Holiday Pyramid: a simple heat engine- rotational motion resulting from the convection of hot air due to the candle flames of two tea lights. These holiday decorations come from a German Christmas tradition, Weihnachtspyramide, that dates back more than 200 years! Energy transfer: chemical bonds to heat to kinetic energy of the rising air to rotational kinetic energy of the turbine and reindeer.
Get a fog globe here:
From eBay: BUY NOW: Fog Globe
Fog Globe: an ideal souvenir for a San Francisco winter- snow is very rare (1976 recoded one inch downtown) but prolonged fog marks the winter season. The “fog” in this globe consists of small glitter particles of uniform density that can be agitated into temporary suspension and then allowed to settle on the bottom giving the impression of dissipating fog. The particles settle out over the span of a couple minutes and at regular rate since they are fairly uniform and the drag force experienced by the particles depends on the size and weight of each.
This item is a vintage art piece from the 1970s and unfortunately I do not know the artist. Similar devices currently on the market include the Ooze tube:
Bubble in Viscous Fluid: vintage kinetic art piece from the 1970s- the rising bubble contorts around three ring shaped obstructions with peculiar motion. I love how this construction emphasizes the flow pattern of the air bubble. Another example of the surprising physics to be found in fluid motion.
This artisitic version of the Drinking Bird available here:
From drinkingbird.eu: BUY NOW: Rocking Stork
Get a standard Drinking Bird from these sources:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW
Drinking Bird Engine
From Amazon: BUY NOW
Drinking Bird Engine
Wikipedia has wonderful details about the rich history (and further descriptions of the operational principals) of the Drinking Bird.
Rocking Stork: this species of drinking bird toy comes from the Czech Republic where each is crafted in blown glass by an artisan. This classic physics toy is a functional heat engine- cooling by evaporation at the head/beak leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the pressure in the bottom bulb pushes the dichloromethane fluid (here dyed red) 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 bulb stays wet and cooler than the bottom this heat engine will continue to cycle.
Available on Etsy: BUY NOW Motion Ferrofluid Sculpture
Colored Ferrofluid Display Cells: spectacular metallic blue, gold, and black display cells by czferro - colloidal ferromagnetic liquids in a specially prepared water-alcohol suspension. Curious behavior results from the interplay between magnetic force and surface tension. The gold and blue coloring appears to be from a thin coating at the boundary between the ferrofluid and the suspension liquid. Still exploring the details of the coloring and the specific makeup of the clear suspension fluid - both trade secrets it seems.
Affordable gravity powered pendulum clocks available here in a number of styles:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Pendulum Clock
The version featured in the video is the: Hermle Ravensburg Clock
Gravity Powered Pendulum Clock: invented in 1656 by Christian Huygens, the physics properties of a swinging pendulum was the basis of all precision clocks until the 1940s. As noted by Galileo, the period of swing of a pendulum can be made very precise and stable depending only on its length. This modern version is made faithfully in the original design powered only by gravity as the potential energy of the descending weight is transferred to the kinetic energy of the drive train gears and pendulum. The key feature of any pendulum clock is the anchor escapement mechanism- a curved piece attached to the pendulum with two prongs that only allows the escapement wheel to move forward one tooth per swing cycle, and producing the characteristic “tick-tock” sound. The weight descends about 1 cm per hour, and when hanging from a wall the chain needs to be pulled once a week, raising the weight up about 2 m to keep the clock in operation. This beautiful clock, made by Hermle, features a chime that sounds upon the hour.
Get the spectrum analysis app here: SpectrumView - Oxford Wave Research Ltd.
High Tech Rain Stick: white noise- the sound of two thousand metal spheres falling and bouncing through a plastic labyrinth creates a power spectrum of sound waves with all frequencies at equal intensity, creating the shhh sound we often encounter from many random processes. Part of the cascade slowed to 240 FPS midway through video.
Order your Anti-Oliod today: available in three types of metal:
From The Matter Collection: ORDER NOW: Anti-Oloids in Brass, Copper, and Steel
Oloids: “solid hull” and “ruled surface” types made from brass and copper- oloids are unique solids that roll in such a way that every point on their surface comes in contact with the plane. The basis of the oliod’s geometry is that of two connected circles, one perpendicular to the other such that the rim of each circle goes through the center of the other. The shapes you see here are the results of connecting the rims of these circles together with a family of straight lines, one method leads to the solid convex hull form, and another way leads to the ruled oloid (anti-oloid).
