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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Crystal Storm Glass – The Attractive Weather Forecaster that doesn’t.

Even in the modern age weather prediction is a chancey game. Despite the power of satellites, weather radar, and host of other modern instruments the weatherman still doesn’t always get it right.

But in early ages it was even worse. Naturally they lacked such modern electronic tools that we have so they desperately sought out any device or gadget that would help them predict storms or other weather. This wasn’t a matter of the danger being getting a little wet, this was life and death in many cases. As much as weather can still kill these days, it was much worse when a sail-powered ship might head into a fierce storm that could cause damage or loss of life.

Devices such as early barometers and static detection might help, but what people wanted was something that could predict the weather.

For a while, some thought they had found one. The only problem was: they were wrong.

Enter the Storm Glass. These were sealed glass tubes or other shapes. Inside was a mixture of water and other chemicals (usually camphor being the most common).  It isn’t known who invented or developed the Storm Glass, but one Admiral Fitaroy was the biggest champion for their use to predict storms in the 19th century. The British Crown went so far as to supply them to the various British Isles.

There were even charts or lists produced to show what the various types of crystals indicated the weather would be.  An example from Admiral Fitzroy

  • If the liquid in the glass is clear, the weather will be bright and clear.
  • If the liquid is cloudy, the weather will be cloudy as well, perhaps with precipitation.
  • If there are small dots in the liquid, humid or foggy weather can be expected.
  • A cloudy glass with small stars indicates thunderstorms.
  • If the liquid contains small stars on sunny winter days, then snow is coming.
  • If there are large flakes throughout the liquid, it will be overcast in temperate seasons or snowy in the winter.
  • If there are crystals at the bottom, this indicates frost.
  • If there are threads near the top, it will be windy.

It was all nonsense, of course. Although the various formations of crystals could seem to be a reaction to the weather, the fact was the only thing the crystal formation could indicate was a change in temperature. This was confirmed in 2008 by a paper in the Journal of Crystal Growth.

Once people realized that the Storm Glasses were of little use in weather prediction they were ignored or removed.  A few holdouts produced artisan versions but the idea was mostly abandoned. However, when the ‘MAKE’ movement started producing instructions for making home-made versions people started to clamor for a more aesthetically pleasing version they could display at home or on a desk. This has resulted in the versions you see today. Although tube versions still exist, there are also teardrop shaped units, as well as glass swans, ovals, or whatever else the glassamkers think will look good.

So a failed weather predicting device becomes home art. Hey, it happens!

Want to buy a Storm Glass?


Watchitude – Fashionable Slap Watches!

Back in the 80’s a short-lived fad of Slap bracelets which were strips of stainless steel 9covered with colorful fabric) that would coil around your wrist when you ‘slapped’ it aginst them. They were fun, but cheap knock-offs flooded the market with poor quality (i.e. sharp) steel and cheaper cloth coverings that resulted in some injuries. The original product didn’t cause injuries, but schools banned them anyway and the fad faded.

Fast forward to these modern times and about 30+ years of materials science and the idea of slap bracelets is back! Only this time instead of the (potentially unpolished) steel they are made of 100% silicone that can be printed directly. Some even got the idea of putting a watch on the bracelets and so we get Watchitude:



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.



Iron Filings – Yes, Iron Filings and what to do with them!

While carrying some boxes over to the local post office one of them sadly fell on the ground. One of the Postal employess commented that he hoped what was in the box was not fragile. I answered “Not this one, it is full of Iron Filings.”. “Iron Filings? Why would someone want that?”196

Why indeed?

Iron Filings are not the most exciting product we carry in the store. Its a bag, and it has 1 pound of Iron Filings inside it. Oh, and a label. Gotta have the label saying what it is. That’s it. And yet we sell quite a few of them!

So what are iron filings for? Here’s a few art & science projects that requires them:

1) Magnetic field patterns: Place a magnet (preferably a bar magnet) flat on a large piece of paper and sprinkle the irong filings on the paper around the magnet. The iron filings will line up to to illustrate the ‘field lines’ of the magnetic field of the magnet

2) Making Rust: There are a number of experiments listed out there where you add vinegar to iron filings to show how it oxidizes and makes rust.  Sometimes when you do this you will get a ‘rotten egg’ smell and its not exacly certain why that happens.

3) Budget Ferrofluid: Actual ferrofluid is kinda pricey, so many folks use irong filings sealed in a test tube with light oil (30w) to act as a budget version of ferrofluid. Its efficacy is…debatable.

4) Art Toys: Remember those ‘magnetic doodlers’ where you uses a tip to give a face eyebrows or a mustache? The ‘hair’ was actually made of Iron Filings. Some take this idea a step further

5) Music: Let’s just watch this, shall we?

6) Make a Fuzzy Magnet Pet. Take a powerful rare-earth magnet and drop it into a bag of iron filings to get this nifty fuzzy iron tribble!


Want to buy Iron Filings?


More New Metal Earth Models Part 2 (Spaaaaaaaceeee….)

So after showing the Metal Earth 1965 Ford Mustang, the Tiger Moth Biplane and the Stag Beetle on Thursday it is now time for the remaining new Metal Erth Models. The first up is the Metal Earth Drum Set



Moon as Art (courtesy of the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter)

ejectaLast month, as part of its 5th anniversary,  NASA released a whole bunch of incredibly gorgeous photos  taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter of the Moon as part of the ‘Moon as Art‘ display. Intense details, craters, and other features have never been seen before at such a high resolution. Take a nice look over at the LRO website and enjoy the imagery!



Lazy Tuesday Video Blog Post

Adventures this morning consisted of a blown out bicycle tire followed by a 3 miles walk in bike shoes. So forgive me if this post is a bit on the lazy side. We’re just going to spotlight some recent videos taken for our youtube channel

Let’s start with a video of the recently discussed Magnetic “Sand” Timer in action:

Here is DStar’s Vacuum Engine/Flame Licker Engine in action:

A silly solar powered Sock Monkey

One of the large, 6″ MOVA Political Earth Globes doing its spinning thing:

Finally, the DStar Basic Stirling Engine in action:




Joyous Jellyfish Glowing Glass Art Paperweights

Having covered the excellent handmade glass astronomy products last week, we can now cover the other line of products, the Handmade glass jellyfish paperweights!

Let’s start with the larger 6.5″ tall models, they come in Teal



Awesome Astronomy Art Glass Paperweights

We’ve recently added some glass paperweights to our product line. These are impressive pieces of handmade glass that are made by the long-lived glassware company Dynasty Gallery based out of San Fransisco. We’ve added two lines of their fine products. In this blog entry we will cover the astronomy glass art paperweights.

First up is the Solar System Crystal Sphere