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Archive for June, 2012

The Paper Vertical Sundial – 1 Year Later

So about a year ago, we printed out a paper sundial specifically made for our address. Then after several adventures with the lamination machine we placed it on the wall of our store:

Well that was a little over a year ago. Since then we’ve had huge thunderstorms, a hurricane, winds, a freak Halloween snowstorm and of course Philadelphia heat & humidity. So how did our little laminated sundial hold up? See for yourself:

I’d say it held up pretty darn well. The tape holding it onto the wall is a little dirty, but it is still hanging, still telling the time – at least when it isn’t in shadow. Not bad at all.

Get your own sundial here.


Animal Kits and Animal Concerns

A question was recently asked of us by a customer who was examining our Ecoquarium Frogs – they asked if it was cruel to keep them in such small aquariums and how they would do in a larger tank. To give this some perspective, here is the EcoQuarium tank (sold only in store – sorry).:

The tank looks small, and in fact it is small. But that really isn’t an issue because the frogs (Dwarf African Aquatic Frogs) are not very territorial, in fact if you put them in a larger aquarium they would confine themselves to about the same amount of space as the Ecoquarium.

But this kind of concern does bring up an issue that worries many: are animal kits cruel to animals?

The short answer is no, the long answer is no, but only if you buy from reputable dealers and really the concern should not be so much for the animals as the animal’s environment.

For example, we carry a popular animal known as Triops – Instant Animals or animals in an envelope.

These are nifty critters that have been around for millions of years. Their eggs are very durable and able to survive for long periods of time. When they get wet they can hatch , live long enough to breed the next generation of Triop eggs, and die after about 90 days.  These are animals that are able to survive in areas of drought, where periodic rains fill puddles and allow the eggs to hatch before the puddle dries up.

Now the concern here is not so much with the Triops – their nervous system is very basic. The concern is with how the Triop eggs are harvested. We get our kits from a company called ToyOps, which is one of the first to offer Triops. But not a month goes by without us getting some offer from a company in China, India or Africa that promises us Triop egg kits of one kind or another. These give us great pause. Why? Because ToyOps goes to great length to breed their Triops in the lab, while other companies have a tendency to send kids out into the countryside to dig up the eggs. This tends to cause damage to the area. A kid playing with a toy shovel in a pond is one thing, it is another for every square centimeter of that pond to be churned up in the search for ‘free-range’ Triop Eggs.

Off-brands can have other issues as well. Several knock-off companies tried to imitate EcoQuariums, but their health systems were much poorer and their frogs had a much higher level of Salmonella (all frogs have some) causing more than a few illness in people’s homes.

Some folks complain that perhaps no animals should be used in kits. We disagree as the educational value of children observing real live insects, Triops, butterflies, fish, frogs, etc far outweigh some discomfort they might experience in transportation. As long as you are dealing with a company that has respect for the animal it is selling you can be assured of the best education-to-concern ratio. This is not the category to try a bargain brand.

So who are the reputable brands? In our experience they are:

ToyOps – Triops and Instant Fish Kits

InsectLore – Ladybugs, Butterflies, and other insect kits

Wild Kingdom – Frogs

Uncle Milton – Ant Farms

Fascinations – Yes to their Ant Displays, inconsistent with other insect kits.

This list is by no means complete. Its just the ones we have had experience with. It does not include any companies that make insect displays, animal skeletons or non-living animals.

Oh, and let’s be sure to avoid situation like this no matter who the dealer is:


Build a Solar Powered Rainbow Maker!

We’ve carried the Solar Powered Rainbow Maker pretty much since we opened.


Its an excellent gift, and great for anyone who just wants some color in their room. The solar panel powers the motor that spins a crystal – causing rainbows to be made all throughout the room.

This is a great idea, but when it comes to being a science store we always thought – why couldn’t there be a version where you build this? Its a simple enough design, with colorful gears and a durable solar panel. So why not a kit version? Well, another company felt that way as well it seems and has made the Solar Rainbow Making Kit:

This kit costs less than the pre-built model, and gives both kids and adults a chance to build an awesome toy! The parts are laid out in a simple design:

The overall look-and-feel is very different since this is a different company and they have copyright concerns. But if anything they have improved on the original design: The system is held on by two suction cups, and there are three crystals that are spun by the solar cell, not just one!

