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Archive for October, 2015

New Boogie Boards & Play n Trace

Boogie Boards are a fun item where you draw on a flat surface, then press a button that erased the screen. We sold lots of them and while they were aweseom there were a few minor shortcomings: They were a bit thick, not as bright as they could be, and to stand them up you had to lean them on something, it was also very hard to replace the battery if you needed to, but since they would last around 20,000-50,000 erasings this didn’t really come up much.

Now Kent Displays has come up with an improved model – along with a new version for younger kids. First the new model : Meet the Boogie Board Jot 8.5″:



Moss Garden Terrariums, Kokedama (String gardens) and other thoughful plant products.

We have recently added lots of Twig’s collection of Moss Terrariums and Kokedoma to our offerings at Spectrum Scientifics.

Moss Gardens are excellent gifts for people who struggle with indoor plants, or simplyprefer to have low maintenance plants with whimisical displays.  They require almost no maintenance: simply keep them out of direct sunlight and mist them once every 2-4 weeks and you’re all set.

Twig’s terrariums run the gambit of whimsical displasy in lovely containers. They are made on demand so orders may take 5 days to ship, but the folks at Twig have perfected thne art of shipping live plants and guarantee that the plant will arrive healthy and intact.

In addition to Moss Terrariums. Twig also produces Kokedoma (String Gardens) and lovely gift planters which we will cover below.

First let’s look at the Terrariums.

6032First up is the Grazed and Confused which fills and old-style apocethary jar. A pair of model sheep complete the landscape-in-a-jar illusion.

6035The Uncharted Territory displays in a lidded glass bowl, a pair of lost model hikers who have gone off the trail complete the landscape diaroma effect.

6034The Gentle Reminder is a great gift for your loved one as a model loved one (male or female, you pick) holds a sign reminded the other that they are loved. The jar is lovely and has a wooden ball stopper.

Other Moss Terrariums include The Water’s Fine and the Flora and Fauna DIY Terrarium (which includes plants besides the Moss)


Kokedama is a ball of Moss, wrapped in string and displaying an ornametnal or functional plant. Using the string the Kokedama can be hung anywhere in the home to create a lively and attractive bit of living art. Kokedama displays need soaking in water every few days.

6041Twig makes several Kokedama, the most attractive of which is their Orchid Kokedama. This includes the ball, the string, care instructions, and of course and orchid plant. The orchid is an attractive plant even when not in bloom. I

f you are looking for something a tad more functional or aromatic there is the Rosemary & Thyme Kokedama. This plant grows the popular herbs that you can trim off regularly and use for cooking or craft projects.

Also available is a Mint Kokedama for those who like their Ice Tea with a little bit of Mint. 6047

Funky Flora

A great way to say thank you with a lovely plant is to use one of the clever and whimisical Funky Flora plants and planters from Twig. The first and most hilarious is the Thankyousaurus. 6039

This Funky Flora planter is a 12″ x 15″ Dinosaur planter that comes with plants installed.

Also available is the Elephant in the Room Funky Flora, and impressive 12″ x 12″ pachyderm planter.6037

Also available is the Sheldon Turltle Funky Flora.

All Twig products are made on demand and require 5 days to prepare and ship (sometimes less).  Shipping is assured that you will get a live and intact plant. However as the Terrariums are living things their lifespan cannot be guaranteed.

We now have an entire category on our website devoted to Terrariums and otherlive plants for you to peruse. You may find Terrariums not listed in this blog post.



A brief listing of terms used when reviewing telescopes

Open up a copy of Astronomy magazine, or Sky & Telescope, or just check out the innumberable online astronomy websites and you’ll see loads of 021reviews of telescopes on the market with lots of terms being tossed around that many a new telescope shopper may not be familiar with. This blog post will strive to list as many (but by no means all) of the terms used by telescope reviewers that might be confusing to novice telescope buyers.

Undermounted – This criticsm means the the optical tube (the part you look through) doesn’t have enough support from the tripod or telescope mount. The mount is, for one reason or another, simply not strong enough. The result of an undermounted telescope we be wobbly tripod legs, a telescope tube that shakes very easily in wind or by touching it, not moving smoothly as well as a host of other issues. Many cheap no-name telescopes are undermounted and it can be a crucial issue.

