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Pick your top geek gift

Dream Cheeky
One of the geek-gift
finalists is Dream
Cheeky's USB Webcam
missile launcher.

3G? GPS? USB? DVD? It seems as if any truly high-tech gift has to have a cool acronym to go with it. Consider the USB Webcam rocket launcher, for instance, or the GPS homing device.

But it takes more than an acronym to earn the title of 2008's top geek gift. In fact, that honor is decided solely by your unscientific vote. So check out the 15 16 finalists in our geek-gift contest and register your top pick.

The roster of finalists doesn't include every suggested gift. For example, I've excluded the mini-Large Hadron Collider and the Mitsubishi MMR25 concept car (items which, um, don't actually exist), the CNC milling machine (which is priced a bit above the typical gift budget) and the R2-D2 DVD projector (cool idea, but it's currently unavailable).

I'm also not listing books, in part just because there were so many other great suggestions. I'll do up those book suggestions later as an item for the Cosmic Log Used Book Club.

To see the full list, check out all the comments that were added to this year's call for suggestions. As I mentioned in that item, the person whose suggestion gets the most votes (as of 3 p.m. ET Monday) also gets to choose from a list of science-themed goodies. In my view, the grand prize would be the DVD set for "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions." But that's just me. Any leftovers will be offered to finalists farther down the list, and additional goodies may be thrown into the pot.

Feel free to cast a write-in vote, in the form of a comment at the end of this item. If four other commenters voice support for your write-in suggestion, I'll make an effort to add it to the list of finalists. In fact, that's how we arrived at 16 instead of 15 finalists.

I'll be the final judge when it comes to the mechanics of voting, and interpretation of the results. I'll have to have a way to get in touch with the winners, and if I'm not able to contact you, the goodies will have to go to some other geek.

And now, the finalists for top geek gift of 2008, listed in the order they were submitted:

1. Recycled computer disk clock: Brook Larney says she bought her husband a clock from the Designing Time online shop, which recycles floppy disks, CDs and other high-tech throwaways into beautiful timepieces.  

2: USB Webcam missile launcher: I know some folks around the office who would love a foam missile launcher you can aim and fire by remote control. Thanks to Dan in Herndon, Va., for the suggestion.

3. Scale-model space station: Paul Nichols of Indianapolis lusts after a scale model of the international space station, but the $495 price tag is a bit steep for my tastes. You can get an assemble-it-yourself kit for $160 to $230. Check out Clark Lindsey's Space Modeling page for much, much more - including NASA's patterns for true do-it-yourselfers.

4. XKCD sweatshirt: Andrew Meeusen of Mesa, Ariz., says he's always wanted clothing that pays tribute to the super-hip science strip (for example, the classically geeky "Stand Back, I'm Going to Try Science" tee).

5. Super magnet: United Nuclear is a powerful purveyor of geeky supplies, including radioactive polonium (but not sold in amounts considered dangerous). Brian B. of Cincinnati touts United Nuclear's collection of "insanely strong" magnets. Why would you want magnets so strong they carry warning labels? If you were a geek, you wouldn't have to ask.

6. Zydeco musical tie: This may be the last tie you'll ever have to buy. Kelly Gleason Mannford calls the stainless-steel, musical washboard-style necktie "the ultimate in geeky business wear."

7. Periodic table shower curtain: Do you need a new element for the bathroom? Add some chemistry with a shower curtain suggested by Kathryn in Binghamton, N.Y. (as seen on "The Big Bang Theory").

8. Klein bottle / Klein stein: Nick in Gaithersburg, Md., is partial to Klein bottles, real-life topological constructs with no inside or outside ... just one side all over. Nick's favorite is the Klein Stein, but I'd prefer a Klein bottle hat.

9. Mindstorm NXT robots: No geek-gift list is complete without robots, and LEGO's ever-popular collection was nominated by David R. from Huber Heights, Ohio. (Brian from Fairfax, Va., voted for the Rovio spy robot, but I opted to go with a different suggestion of his, just below.)

10: GPS homing device: Brian made 10 suggestions for geek gifts, and the keychain-sized GPS homing device is something I could actually imagine using. "Click once to mark the location (parking spot, place on beach, etc.), then click again, and it'll point you in the right direction (and give you the distance)," Brian wrote. 

11: Meade MySky guide: Phil C. of Moline, Ill., gushed over Meade's hand-held, point-and-learn sky guide. "It was a very cool gift and I use it often," he said.

12: Sound-activated T-shirt: At your next party, why not wear a T-shirt with patterns that dance in time with the music? If you're a typical geek, the T-shirt just might dance better than you can. Thanks to Mark Wakely for the suggestion.

13. Lichtenberg figure: I never heard of these things until Jon wrote in with his suggestion. Lichtenberg figures are blocks or balls of plastic that contain the frozen pattern of a lightning-style electrical discharge. Watch the video to see how they're made.

14. Glow-in-the-dark T-shirt: Pam Summers suggested a sweatshirt with a glow-in-the-dark picture of the Milky Way, helpfully marked with a "You Are Here" locator. "Simple, but gratifying to the cosmos geeks out there," Pam wrote.

15: Darth Vader bobblehead computer mascot: This is the triple play of geekitude. Just to reiterate: Darth Vader. Bobblehead. Computer mascot. Nothing more need be said. Thanks to Buddha Dude for the suggestion.

16: R2-D2 fish tank: Kristina M. cast a write-in vote for the R2-D2 fish tank, which not only looks geeky-cool, but also turns its head, flashes lights and makes noises when you walk by. Holographic projection of Princess Leia (or Princess Ariel) not included.

I'm giving an extra shout-out to Stone for suggesting subscriptions to Make magazine and Craft magazine, and to Jennifer in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for mentioning the "Mad Scientists of Etsy."

Now it's time for you to decide the winner.


Looking for still more suggestions? Check out our high-tech holiday gift guide, plus this roundup of solar-powered gifts and a list of the top 10 gifts for cubicle warriors.

This item was last updated at 6:15 p.m. ET Dec. 5.