What's new here?

Archive for the ‘Science Fun’ 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?


SmoothFoam Mega Volcano

Erupting volcanos are a staple of many science fairs and school demonstrations. Plus they can be fun to do at home as well. But making the volcano canbe a bit frustrating. Either your make your own volcano with lots of Plaster-of-Paris and the mess caused by it, or a you buy a kit where you make a volcano with Plaster-of-Paris around a framework, or you have a pre-mold that ‘erupts’ using a squeeze bulb rather than a more interesting chemical reaction of vinegar & baking soda.

To help resolve this, the folks ar the Plasteel Corporation developed the Smoothfoam Mega Volcano:



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:



Just some new items at Spectrum Scientifics

No fancy explanations, stories or events today. This is just going to be a list of some new items here in the store.  let’ sget right to it:

Cool Circuits:



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.



No real blog post today, here is a Drinking Bird in Time Lapse.

No real blog post today. Here is a Drinking Bird in a time lapse. It drinks and drinks as the world goes by outside.


When is a Toy not a Toy?

You’d think that the definition of ‘Toy’ would be pretty well understood, but actually it is quite complex, and recent events made the definition even more stringent.

Every now and then we have a customer who picks up a box holding a popular desktop toy and notice a lot of these kinds of things have these words on the box.  The usual reaction is ‘whaaa’?



Modarri – The Ultimate Toy Car

Toy cars have been around for as long as there have been cars. Toy cars run the quality line from high-detail die-cast models to simple plastic frames on metal wheels. Some models are meant to be played with, other meant to just look good. Some toy cars might have a feature that makes tham more than a frame on some wheels: a steering wheel, light up lights, etc.

Now Thoughful Toys, Inc has introduced the Modarri line. A series of toy cars that kids assemble themselves and drive with their fingers. They include such details as real steering, soft gripping tires, and real suspension to smooth out bumps and jumps:



The Little Things – World’s Smallest Classic Toys

A new product line has come to the store, it’s the ‘World’s Smallest _____’ line and it really does live up to its name.  Just have a look at the World’s Smallest Rubik’s Cube