Extreme Toys

Volume 7, Issue 140; 06 Aug 2004; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Michael Sperberg-McQueen brought a neat toy with him from the Science Toy Store in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the fact that many inventions had their birth as toys.

Eric Hoffer

Michael Sperberg-McQueen brought a neat toy with him from the Science Toy Store in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a strongly magnetic top with a strongly magnetic base. Theoretically, the top can be made to levitate, held aloft in the magnetic field, stabilized by gyroscopic action.

On the first evening, we assured ourselves that we understood the physical principals involved and wondered if the toy did, in fact, work.

On the second evening, we marvelled at the number of variables that had to be mastered and the sensitivity of the device. It has to be spinning just fast enough but not too fast, the base has to be level, it’s sensitive to temperature, etc.

Last night, we sat in rapt wonder as Steve Newcomb demonstrated the reward for his persistence:

Levitation!
Levitation!

Still photos don’t really do it justice.

No Strings!
No Strings!

After Steve got it going, he was even able teach a few of us to do it, which was pretty cool.