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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW: WindGyro
WindGyro: Spin this top up with a puff of air! Small magnets keep the top secured to the base so that a stream of air will induce rotation as the air flows through the engineered turbine blades of the elegant spiral structure.
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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Polydensity Bottle Kit
Folow the link above for details of the physics explanation.
Poly Density Puzzle: my favorite science brain teaser- white beads and blue beads "float" oddly separated beneath the surface of a clear liquid. If the contents are mixed by shaking the container, the white beads gather at the top and the blue sink to bottom! Adding to the mystery; after about 30 seconds the two layers of beads will have slowly moved back to the middle. What is your guess as to the physics behind this behavior?
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From Edicational Innovations: BUY NOW: Switch Pitch Ball
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.
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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Simplest Motor Kit
Electric Motor: in its simplest form!- coil, magnet, and battery. The wire of the coil has an insulating coating- and this coating is carefully scrapped off one side on each end. When current passes through the coil it becomes an electromagnet and the permanent magnet repels it making it spin- as it turns the currents goes on and off depending if the copper posts are in contact with the bare wire (current on) or the still insulated wire (current off). I have motors with fewer parts- but they operate on more complex principles.
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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Wilesco Model Steam Engines
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.
The heat pipe kit includes the pipe and a copper rod:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Heat Pipe Demo Kit
Here is the liquid crystal sheet used in the video (range 20-25C):
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW liquid crystal thermometer sheet
Heat Pipe: a device that transfers heat with great efficiency- as demonstrated by this fantastic kit from @educational_innovations . Here a liquid crystal goes from green (room temp) to black (near freezing) showing the heat transfer to a piece of ice through a heat pipe (top) and a similar sized piece of solid copper rod (bottom). As you can see the heat pipe cools much faster than the copper rod even though copper is an excellent conductor of heat. The heat pipe is a thin shell of copper that surrounds a tube of sponge like material filled with some water vapor and sealed with a low pressure inside. The heat is transferred from one end to the other by the phase transition of water- at the warm end water in the sponge evaporates into vapor absorbing heat energy, the vapor travels down the hollow core to the cold end where it condenses into liquid releasing heat energy. The water is wicked by the sponge to the warm end and the process repeats. Heat pipes like this one pull heat away from the CPUs in modern computers preventing them from melting. The amazing heat transfer ability is clearly felt in the fingertips if one places the copper rod and heat pipe into a glass of ice water-the heat pipe immediately gets cold!
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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Melting Snowman Kit
Viscoelastic "Melting Snowman": non-newtonian flow is demonstrated by these blobs of viscoelastic silicon polymer (aka Silly Putty) in the shape of snowman- if force is applied over a short period of time the substance shows elastic properties (bounces like a superball), but if the force is applied slowly the substance flows like a viscous liquid (flattens under gravity over a few hours as shown here). Thus this snowman does not melt because it is already liquid, one that flows slowly though. Mostly sold as a toy, Silly Putty was discovered after mixing boric acid with silicone oil during World War II in an attempt to find a rubber substitute.
Here is an affordable version of this device:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Flow Ring
The original version is available here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW Toroflux
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From Art of Play: BUY NOW
Why does it look like a bubble when moving fast? Wikipedia has the details: when the object exceeds a certain speed the flicker fusion frequency of our vision produces the bubble illusion.
The physics of the toroflux is wonderfully illustrated and explained in this article by Daniel Walsh.
Toroflux: kinetic art toy made from a single continuous loop of stainless steel band. The band of spring metal is woven such that it forms a torus that can clamp on to and roll down a stick, segment of tubing, or even an arm. Amazing combination of math and kinetic art invented by Jochen Valett.
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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW PhiTOP
From Amazon: BUY NOW PhiTOP
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.
Liquid crystal sheets, thermochromic fun!:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW liquid crystal thermometer sheet
Thermochromic Chiral Liquid Crystals: the thin layer changes color as the molecules of the liquid crystal change orientation and spacing during the phase transition from liquid (warm) to crystal (cool).
Many colors (and two sizes) to choose from:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW
From Amazon: BUY NOW
The physics of the liquid rope-coil effect is pretty complex. Here is a recent scientific paper on the topic with nice illustrations.
Journal of Fluid Mechanics: Multiple coexisting states of liquid rope coiling
Ooze Tube: viscous polyisobutene fluid timer toy. Some interesting physics phenomena are found in this kinetic art novelty item: the "liquid rope-coil effect" where the fluid thread coils and stacks as it lands on the pooling surface, and a curious periodicity in the rate of flow that is related to the formation of non-spherical bubbles as the air and fluid trade places (shown in time-lapse). The physics of the coiling effect is complex (see the link in my blog). Broadly speaking the coiling is due to the bottom of the fluid rope widening at the contact point with the surface, and as it widens the fluid slows down but not evenly. This uneven rate of flow produces a bend and the elasticity of the stream constrains the rope to a limited radius- hence a stack of coils.
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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Magnetic Sand Timer
Magnetic Sandglass: 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 as they attempt to align with the magnetic field lines. These stacks topple over due to gravity creating interesting patterns.
Available in "pro" metal version and colored rings version:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Jitter Gyro Ring
From eBay: BUY NOW Color Jitter Gyro Ring
Jitter Gyro Ring: a 1990s skill toy craze out of New Zealand that features small rings that "roll" down a thicker steel ring and making a characteristic chattering sound as they go. Swiping the small rings gets them spinning and gives them angular momentum. Centripetal acceleration then keeps the inside of the small rings in contact with the steel ring so that they roll around as they descend (seen here in 240fps slow motion). The challenge is to rotate the large ring fast enough to keep the small rings in motion.
This particular sculpture is no longer available, however, Educational Innovations has this nice and affordable starter kit:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Diamagnetic Levitation Kit
Dramatic diamagnetic levitation kits are available here: the racetrack magnets are a bit pricey though!
From eBay: BUY NOW Diamagnetic Levitation Kit
Diamagnetic Trap Sculpture: a thin disk of pyrolytic graphite hovers and spins in stable equilibrium over a bullseye configuration of magnetic poles. Diamagnetic substances become temporary magnets while immersed in an external magnetic field, and the created diamagnetic field always opposes the external field (in contrast to ferromagnetic substances like iron which attract). Graphite of this type is one of the strongest diamagnets known, and will levitate over a powerful array of neodymium magnets. ✨With sincere appreciation to Tim Rowett for this kind gift.
Get some magnetic viewing film here:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Magnetic Viewing Film
From Amazon: BUY NOW Magnetic Viewing Film
Magnetic Poles of Refrigerator Magnets: visualizing the invisible with Magnaview film- the secrets of refrigerator magnets revealed. A special orientation of the magnetic poles called a Halbach array allows for a strong magnetic field on one side and a very weak one on the other- refrigerator magnets only stick on one side by design!
Plasma globes are now available in many sizes and levels of quality. Here is a source for reasonably priced quality globes:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Plasma Globe
From Amazon: BUY NOW Plasma Globes
Plasma Globe: low pressure noble gasses exhibit glow discharge from high voltage, creating plasma filaments that rise upward due to heating- shown here in slow motion. A small high frequency coil at center creates the high voltage potential between the center electrode and the metal coated glass globe. Current flow through the thin gas produces the colorful emission spectra from the gasses
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).