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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Best Holiday Geek Gifts

by Guy McCardle

December 15, 2011

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Donate Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus or Rickmas (Ricky Gervais's own winter festival) 'tis the season to be jolly. Chances are, if you are reading this you are some kind of a geek (just like me). Not the bad kind with greasy skin and high water pants, the cool kind, like you. Being a geek you probably have geek friends and are looking for geek gifts this holiday season. Here are some of the best I could find.

Aerogel — This is also known as frozen smoke, mostly because it looks just like frozen smoke. It is the world's lowest density solid, and is 96% air. It is basically just a gel with all of the liquid taken out and replaced by gas. Hold some in your hand and you will hardly be able to see or feel it. Poke it, and it feels just like Styrofoam. Aerogel isn't just cool, it is very useful. It can support up to 4,000 times its own weight and withstand a blast from two pounds of TNT. It's also the best insulator in existence. I wonder how long before we begin to see Aerogel jackets? You can buy some for $35 in time for the holidays at the aptly named buyaerogel.com.

Mars Rock — At first I thought this one was a joke. I mean, who could possibly have a piece of the red planet for sale? Little do I know. Turns out you can buy your very own piece of Mars here for $45 complete with certificate of authenticity. Here is how the samples came into being:

"Every once in a while, a meteorite smashes into Mars hard enough to eject some rocks out into orbit around the sun. And every once in a while, one of these rocks lands on Earth. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen, and whoever finds the meteorite is allowed to cut it up into bits and sell it to people who want to have their very own piece of another planet."


Gmbc - A Gmbc is sort of a geek Weeble. It is a self-righting object. No matter which way you put it down, it stands itself back up. The cool part is that it doesn't cheat by having a weight in its base. How does it work? Here is what the inventor says:
The 'Gmbc' is the first known homogenous object with one stable and one unstable equilibrium point, thus two equilibria altogether on a horizontal surface. It can be proven that no object with less than two equilibria exists.

The stable equilibrium (S)

If placed on a horizontal surface in an arbitrary position the Gmbc returns to the stable equilibrium point, similar to 'weeble' toys. While the weebles rely on a weight in the bottom, the Gmbc consists of homogenous material, thus the shape itself accounts for self-righting.
The concept is cooler than it might seem at first. The existence of a shape with these properties was conjectured in 1995, but it took ten years for someone to figure out how to actually make one that worked. And then everyone was embarrassed when it turned out that turtles had evolved this same basic shape in their shells a long time ago, to make it easier for them to roll themselves back over if they get flipped.

You can buy one here at "the first official Gmbc shop in the world". Prices start at 149.

Gallium — Ever wonder what that melting cop guy in Terminator was made of? Chances are it was gallium. Gallium is a silvery metal with atomic number 31. It's used in semiconductors and LEDs, but the cool thing about it is its melting point, which is only about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you hold a solid gallium crystal in your hand, your body heat will cause it to slowly melt into a silvery metallic puddle. Pour it into a dish, and it freezes back into a solid. It has a relatively low toxicity, but I wouldn't recommend you lick your fingers after handling the stuff.

Turns out you can buy 15 grams of 99.99% pure gallium for $40 at the same place you buy your books, amazon.com.

Miracle Berries — I haven't tried these for myself yet, but they sound pretty cool. Miracle berries, which are sold in the form of "miracle fruit tablets", contain a chemical called miraculin that binds to the sweet taste receptors on your tongue, changing their shape and making them respond to sour and acidic foods. This is supposed to have the effect of making the foods you eat taste spectacularly different. Tabasco sauce tastes like donut glaze, limes taste like the best limeade you've ever had. The tablets apparently work so well that kids are reportedly having "flavor tripping" parties. One tablet will make your taste buds trip for about an hour with no long-lasting ill effects. You can pick up a pack of miracle berry tablets here for $14.99.

 

by Guy McCardle

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