Fractiles are magnetic tiling toys that can be put together into all sorts of geometric designs.
What do you give a science geek? How about a digital spoon, or a fractal construction set? Pick out your favorite gewgaw with a scientific angle -- and help someone win a holiday grab bag of geeky goodies.
Last week we put out the call for gift suggestions suited for the science geeks on your list -- you know, those hard-to-buy-for types who already have the "Battlestar Galactica" boxed set or the latest, greatest calculator. The favorites from past years include the nuclear-powered spinthariscope toy, an xkcd T-shirt and a six-dimensional crystal sculpture.
This year, we're serving up 14 suggestions gleaned from the comments to this year's initial posting about the Science Geek Gift contest, and from Facebook comments as well. The most important step takes place right now: We're asking you to vote for your favorite gift, using the ironically unscientific online survey gadget at right.
Here are the finalists for the 2010 Science Geek Gift award:
Unicorn Meat, from Pirate C: "I want a few boxes of that unicorn meat from that GeekSomething website. (It's not a real sale but it would be so cool if it was.)"
Fractals, from Jamesian: "I think Benoit Mandelbrot did not get enough attention for dying this year. Fractals are about as geeky, and marvelous, as anything. I don't know whether there is a Benoit-fractal-building kit or a Benoit T-shirt. But I think he embodies geekdom." Suggestions might include a Fractile magnetic tiling toy for kids, or fractal-making software such as the Fractal Science Kit or Fractal Explorer, or a Mandelbrot-themed gift from Zazzle.
Chemistry book, from Paula NiBride: "As the mother of two grown geeks, I would give both my sons a blast from a baby boomer's past: first editions of 'The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments,' originally copyrighted in 1960. It sold for $1.95, and it was later banned in many places because it taught children to create things such as mustard gas. A printed version of the book is difficult to find. (I kept checking it out of the school library, but my mother didn't allow chemical or biological experiments in her house.)"
Element shower curtain, from Daphnenews: "I am in love with this shower curtain featuring the Periodic Table of the Elements as well as the beryllium/erbium "Be|Er" T-shirt from Think Geek. Way cool!"
Lightsaber chopsticks, from The Barber of Civility: "How can any sushi-eating geek survive without a pair of lightsaber chopsticks?"
SpikerBox, from Tip184: "Neuroscience for everyone! Check out the SpikerBox, from Backyard Brains. For $99.98 assembled, or $49.99 in kit form, you get a device that allows you to listen in on the firing of neurons in invertebrates. It's built by neuroscientists to help everyone appreciate the function of the nervous system. The SpikerBox provides audio, but it can feed a computer or some popular mobile phones for a visual display of neural activity. I'll have mine next week -- Backyard Brains will sponsor a 'Make and Take' -- meet with the designers, build the box, and learn how to use it, all for less than the cost of the fully-assembled model."
'Time Flies Like a Cow,' from Sarcastoid: "A book about almost everything that brings a new outlook on favorites like quantum physics and time. It's also quite funny."
Periodic table toy blocks, from Cher630: "ABC blocks are so 1950s -- you gotta start your little genius early [with these building blocks]."
Mole Day T-shirt, from Mermaidmichelle: "What geek feels completely dressed without a Mole Day T-shirt? Celebrating Avogadro's number (6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power), Mole Day T-shirts are available online [via Moleday.org]. No, I don't have any affiliation with the website; I just think they're really cool."
3-D printer, from Aritchie: "Assuming they don't already have it, a subscription to Make Magazine is a great geeky gift. Give Wired to the wannabe geeks. A much more expensive option is the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3d printer. Short of a backyard nuclear power plant, it's the ultimate geek toy."
Electronics kit, from William Wood: "My 6-year-old daughter loves the Elenco electronics kit and can do most of the projects on her own. I'd recommend getting the Student Guides to help explain the principles involved in each project." You'll find lots more suggestions from Wood and others on the Minnesota Planetarium Society's Facebook page.
Digital spoon scale, from Pat Bahn: This gift could be a hit with kitchen geeks as well as science geeks. Pat also suggests a magic-wand remote control, a cat's-eye camera, a brainwave-powered toy, a USB microscope or an astronomy poster.
Check out the links, run these products through your personal neuron networks, then click the vote for your favorite choice on the form above. If an alternative suggestion from a finalist strikes your fancy, feel free to vote for the finalist's listed suggestion in the ballot. The top vote-getter as of noon ET on Friday will receive a nice little stack of goodies, including these items:
- "Moon 3-D" and "Mars 3-D" by Jim Bell, complete with built-in 3-D glasses.
- Two extra sets of 3-D spectacles in case you want to look at the books with a friend.
- "Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time," published this year to mark the Hubble Space Telescope's 20th birthday.
- An autographed copy of "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversy surrounding that little icy world.
- Two fuzzy tribbles, just to add a little "Star Trek" geekery to the mix.
- Plus any other swag we can dig up between now and Friday. Due to the logistics involved, the goodies can be sent only to a U.S. address.
May the best geek win!