Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Wallingford clock at St Albans Cathedral (England)

Wallingford clock at St Albans Cathedral in England
At St. Albans Cathedral they have made a replica of the 14th Century clock and astronomical indicator designed and built by Richard of Wallingford. It takes 18 years to complete full cycle! When it was created, Richard's clock was probably the most complex clock in the British isles -- and among the most sophisticated anywhere.

Here is a web site dedicated to the Wallingford clock at St. Albans Cathedral.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Scientific automaton of a young T. Rex in motion

This is a longer than usual video post, but if you have the time, it is fascinating. This 45 minute episode of National Geographic Explorer documents the construction of a sophisticated scientific automaton depicting a juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex in motion.

Here is where you can learn more about the project: T. Rex Walks Again at the National Geographic web site.

[ Thanks Dean!]

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hand-cranked Wimshurst electrostatic generator

Hand-cranked Wimshurst electrostatic generator
For those you that need to see high-voltage sparks early and often, I direct your attention to this affordable hand-cranked Wimshurst generator.

From the product description:
This is Lethan Corporations classic best-selling economy Wimshurst machine that produces large static electric sparks for a terrific demonstration. No assembly required, simply attach the hand crank, begin cranking, and watch in wonder as the sparks fly. Instruction guide and helpful hints are included with each unit.

Here's a link to Amazon's page for this Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Dynamo Torch Science Activity Kit

Dynamo Torch Science Activity Kit
Here is a simple generator kit that allows you to power a small LED (AKA "Torch"). Assembly will require one small screwdriver that is not supplied with the kit.

From the product description:
Turn a simple toy motor to become a generator which converts hand motion to electric energy and powers a light bulb. No battery, no pollution, just amazement. The generator could be used as an awesome energy torch. Caution : High Voltage of inspiration and fun! Contents: 1 LED Lamp with holder and wires connected 1 toy motor 2 gears 1 set dynamo torch casing accessories (assembly required) 1 transparent torch cover screws detailed instructions with fun facts.

Here is the link to the Dynamo Torch Science Activity Kit

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Magnet Levitation Activity Kit

The Magnet Levitation Activity Kit
Here is a neat combination kit featuring interesting experiments with magnets.

From the item description:
The Magnet Levitation Activity Kit is chock full of great things which will help you explore magnetism. You'll learn about magnet properties and strength. You'll build a magnetic pendulum and observe oscillations. You'll enjoy seemingly to defy gravity as you achieve magnetic equilibrium and balance magnets in weird ways. And all the while, you'll be learning about the properties and wonders of magnets. Oh, all the while, the Magnet Levitation Activity Kit will be ramping up your knowledge and experience with magnets so you can build the final project: a model maglev train.

Here is the link for the The Magnet Levitation Activity Kit.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Video of mechanical south-facing chariot

I posted last year about some South Pointing Chariots -- an amazing mechanical invention from ancient China. No matter which way the cart turns or how often, the figure on top always points South (the cardinal direction of preference in that culture at that time). A magnetic compass isn't used to accomplish this task; the solution is entirely mechanical. Here is some video of a functional model made by the clever hands of Osamu Kanda.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Zecar - Toy Car with Mechanical Flywheel

Zecar  - Toy Car with Mechanical Flywheel
The environmentally-friendly Zecar toy car needs no batteries. The reason is that this little stainless steel car has an internal flywheel to store energy. Once in motion, the Zecar flywheel car has a fair amount of torque and can roll or climb over small obstacles.

Part of the profit from Zecar goes towards the reforestation project in Brazil. That's pretty cool.

Here's where you can get order your own Zecar Flywheel Toy Car.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Galileo Gravitator with four different floating planets

Galileo Gravitator with four different floating planets
This is an attractive magnetic planet levitation device. Well...model planets, anyway. You get the idea.

From the product description
This unique, eye-catching model depicts celestial gravitation and comes complete with four spheres, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the Moon. Just place the planet of your choice directly below the gravitational source and watch it float and spin in mid-air. The Gravitator glows beautifully in the dark, creating a radiant nighttime conversation piece or a handsome nightlight, while the Antique Gold frame will embellish any desk, table or bookcase.

Here's a link to the Galileo Gravitator with four floating planets

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Physics equivalent to the class chemistry set

Thames & Kosmos Physics Workshop
Here is the long overdue equivalent to the classic chemistry set: the Physics Workshop set for learning the fundamental laws of mechanical physics in a hands-on way.

Using the 64-page full-color instruction book to build 36 models of machines and then conduct 37 experiments with the models you've built.

You can start by experimenting with simple machines: gears, levers, screws, inclined planes, pulleys, wheels and axles to understand fundamental physics. Then you can build small models of a crane, sail car, pinball game, windmill, wind-powered generator, pendulum clock, hammer machine, centrifuge, scale and many others.

Aimed at ages ages 8 and up, the Physics Workshop requires the addition of one "C" type battery.

Here is the link to the Thames & Kosmos Physics Workshop.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

K'NEX Intro to Simple Machines: Gears set

K'NEX Intro to Simple Machines: Gears set
Mechanical toy maker K'NEX has an educational line of toys. One such line is their 'Intro to Simple Machines' which are designed to demonstrate science and technology concepts.