Overmounted: A lot rarer than undermounting, here the telescope’s tripod or mount is way over-engineered for the optical tube. This isn’t really going to cause problems except that the extra mount & tripod are going to add weight that isn’t needed.

1/4 wave, 1/10th wave, 1/8th wave: These terms are used to describe the optical accuracy of a telescopes optics. Put simply, the # fraction of wave (actually should be wavelength) is the amount of optical ‘error’ introduced due to irregularities at the telescope’s mirror (or lens) surface. Idaelly the optics of the system should have no more than 1/4 wave error cumulative by the time it reachs your eye. This includes the other mirrors in a telescope such as the secondary mirror in a refarctor or a glass plate on a Cassegrain telescope (errors are cumulative, so a telescope with 1/8 wave accuracy in its primary and secondary mirror will have a 1/4 wave error total . These terms are not used as much any more as a few years ago it ewas discovered that many of the claimed accuracies weren’t as described.  Instead the term used today is:

Mirror cell designs will vary

Mirror cell designs will vary

Diffracftion Limited: This term is used instead, and it simply means that when all things are set properly (mirror clean, optics aligned, etc) that the instrument will be able to resolve as well as it theoretically should. How well it can resolve depends on the size of the optics but the formula for that assumes a properly made mirror, etc. Diffrraction Limited was a lot easier for telescope companies to promise than 1/8th wave mirrors and the like.

Grab-N-Go: More a description of a type of telescope than a criticism. A grab-n-go scope is usually a small tube telescope that fits in a small carry case (usually a soft case, but by no means always) and operates off a very small mount or an easy-to-carry camera tripod.  The idea is convenience: preperation and setup is minimal and mutliple trips to the car are not needed.  It is the polar opposite of:

Big Iron/Light Bucket/other terms that sound large: These terms are used to describe larger telescopes swuch as big Cassegrain telescopes or larger Dobsonian telescopes. They are big, they are heavy. They often take up a lot of space in the garage, the biggest ones need their own trailers, and setup time may take a while.

Packing Grease: Sometimes referred to as Chinese packing grease as most telescopes are made in that country and the infamous grease seems to be unique to their productions. Some reviews complain about the stuff, which is primarily used on the focuser of the telescope. The grease is thick, and yet manages to be both slippery and sticky at the same time. many new telescope owners end up with some on their hands the first few times they use their telescope. The stuff can be annoying, but it works and keeps parts from seizing up or rusting.

This list is by no means complete, but can be helpful to those new to the astronomy hobby and are confused by the terminiology used by telescope reviewers.




The Millikan Oil Drop Apparatus

The Milikan Oil Drop experiment an experiment where you measure the elementary electric charge of an electron. This is done by examining tiny charged droplets between two electrodes. The plates are charged to the point where the droplets were at mechanical equiplibrium. From this the charge of the electron (based on the size of the droplets and the material of the droplet.).

United Scientific’s Milikan Oil Drop Apparatus allows modern physics students to perform the Oil Drop Experiment in their own lab.


This Milliklan Oil Drop Apparatus is hooked up to a computer via USB cable where the results can be studied. A version with a monitor is also available.  The apparatus consists of an oil drop chamber with a mercury lamp, a digital voltmeter, a CCD camera, an atomizer, and a digital timer.  Software is also included.

The Oil Drop Chamber is made of an accurately dimensioned polymer cyclinder with two precisely machined paralell end plate electrodes. The cylinder has an illumination opening, an observation opening, and a quartz glass window to exclude drafts. The entire oil drop chamber is housed in a cylindrical dreaft shield. Oil drops fall from a an oil mist chamber above the draft shield into the oil drop chamber through a hole of 0.4mm diameter in the uppoer electrode plate. They are illuminated by an LED.

A built in timer allows users to conveniently measuer the time it takes an oil drop to complete a motion through a measured distance. The distance can be measured on the monitor or via the computer link. Voltage is adjusted via the balancing voltage control and the balancing votlage switch. It can be varied from 0-500V with the control knob.

Two methods for measuring the elementary electric charge of an electron are descreibed in the manual: The Balance method and the Ris and Fall Method.

Want to buy the Millikan Oil Drop Experiment Apparatus?