kinetic art as a toy! 

Tail Spin Geared Kinetic Toy

Get one here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW: Tail Spin Kinetic Toy

Tail Spin Geared Kinetic Toy: fourteen gears arranged on seven linked segments meshed in such a way that the configuration can roll up and stack compactly or extend into a line. With a flick of the wrist, one can impart enough angular momentum to the assembly to cycle it through its full range of motion- shown also in 240fps slow motion at the end of the video. Invented by Oskar van Deventer and produced by Think Fun toys. 

 

Thermochromic Safety Sticker

These stickers transition back and forth and can be used on many surfaces. Get some here:

physicsfunshop: BUY NOW: Thermochromic Saftey Sticker

Thermochromic Safety Sticker: the liquid crystal ester dye in this reusable sticker is calibrated to change color when the surface temperature exceeds 50°C (122°F)- that at which prolonged contact (more than 0.5s) will burn skin. Here the safety sticker is attached to a slab of aluminum and heated with a simple candle- it took about 3.5 minutes for the heat to distribute and bring the aluminum to the threshold temperature. When the surface cools the sticker again appears blank and can transition over and over again


Hyperbolic Holes

This inexpensive kit available here: From eBay: BUY NOW
Hyperbolic Holes Kit

Hyperbolic Holes: a straight rod, in this case a pencil, glides through a symmetrical pair of curved holes. The design is based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset rotating diagonal line. This device is sold as an inexpensive kit to assemble yourself, and includes a motor with geared drive and pre-cut pieces. The pencil is my addition- just the right size to clear the curved openings.

MaBoRun Mini

Many styles to choose from- get a MaBoRun here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW MaBoRun Mini Marble Run 

MaBoRun Mini IV: rolling marbles doing tricks as potential energy of gravity is converted to kinetic energy. In this mini-marble run a battery powered auger conveyor (Archimedes' Screw) brings the marbles back to the top and conservation of angular momentum produces a simulation of decaying orbits as the marbles whirl down the the main funnel shaped feature
 


Magnetic Top and Snake

Available in a variety of styles: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Magnetic Top and Snake 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Magnetic Top and Snake 

Magnetic Top and Snake: the magnetic tipped top stays on the perimeter of the steel snake (or is it a planarian?)- but since the top has much more mass, the snake moves the most slithering to and fro. This kinetic art toy has been around for decades and takes advantage of Newton's 3rd law and rotational kinetic energy. 

Acrylic Rattleback

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

Mirror Illusion Motion Bank

A few of these are available on eBay as of this posting. 

From eBay: BUY NOW: Mirror Illusion Bank

Mirror Illusion Spacecraft Bank: Symmetry + Reflection = Illusion. Deposit a coin (which seems to vanish) and a spacecraft of some sort states to revolve within a silver ring seemingly suspended in space. The symmetry of the ring and craft allows a half of these objects to appear as a whole, and a AA battery powers a motor which drives gears to slowly spin the portion of the mirror inside the ring (with the spacecraft attached). The best version of the mirror illusion box I’ve seen.

 


Sprial Oil Drop Timer

Get one here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Oil Drop Timers

Spiral Oil Drop Timer: when this drop timer achieves its steady state the drops form with amazing regularity in terms of both the size of the drop and the spacing between drops. The physics of immiscible liquids, surface tension, viscosity, and gravity combine to produce these interesting patterns. 

 

Precession of a Gyroscope

Get one here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Gyroscopes 
From eBay: BUY NOW Gyroscopes 

Precession of a Gyroscope: in defiance of gravity this gyroscope is supported only at one end. The physics and vector nature of angular momentum! Note that as friction slows the rotor of the gyroscope down, the precession rotation rate gets faster and faster. After some energy loss the gyroscope contacts the table and vibrations move the unit around while the angular momentum maintains its orientation. 

Reaction Rocket

The essence of a great physics toy: simple design showing comlex physics 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Reaction Rocket 

Reaction Rocket: projectile launch via momentum transfer in slow motion. The superball/straw base bounces off the table top and then immediately collides with the bottom of the rocket sending it off with a velocity slightly less than 3 times the velocity of the rising ball (true if the ball is more than three times the mass of the rocket). Newton's third law in action! Note that the rocket rises much higher than the drop height (up to 9 times higher).