All physicsfun toys

Backflipping Wind-Up

Get a Back Flip wind-up toy here:

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.


Vertical Mendocino Motor

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From Amazon: BUY NOW: Vertical Mendocino Motor

Vertical Mendocino Motor: each face of solar cell is connected to a coil of copper wire. Spins fast and quite in a sunny window. As the rotor turns each solar cell takes a turn in the brightest light, which provides electric current to one of the coils which becomes a temporary electromagnet that pushes against the permanent magnet configuration in the center- propelling the rotor to rotate. The rotor assembly is nicely symmetric and balances on a sharp point for minimal friction. Invented in the 1960s by Daryl Chapin of Bell Labs and popularized by Larry Springs of Mendocino CA 

Coin Escape Puzzle

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From eBay: BUY NOW: Coin Escape Puzzle 

Another puzzles 
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BUY NOW: Puzzles

Coin Escape Puzzle: physics brain teaser- remove the coin without breaking the container or using any tools other than your hands. Of course you spin it to get the quarter out- but exactly how? The solution to this puzzle (like others featured here) relies on some fun basic physics of spinning things. Answer below and swipe to reveal solution. 


Magnetic Sand Hourglass

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From Amazon: BUY NOW Magnetic Hourglass

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. 

Infinity Mirror Lamp

Also sold as a lightbulb: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Infinity Mirror Firework Bulb 

Infinity Mirror Lamp: illusion of depth from multiple refections. This glass bulb sphere is partially coated inside and out with a thin metal layer. The metal layer is made thinner in a pattern of small circles to produce iridescent colors through thin-film interference effects. When lit from within by white LEDs, multiple reflections on the curved contour create the firework like spray of light and color. So much physics going on in this inexpensive novelty lamp!

Plasma Globe

Plasma globes are now available in many sizes and levels of quality. Here is a source for reasonably priced quality globes:  
From Amazon: BUY NOW Plasma Globes (link 1)

From Amazon: BUY NOW Plasma Globes (link 2)

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


Kinetic Sandscape

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Kinetic Sandscape 

Kinetic Sandscape: the phenomenon of spontaneous stratification is a striking feature of this sand motion desk toy. Typically pouring stuff together results in further mixing, yet here, when the sand mixture descends through a gap in the air bubbles, the resulting pile is ordered into sorted layers. The larger rounded dark grains separate from the smaller sharp-edged white grains forming the layers you see here. The darker grains alone would stack into a steeper pile (larger angle of repose) than the white which would form a less steep pile. The stratification process is a slow one in this device, here about 30 minutes have been condensed to the 60 second IG format. 

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.


Photicular Dinosaur Book

Kainen and Kaufmann now offer seven books in this series- all amazing! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Photicular Book 

Photicular Dinosaur Book: the latest in the photicular series- this time with scientific reconstructions of ancient beasts! This amazing book of 8 astonishing moving and looping lenticular images is the creation of photographer/artist/inventor Dan Kainen where the moving images use Kainen's patented process where a specially processed image slides under a thin film of lenticular lenses. Kainen has teamed up this time with Kathy Willard who puts each image into context incorporating fun paleontology facts appropriate for kids yet informative to all.  

Photicular 3D Animation Book

Kainen and Kaufmann now offer seven books in this series- all amazing! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Photicular Animation Books 

Photicular 3D Animation Book: the foremost in lenticular image technology produces these looping motion images that look like videos on a computer screen. This amazing book of 8 astonishing moving images is the creation of photographer/artist/inventor Dan Kainen where the moving images use Kainen's patented process where a specially processed image slides under a thin film of lenticular lenses. Writer Carol Kaufmann puts each image into context incorporating fun science facts appropriate for kids yet informative to all. 

Revolution

This vintage toy can sometimes be found on eBay. 
Quality models of the New version of this physics toy are still available  
From Amazon: BUY NOW Magnetic Levitator 

Revolution: vintage 2D magnetic levitation- permanent magnets can only produce static equilibrium along two dimensions- here a glass mirror constrains the third dimension, and makes for a nice bearing surface for rotation. This item was sold in the 1990s in mall shops such as Natural Wonders. 


Mendocino Motor

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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 

Drinking Bird Heat Engine

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pack of 3 : Drinking Bird Engine
pack of 1 : Drinking Bird Engine 

Wikipedia has wonderful details about the rich history (and further descriptions of the operational principals) of the Drinking Bird
Drinking Bird Heat Engine: time lapse of 15 minutes into 15 seconds (4 cycles). Cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the dichloromethane fluid rises 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 time lapse allows a clearer picture of how the fluid rises, shifting the center of mass, and how tipping makes the glass column lift out of the fluid in the bottom allowing the pressure to equalize and letting gravity pull the fluid to return to the base. Process repeats as long as the top stays wet. So much physics in one hypnotic toy!

Thermochromic Beam Down Mug

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From Amazon: BUY NOW Beam Down Star Trek Mug (Customized)

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.