Octopus Stand (in stock now!) available here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW
OctoStand in Metal
1790 Terrestrial Globe by Mova: rotating counterweighted globe sealed within a clear liquid filled acrylic sphere. The rotation in a Mova globe is powered by light that shines through the semi-transparent map image on to solar cells within the globe which drive a motor. But what does the motor push against to maintain the rotation? Believe it or not it uses magnets to push against the Earth's magnetic field like a compass needle. Wonderful physics of all kinds in the design of this clever device. The featured map is a faithful recreation of a globe famous for its accuracy at the time by Giovanni María Cassini and highlights the voyages of James Cook.
This hard to find sculpture curretnly available here:
From Amazon: Hyperbolic Kinetic Sculpture
Kinetic Traced Hyperboloid: a straight rod glides through a symmetric pair of curved holes in this kinetic sculpture based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset revolved straight line. This version is made of anodized aluminum and rotates via gearing and a motor powered by two AA batteries in the base.
Get this 3D printed top here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Orbit Spinning Top
Orbit Spinning Top: asymmetric in shape but perfectly balanced about the rotation axis, this beautiful stainless steel 3D printed top will spin for a couple minutes. As the top slows down interesting aliasing arises as the angular velocity changes with respect to the frame rate of the camera.
Get a Sp!n Top here- four colors to choose from:
From Art of Play: BUY NOW: Sp!n Top
Sp!n Top: once set into motion the eye only perceives the punctuation mark ! in the center of a ring, with the vertical line seemingly suspended in space above the dot. The rate of spin is above the flicker fusion threshold of human vision, and the crossbars become blurred out and invisible- the effect is even more pronounced in person (hard to capture on video). Physics and psychophysics combine to produce this wonderful illusion!
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Lollipopter Kinetics
From eBay: BUY NOW: Lollipopter Kinetics
Mini-Lollipopter: new smaller cousin of one of my favorite interactive kinetic sculpture designs. A snap of the wrist imparts angular momentum to the "petals" which then rotate until an internal mechanism stops their motion with predetermined spacing- clockwise rotation transforms a helix to an abstract pine cone, counterclockwise returns the helix. Created by @john.edmark.
Professor Brecher has a limited supply of these "golden" (brass) versions of this top available on Etsy
From Etsy: BUY NOW PhiTOP in Brass
The ΦTop - Golden Version: spinning things have surprising physics! This unique top is made of solid brass 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 tippe-top. The concave mirror keeps the top from wandering off and the glass surface has minimal friction allowing the top to spin for a long time- this video shows various stages of 8 minutes of total spin time.
Hoberman Orbiter: vintage kinetic sculpture based on the isokinetic structure of the Hoberman Sphere. Here the sphere is opened by centripetal acceleration provided by a motor in the base. The motor is programmed to repeatedly spin for 10 seconds and turn off for 5 seconds. The structure expands with the help of the colored masses that provide additional angular momentum and then contracts as friction slows the spin rate
Dual Axis Sand Pendulum: the kinetic energy trades back and forth between swinging toward the support arm and then swinging perpendicular to that path tracing Lissajous figures in the sand. The sand slowly dissipates the energy and the traced figures get smaller so the next one fits inside the last. Coupled oscillations like this can occur when multiple modes of motion (degrees of freedom) are available to the system.
Vintage Wham-O Magic Windows are almost always available on eBay :
From eBay: BUY NOW
Vintage Magic Window
Modern versions include water for a diffrent kinetic experience:
From Amazon: BUY NOW
Wham-O Magic Window: popular 1970s toy with immiscible sand like substances interacting under gravity to create images that evoke seascapes and mountains. Unlike most shifting sand devices available today, the Magic Window did not contain any liquid- all the interesting behavior results from the physics of granular materials, specifically interactions due to different sizes and shapes (jagged like salt or round like glass beads) of the grains comprising the different colored “sands”. Shown here is a vintage retail store display stand with the rare “Crystal Fantasy” version of this kinetic art toy.