Shown here is a 198-piece set focuses on investigating and experimenting with gears.

From the product description:
These K'Nex kits inspire young minds and satisfy kids' curiosity on how to construct simple machines. Each innovative kit keeps young builders busy and intrigued for hours at a time.

This Gears Kit builds seven different models and allows kids to work solo or as a team. The models demonstrate spur, crown, chain and sprocket gear assemblies. Includes a compartmentalized storage case with snap-on lid. Curriculum sold separately.

Here is the link for the K'NEX Intro to Simple Machines: Gears set.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Little Lab Physics - learning mechanical physics

Little Lab Physics - learning mechanical physics
Here's a nice 50-piece building set that teaches the principles of simple mechanical physics by building gears, levers and pulleys.

The Little Lab Physics kit contains an pictorial instructional booklet (in both English and Spanish). The kit is intended for ages 5 and up. Way up!

Here's the product page for the Little Lab Physics available from ThinkGeek.com.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thames & Kosmos wind power experiment kit

Thames & Kosmos Wind Power Kit
Here is a cool mechanical model you assemble to make a wind turbine with a small electric generator.

It comes with a 32-page manual that walks you through how to conduct more than 20 experiments -- including ones using different numbers of rotor blades, different blade angles and profiles, different wind speeds, different gear ratios, lifting a weight, lighting up an LED, and charging a rechargeable battery.

Here's the product page for the Thames & Kosmos Wind Power wind power experiment kit

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Monday, March 09, 2009

John Harrison, his clocks & longitude problem

Here is a 10 minute video segment about one of my heroes -- John Harrison. Harrison was the creator of the marine chronometer which gave sailors the first reliable way to determine their longitude while at sea. People didn't trust watches and clocks as we do now and many scientists of the day sought an astronomical solution to the problem. While possible, this was extremely impractical approach to use on board a tossing ship at sea in all kinds of weather.

Harrison made a total of four marine chronometers (H1, H2, H3 and H4), each more sophisticated that the one before. Prejudice and politics kept him from receiving a large prize for solving this problem. It wasn't until he was an old man and had gotten the attention of the British king that he was officially recognized for his contributions to science, horology, and navigation.

The full story can be found in Dava Sobel's book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Theo Jansen: The art of creating creatures

While we are on the subject of my new heroes (see yesterday's post about Clayton Boyer), I just saw video from one of the TED Talks featuring Theo Jansen. I misunderstood the scale, scope, and beauty of his vision. While I may still not know all of it, this video has given me a much greater appreciation for his attempt to create large-scale mechanical life-forms that roam wind-swept beaches. Truly an impressive vision and monumental feat.

[ Thanks S.C.! ]

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Isaac Newton's great idea told in whirligig form

There can be no doubt: artist Ben Thal has taken whirligigs to a new level -- many having up to 30 moving parts and multiple actions. The whirligig shown here depicts Sir Isaac Newton's epiphany regarding gravity in animated wind-powered 3-dimensional form. Wow.

To learn more about the remarkable man behind this and other fantastic creations check out this great profile on him: Spin Doctor -- Former Surgeon Ben Thal Builds Humor Into His Witty, Whimsical Whirligigs.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Remote controlled car powered by water and sun

Fuel cell powered remote controlled toy car
I've raved in the past about a fuel-cell powered toy car kit. Here's something to get even more excited about: a remote controlled toy car that may never need batteries. Ever.

From the toy description:
The included fueling station is powered by a solar panel and uses electrolysis to safely deconstruct ordinary tap water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Simply connect the fueling station's plastic tube to the car and hydrogen gas transfers to the car's patented fuel cell, where platinum plates compress the hydrogen and convert it into electrical energy to power the motors. The car maneuvers like a traditional remote-controlled vehicle...

While the explanation above of how a fuel cell works is somewhat different than my understanding, there is no question -- this is the start of something good. Water and energy from the sun are what ultimately power this toy. No sun? Well...it comes with an AC adapter that will allow you to refill the hydrogen fueling station, but that's cheating if you ask me.

Here are more details on the first remote controlled hydrogen powered toy car.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Milestones in Science - DIY Great Experiments

Milestones in Science
When I was a lad, science seemed, lamentably, mostly a series of facts and formulas that didn't really convey anything about the times, the world, or the minds from which it came. This is one reason I ended up studying the history of science rather than science itself. Here is a well-conceived kit that attempts to walk the new scientist through the great experiments of history. I may well treat myself to this kit to learn first-hand that which I have learned second-hand.

From the product description:
Milestones in Science combines history and science in a fun, hands-on way. Children learn about famous scientists and inventors while reproducing 100 of their most significant experiments. Beautifully illustrated 96-page book walks junior scientists through a world of microelectronics, atoms, light, magnetism, and much more. Covers more than 140 scientists and civilizations. Made in Germany and includes 95 pieces. Requires one "9V" battery. (Age 10+)

Here is where you can order Milestones in Science.

For the more mature and readerly with and less experimental bent, I cannot recommend highly enough A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

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