Physics Toys

In this class I plan to show many demonstrations that are not very expensive. One of the most intriguing is called the floating penny illusion; we'll see it soon. Would like to buy one, or give one to a friend? How about a Slinky? Or a ball that doesn't bounce? Or some lenses? Or curved mirrors? The best way to learn physics is by playing with toys. If you don't want to play yourself, you may want to give a gift to someone else. Or ask for one of these as a Christmas or birthday present (or for whatever holiday you consider most appropriate). Do you know any children who should received "real magic" as a present?

Incidentally, I post this same page when I teach physics H7, the honors course for physics majors. Physics majors need these toys as much, if not more, than you do.

There is one company in New Jersey that specializes in selling science toys: Edmund Scientific. Those of you who read Popular Science magazine, or Science News, or Scientific American, already know their ads. They are also online. I have loved this company since I was ten years old.I strongly recommend that you order their free catalog (see link on their web page).. It has many items that are not online, and is fun to browse.

Disclaimer: I swear that I own no stock in this company, and I make no profit by directing you towards them.

My most highly recommended science toys are (prices may be out of date):

Polaroid film. Buy the 7" x 7.5" piece for $6.95 and cut it up, or for $12.95 buy 20 pieces with diameter 2.5" each. These are not available from the online store (I don't know why) but they can be purchased using the Edmund Scientific toll-free telephone line 1-800-728-6999. For the 7" piece ask for stock number V37-349; for the 20 pieces of 2.5" polaroid, ask for stock number V38-396.

Two rubber balls ($4.95), one which bounces high, the other which bounces almost not at all.

Bag of magnets for $4.95 is a best buy. Magnets are the ultimate real magic. You can also buy a set of ring magnets ($3.95). Also interesting are the cow magnets ($6.95), or the set of 16 niodymium magnets ($4.95).I don't particularly recommend the magnet kit for $15.95, but the set of 50 magnets for $19.95 looks worthwhile.

Slinky ($7.95) Smaller ones (and cheaper) are available at local toy stores. I prefer the metal ones, but the plastic ones last longer. Slinkys are the best way to study waves, outside of surfing.

Gyroscope ($8.95). There are cheaper ones, but they don't work as well.

Optics kit ($15.50). Or buy lenses, mirrors, prisms separately:

Bag of lenses for $4.95 is a best buy. Or 3 strong lenses ($1.95).

Concave mirror ($3.95), similar to the one I passed around. Touch the image of your finger.

Prism collection ($4.95) is a good buy. Put in sunlight to produce the colors of the rainbow.

Floating penny illusion (a bit expensive at $29.95). Also available at the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Laser for $24.95.

Polarizing sheet that you can cut ($6.95), or a set of 20 smaller polarizers ($12.95).

Holograms. A large selection is available from Holoshop. Typical price $15 and up.