Recent Posts

Uplift 2.0

This wonderful creation now avaulable for order: 

From KickStarter: Order NOW: Uplift 2.0

Uplift 2.0: light powered kinetic sculpture with mesmerizing apparent translational motion due to rotation of a spiral element under glass and mounted on precision bearings. The rotation is propelled silently by a simple and elegant bidirectional motor- a disk shaped copper coil which interacts with an array of six neodymium magnets and powered by a single solar cell. The included hand held magnet allows one to select the direction of flow. A stunning creation for any windowsill by artist and inventor Tom Lawton. 

The Lollipopter

Four styles to choose from: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Lollipopter Kinetic Art 

The Lollipopter (The Helicone): one of my favorite interactive kinetic sculpture designs. With a bit of practice one can master the transformation in both directions: A snap of the wrist imparts angular momentum to the "petals" which then rotate until an internal mechanism stops their motion with predetermined spacing- a helix transforms to an abstract pine cone. A second snap of the wrist in the opposite direction returns the helix. A creation by artist John Edmark. 

 


Bimetal Seesaw Engine

Available in limited supplies here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Candle See-Saw 
From eBay: BUY NOW Candle See-Saw

Bimetal Seesaw Engine: candle powered heat engine- with bears! A coiled bimetal strip, like that found in a thermostat, uncoils when heated by the flame while moving a counterweight that shifts the center of mass to the left and takes the coil out of the flame. The coil then cools returning the counterweight to the right which places the coil back over the flame- and the process repeats until the candle burns out. Any device that converts heat energy into mechanical motion is called a heat engine- like the very simple one here.

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)

From Amazon: BUY NOW Solar Levitating Motor 

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 


Oscilating Cylinder Steam Engine

Get this tiny working engine here: (brass and stainless steel) 

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Tiny Steam Engine

Two other similar mini-engines to consider: BUY NOW: Mini-Steam 1, Mini-Steam 2 

Oscillating Cylinder Steam Engine: a functional “wobbler” type piston steam engine complete with boiler and flywheel. In this design the cylinder and piston both rock back and forth, acting as the valve mechanism to allow the hot steam to enter through a small hole, and then exit on the next stroke out through the tiny exhaust port in the top. Takes about 4 minutes to get going after the lamp is lit. A tiny version of the invention that powered the industrial revolution.

Micro Racer in a Glass

These micro racer cars are sold under many brand names, and most come with a clear sphere to demonstrate this centipetal accelration phyenomenon. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Micro Racer + Sphere

Micro Racer in a Glass: This tiny battery powered car overcomes gravity through centripetal acceleration and slight friction with the glass surface. With sufficient velocity the surface normal force supplies the centripetal acceleration. The car’s battery last for many minutes and is USB rechargeable.

Double Radiometer

Get this beautiful two layer radiometer here:

From Mr. Sci: BUY NOW: Double Radiomenter

Single fly radiometers available from these sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Radiometer  (with disk shaped vanes)

A wide variety available here, including some nice blown glass displays: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Radiometers 

Hundreds of options on eBay: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Radiometers 

Double Radiometer: a beautiful new version of this classic physics toy with two rotators enclosed in the same partial vacuum chamber. Light heats up the vanes which then heat up the very thin gas left in the bulb- the black side of the vane is hotter and any gas molecules that comes into contact with the black fly off at a faster speed imparting impulse to the rotor. The bottom rotor has black on the right side of each vane and rotates clockwise, the top rotor has black on the left sides and thus has the opposite rotation.


In-Feed Google 2

Euler's Disk

Get one here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Euler's Disk and Accessories 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Euler's Disk 

Wikipedia has an excellent introduction to the physics of Euler's Disk 

Eulers Disk: (best with sound on) this toy exhibits the motion of a “sprolling” coin, a motion that combines spinning and rolling. Designed with a large mass and very smooth edge, this device takes close to 3 minutes to come to rest- and amazingly, the contact point between the disk and the mirror can reach a speed of more that 200 mph! This video catches the first and last parts of this 2 minute and 42 second run, with two cuts to 240fps slow motion to show the curious motion. Watch the end with the sound on! 


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! 

Sp!n Top

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!

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!


Hexa Sphericon

Sphericon and Hexa-sphericon: beautiful works of art in metal- available here!
From the Matter Collection: BUY NOW The Sphericon (Hex and Regular) 

Hexa-Sphericon: Sphericons are unique solids that roll in such a way that every point on their surface comes in contact with the plane- following the path shown here with white paper. Solids from the sphericon family all have one side and two edges. Each sphericon is based on a regular polygon, with the basic sphericon derived from a square, and here- a more interesting case with more complex rolling motion- from a hexagon. 

Orbit Spinning Top

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. 

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