The kit can be assembled by children ages 6+, and being solar powered it requires no batteries! The kit is just $19.99, which is almost $8 less than the assembled model.



Solar Powered Butterfly

We’ve got a new nifty Solar Powered Toy in stock, its the Solar Powered Butterfly!

This is a butterfly that flaps its wings in sunlight. You put it together and color the wings as you like, then place it in a sunny window as shown. The solar panel then powers the wings to flap!

As mentions, this is a toy that you assemble yourself. The kit arrives disassembled and uncolored as you see here:

Solar panel, motor, clamps, wings, and suction cups are all included, as well as paint to color up the wings. You can follow the pattern on the box or do it your own way! Full color instructions are included!

This is a great project that teaches kids some basic circuitry, solar power, as well as letting them show their artistic side!  For ages 8+.


Mission Small Business

Mission Small Business is a program sponsored by Chase and LivingSocial to help small businesses across the US by awarding up to 12 individual $250,000 Grants. Spectrum Scientifics is applying for one of these grants and we need you to help us out!

How can you help? We need 250 votes to move on to the next stage. You help by going to www.missionsmallbusiness.com and registering. You can register using your Facebook account if you prefer. Then simply search for ‘Spectrum Scientifics’ and vote for us! If we get 250 votes we’re on our way to the next step, which involves a panel of experts who will decide who gets the grants!


New, Affordable Organic Chemistry Labware Sets.

Organic Chemistry lab sets have been around for a while. They are excellent sets for making limited quantities of various organic compounds.  Sets like our Macroscale Glass Chemistry Set are excellent for classroom and basic production. But these aren’t cheap. Although these sets are a bargain compared to some of the big labware producer’s sets, they are still a bit high for many folks trying to get equipment for the classroom.

Now a couple of sets are available that are much more affordable, the 9 piece Organic Chemistry Set and the Deluxe 16 piece Organic Chemistry Set, both from our regular glassware supplier United.

These kits, along with some basic lab equipment like stands and burners will allow students and experimenters to make small quantities of compounds. The essentials are covered with the 9 piece kit being suitable for preparations of up to 30g and the deluxe being suitable for preparations of up to 150g.

Both kits come in a sturdy, form-fitting case.


Rainy Day Video Time!

It was a fairly slow rainy day here at the store. So its time to take one of our Giant Rainbow Spring (think of a huge plastic slinky) and put it on our curved staircase.

It did pretty well considering that the stair is curved and the treads tend to shrink as it gets closer to the inside of the staircase. Failure only came on the last stair.

Only took 3 takes as well.


Some New Science Books!

We’ve added a few new books to our lineup. Well, most of them are books, in truth on of them is a deck of cards!

The Boy Scouts of America have released a Deck of Snakes! Chock full of great information like their Deck of Trees and Deck of Stars, this deck also has a game that involves the snakes and their deadliness level. Many snakes are covered, from the harmless garden snake to the anaconda!

Next up in the new book list is a great kids book for biological science: Evolution Revolution!

This award-winning book covers one of the greatest aspects of science and answers such questions kids might have such as “Why do Zebras have stripes?”  and how, thanks to their DNA, they are one in a quintillion!

There also the mouthfull-titled The Most Explosive Science Book in the Universe – By the Brainwaves

Light-hearted and fun, this book is an exploration of science with those helpful Brainwaves! Topics include Energy, Matter, Reactions, the Periodic table, and much more!

These are just a few of the books we got in recently. We’ll have more up shortly!


No Blog Post Today due to Venus Transit

So we are either a) setting up and cursing our solar projection system, b) cursing at the clouds, c) wondering how we can live to the year 2117, d) wondering why we didn’t make such a fuss for the 2004 Venus transit.



U-Fizz! Carbonate almost anything!

There’s a new bit of chemistry in a pack and its name is U-Fizz! We’ve been waiting for this one to come along for a while now.

U-Fizz is the toy that can carbonate just about anything! you can carbonate flat soda, orange juice, tea, jello (we’re not so sure about the jello. All you need are a couple of 2 Liter soda bottles, some vinegar and baking soda, and of course the U-Fizz!

The reaction of vinegar & baking soda produces Carbon Dioxide, which when happening in one bottle will force carbonation into the other liquid (this is because the carbon dioxide takes up a lot of space.

Soon you have a bubbly beverage to enjoy! Its fun, educational, and tasty!

Want to buy U-fizz?