Budget physics

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!

Top Secret

This physics toy top is available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Mystery Spinning Top 

Here is the 1974 patent showing the very simple circuit of this device. The spinning dipole (the top itself) induces a current in one of the coils, and this current is fed to the base of the transistor turning the electromagnet on when the top is near. 
 

"Top Secret": this top will stay spinning for more than a week- because it is actually a motor! The top is a dipole magnet (as revealed by Magneview film) and the base has an electromagnet that gives the dipole a push when the top comes near the center. An ingeniously simple circuit consisting of only a battery, a coil, and a transistor, is activated when the spinning magnet nears the coil turning on the electromagnet to give a boost to the spin of the magnetic top.


Acrylic Rattleback

These acrylic versions work great and are inexpensive: 

From Amazon: 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

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Hyperbolic Holes

This inexpensive kit available here: From Amazon : BUY NOW
Hyperbolic Holes Kit

Hyperbolic Holes: a straight rod, in this case a pencil, glides through a symmetrical pair of curved holes. The design is based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset rotating diagonal line. This device is sold as an inexpensive kit to assemble yourself, and includes a motor with geared drive and pre-cut pieces. The pencil is my addition- just the right size to clear the curved openings.


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.


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Magnetic Sand Hourglass

Get one from these fine sources: 
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. 

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 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. 

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!


Rattlesnake Eggs

Get a set here! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Buzzing Magnet Set 

Rattlesnake Eggs: polished barium- strontium ferrite ceramic magnets influence each other when many centimeters apart. Turn sound on--Wait for it! Sold as "buzzers" these magnets come together with multiple bounces creating a characteristic zipper sound. Most shops and online vendors incorrectly label these as hematite- a completely different substance that does not magnetize well. 

Precession of a Gyroscope

Get one here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Gyroscopes  

Precession of a Gyroscope: in defiance of gravity this gyroscope is supported only at one end. The physics and vector nature of angular momentum! Note that as friction slows the rotor of the gyroscope down, the precession rotation rate gets faster and faster. After some energy loss the gyroscope contacts the table and vibrations move the unit around while the angular momentum maintains its orientation. 

Switch Pitch Ball

Get one here: 
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.