|The "Star Wars Force Trainer" turns brainwave training into a sci-fi game.
What do you get a science geek? A perfume chemistry set? A brainwave-operated toy? Here's your chance to vote in the top geek gift of 2009 and help somebody win a prize.
This year's suggestions fit a wide range of holiday gift budgets, from a cute plush common-cold virus ($7.95) to a hand-crafted retro robot ($24,500).
The robot, a replica of B9 from the old "Lost in Space" TV show, was recommended by Michael Joyce - who founded the Next Giant Leap team to go after the multimillion-dollar Google Lunar X Prize. Joyce says that profits from the B9 sales will help support his team. That's one small step toward a moon landing, and too much of a leap for my bank account.
Other correspondents were anxious to find out exactly where you can buy the nuclear-powered toys known as spinthariscopes. Just click here to check 'em out (at $30 apiece) on the United Nuclear Web site, which has lots more fun science stuff.
Longtime Cosmic Log correspondent Dennis McClain-Furmanski suggests giving your geek-in-training a model-rocket starter kit, which costs somewhere around $40 to 50.
"Getting them just the rocket gives them something to make," he writes. "To really give them something special, give them something to be." Membership in the National Association of Rocketry will keep young rocketeers on track as they grow older.
"If this is for a young person, buy them the stuff and memberships, and buy the same for yourself so you can give them (and yourself) the very best kind of gift - give of yourself and your time by joining them in the hobby," McClain-Furmanski says. "It'll mean a lot more to them and they'll get more out of it, and you can get the same."
Words to live by, Dennis.
Here are the other top entrants in this year's competition for top geek gift of 2009, with the earliest suggestions listed first:
Nerdy baby alphabet onesies: $35 for a set of three from Etsy. "Seattle science teacher mom offers baby onesies to prepare your baby for geekdom ... ABCs, A is for amoeba, B is for base pair..." - Sally James
Star Wars Force Trainer: $129.99 from Star Wars Shop. "Uses EEG sensor technology to 'read your mind' and control a ball with thought alone. The deeper your concentration and mental focus, the greater your ability to move the Training Sphere up or down the Training Tower." - Buddha Dude (Check out this video for evidence that the darn thing actually works).
Perfume Science Experiment Kit: $59.95 from Edmund Scientific. "I was in fourth, or maybe fifth, grade when I got this for Christmas, and that was it. I was hooked for life. I became one of the few girls in my school who excelled in all of the science classes. I already loved astronomy, of course, I remember sitting and watching Neil Armstrong, on television, as he walked on the moon. My little telescope wasn't quite enough to see that, much to my regret. But with this perfume chemistry set I expanded my love of science in all its glory. I can't imagine a better gift for a young girl. She'll learn it can be fun to 'get your geek on.'" - Vickie Gibson, Bonita Springs, Fla.
Beer Ants: $29.95 from BeerAnts.com. "A gel ant farm in a beer mug. A lot of geek and some nerd, too. It must be true - I own one." - Antonio D'phault
Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal: $89.95 from Edmund Scientific. "I actually found this one last year after I had submitted the XKCD T-shirt idea for the 'Geeky Gifts' ideas, and I ended up purchasing one for my desk. My geeky gift idea this year is the Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal, which is a crystalline theoretical representation of the space taken up by the six dimensions following length, width, height and time in classic string theory. If you're a geek, you should recognize it for what it is: a model of the smallest theorized parts of the universe. If you're not a geek, it's equal opportunity as a beautiful light cube. It still amazes me that you can turn it from x-axis to y-axis to z-axis and still not recognize how each shape transforms into the others." - Andrew Meeusen, Mesa, Ariz.
Giant Microbe: $7.95 from X-tremegeek.com. "Awesome giant plush microbes. The giant cold [virus] is especially adorable, in a weird sort of way." - H.
01 LED binary watch: Various styles, generally ranging from $129 to $200. "I got one of these from my husband last year and all my geeky engineering friends are very jealous!" - Pat Kasper, Florence, S.C.
Family DNA testing: $295 from AncestrybyDNA.com. "How much geekier can you get than DNA? This company sells a unique ancestry DNA test that shows you where your earliest ancestors are from (for example, European, Native American, Asian, African). ... I'm thinking about buying one for my sister because she does all the family tree research for our family." - Duke Plesent. (I'll just add that genealogical DNA analysis services are available from a wide variety of providers.)
Just register your vote (or your write-in suggestion) as a comment below. Make sure you clearly indicate which one you're voting for. The suggestion with the most votes as of 3 p.m. ET Dec. 10 will win a prize: either a signed copy of my book, "The Case for Pluto," or an alternate book from the Cosmic Log shelf (for example, "Planetology" or "Hubble: Imaging Space and Time").
Your write-in suggestion could still come away with the prize if you line up enough supporting votes by the deadline. May the best geek win!
Join the Cosmic Log team by signing up as my Facebook friend or following b0yle on Twitter. And pick up a copy of my new book, "The Case for Pluto" - the perfect geeky stocking-stuffer. If you're partial to the planetary underdogs, you'll be pleased to know that I've set up a Facebook fan page for "The Case for Pluto."