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Particle Plushies June 30, 2008

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Physical and Chemical Reactions, Physics, Weird Gadgets.
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Particle Plushies

I’ve always been a fan of toys and I don’t think I’ll ever grow too old for this kind of neat novelty stuff. The toys in the picture above are called Particle Plushies and were created by Julie Peasley with the help of science consultant and physicist Derek van Westrum.

Tau Neutrino Strange Quark Photon

According to Julie:

I have had a lifelong interest in cosmology, the quantum world and theoretical physics. The Particle Plushies idea came about after attending a physics lecture at UCLA by Dr. Lawrence Krauss entitled ‘The Beginning and End of Time.’ A couple of difficult physics books later (including Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages), I realized that the individual particles seemed to have various ‘personalities’ that could be ‘felted out’ with relative ease.

The toys aren’t meant for really young children but they’re a fun item to have hanging around the house. Better still, these plushies combine art and science to provide education and understanding.

Particle Plushies 2

As for the weird science blog, these cute, smiling toys are hereby approved for coolness!

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The Light Drop July 25, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Environment, Neat Science Jobs, Physics, Technology, Weird Gadgets.
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Light Drop 1

The Light Drop was created by industrial designer Rafael Morgan, who currently lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The goal is to get people reflecting on their natural resources and how they are used. With the Light Drop, people will hopefully think more about water and its important role in sustaining life. I asked Rafael what inspired him to create the Light Drop, and he replied:

Inspiration for me is everywhere, mostly in ordinary things. If you tried to watch your surroundings from a different point of view, you would be surprised at how beautiful and poetic our everyday world may be. I also do a lot of research. In the case of the Light Drop, I was surfing on the Internet-just googling for some random images-and I found an image of a burning candle. Instead of fire, it was casting an ice flame. It’s a very cool concept because the candle should cast fire but it was casting its opposite element. I just wondered if I could do something like this in my designs. So, after lots of researching and drawing, I designed the Light Drop.

In his portfolio, Rafael also describes his plans to leave Brazil and find work elsewhere. I asked him about his dream job, and he explained:

I usually dream about working in a place with a nice, fun and friendly environment, where I can create new designs and beautiful concepts without too many restrictions.

I get the impression that Rafael’s words reflect the need of many designers like him-to work as part of a team but in an unstructured environment that allows for full creative expression.

thelightdropside.jpg thelightdropfront.jpg

After viewing the Light Drop, I was also curious about Rafael’s plans, if any, for future projects. According to Rafael:

I am planning to focus on furniture, lighting and home accessories for a while but I intend to give all design branches a try in the near future.

Perhaps one day, the Light Drop and many of Rafael’s other designs will be seen in homes where people can admire the originality, creativity and passion that went into their creation.

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Levitating Light Bulb June 21, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Physics, Technology, Tough Stuff, Weird Gadgets.

New Levitating Lightbulb

The levitating light bulb is the intelligent creation of Jeff Lieberman. In fact, it’s a newer version of his earlier work. There are no tricks or anything like that in this picture. You are seeing the real, unedited result of his hard work, along with support from a team of quirky helpers. The light bulb mysteriously floats 2.5 inches from the nearest object and as you can see, it has a very minimalistic and futuristic design.

A Floating Light Bulb? That’s Impossible!

Think again! The light bulb is not the same as most light bulbs. Inside it, there are magnets and circuitry hidden away. On his website, Jeff talks about how two intriguing phenomena encouraged him to create this unique light bulb display: feedback stabilization of unstable systems and wireless power transmission. For a full description of Jeff’s work, you can check out this page.

Give Me The Simple Run-Down

It’s not an easy task and there’s a lot of fiddling and creativity to accomplish the work. According to Jeff, there are three important systems that must be examined and tweaked before you can levitate a light bulb.

Mains The first is something called a matched resonant transformer. This wirelessly transmits power from a drive coil to a receive coil, at approximately 6 inches away. The second area to play with is a sensor system. This system gets rid of lots of the common problems that occur in magnetic levitation sensing. The third is a feedback control system, which lets Jeff smoothly levitate a magnet in a fixed position by using the sensor system designed earlier.

The end result is that the light bulb floats and remains stable, while power gets wirelessly transmitted from the base of the sculpture into the bulb. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) in the bulb harness the power of alternating currents (ACs) and convert them to light. Jeff likens the power transfer function to that of radio station tuning, which allows power transmission through the air.

Compare It To The Older Version

According to Jeff, the new version operates at a ‘higher wireless transfer efficiency. What does he mean? Well it basically means that you get a brighter light bulb for less expended energy. It’s a better design that provides greater efficiency.

Old Levitating Lightbulb

Credit: All photos by Jeff Lieberman. The one above is the
older version from
2005. It looks a little rusty compared
to the more efficient, modern version, but it still operates
under similar principles.

Pure Genius

I asked Jeff what inspired him to create the levitating light bulb and he thoughtfully replied:

I typically get inspired in a combination of ways. Dreams and their imagery are very inspiring for me. Often, I will awaken from something I saw in a dream and sketch it down. Also, any time I learn about new technologies and I’m excited by them, I make a mental-or sometimes even a physical-note about them. In this case, magnetic levitation and wireless power transmission were both phenomena I found amazing but I had never seen them go together. So, when I started to think about that, the levitating light bulb resulted.


In a nutshell, the creation is an electromagnetically levitated light bulb that is wirelessly powered. How convenient is that? No wires and plus, it just plain looks cool! Maybe a little too cool though. Instead of doing homework, you might just want to sit and stare at the odd looking thing all day. If your parents complain, don’t blame it on the weird science blog. You can blame it on the innovative and cool dudes like Jeff who use scientific principles to challenge the standard light bulb and create something that makes us all exclaim ‘wow!’

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