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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

Get this famous physics toy from these sources: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 

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.

Vintage Kinetic Art

Fun balance toy sculptures are available on Amazon: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Balance Sculpture Toys 

Vintage Kinetic Art: Eames era kinetic sculpture seemingly defies gravity as it glides in a graceful circle. The gold plastic sphere plus wire structure is designed such that its center of mass is few centimeters below the point of contact with its base. When the sculpture is tipped or spun, the center of mass swings under the pivot point in this stable equilibrium condition- no magnets needed to create this physics magic. 

Infinity Mirror Tea-light Candle

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From Amazon: BUY NOW Infinity Tea-Light 
Infinity Mirror Tea-light Candle: parallel partially mirrored panes of glass create the illusion of multiple candle flames through the physics of reflection and refraction. Featuring candles from my collection this month as the winter solstice approaches.


Hyperboloid Spinner

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Hyperboliod Spinner: The HypnoGizmo 

Hyperboloid Spinner: the HypnoGizmo toy consists of a set of slanted straight nylon lines arranged to form the outline of a hyperboliod- the quadratic surface related to the revolution of hyperbola around its axis of symmetry. As the device rotates the beads slide along in succession on one of the straight paths leading to the complex visual display. So much fun math in this toy!

Jupiter Globe by Mova

Available for all the planets and several versions of Earth: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Mova Globes: all types 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Mova Globes: Jupiter 

Jupiter Globe by Mova: rotating globe sealed within a clear liquid filled acrylic sphere. The rotation is powered by light that shines through the semi-transparent Jupiter globe on to solar cells inside 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. Physics of all kinds in this clever device.

Stirling Engine

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From Amazon: BUY NOW Low Temp Stirling Engine 

Stirling Engine: low temperature difference engine turns a fraction of the heat of hot tap water into mechanical motion. For this engine the heat source is the hot tap water, and the heat sink is the room temperature air. Really nice model and super inexpensive for a display engine of this type.


Switch Pitch Ball

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From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Switch Pitch

SWITCH PITCH BALL Spotted with BILL GATES

Switch Pitch Ball: this spherical assembly changes color by turning inside out when tossed into the air. Advertisements for this toy incorrectly claim air drag is involved in the transformation. 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.

Spin Bank

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Coin Spin Bank 

Spin Bank: a clever spring mechanism launches each coin into rotation along a symmetry axis on to a concave trapping surface. Angular momentum of the spinning quarter keeps it upright even as it bounces upon impact with the platform. Another spin on making saving spare change fun!

Giant Newton's Cradle

Regular sized Newton's cradles availabe here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Newton's Cradle

Newton's Cradle: industrial model made with galvanized aircraft cable, aircraft aluminum for the frame, and 1.5 inch one-half pound nickel plated chrome steel spheres. (0.23 kg and 3.8cm in diameter each) The classic demonstration that shows the curious behavior due to conservation of both momentum and kinetic energy. Swipe to see comparison to standard version.