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RainyDayGiftGuide 2011 : Science

Back in the 60’s many a boy hoped to find a chemistry set under the tree on Christmas morning (that, and a BB gun). The promise of being able to make invisible ink, CO2 rockets, and sulfur bombs was catnip to quite a few eleven year olds. Sadly (or thankfully) those days are gone. However, items found under the contemporary Christmas tree can still spark wonder, stimulate the imagination, and satisfy curiosities.

Nothing evokes more wonder than the inner workings of the human brain. While we are not yet at the point of being able to easily decode the signals of the brain, tools are becoming available which enable us to get a glimpse of what is going on. The MindWavefrom NeuroSky is such a tool. They have managed to take decades of laboratory brainwave technology and squeezed it into a headset for under $100! This single channel EEG detector safely measures brainwave signals and monitors the attention level of a user as he/she interacts with math, memory and pattern recognition applications. It is as amazing as it sounds and it is available from ThinkGeeks.

National Geographic’s 3-part series (2-disc DVD set) provides a fascinating window into the brain as never before. Through interactive experiments and tricks, Brain Gamesreveals how our brains create the illusion of seamless reality. Brain Games is not just great fun to watch, it makes understanding fun.

As amazing as inner space is, outer space is even more incredible…and actually a lot easier to explore. A clear night and a telescope are all that is needed to enjoy the heavens. The Sun, Moon, and nearby planets (Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter), while easily visible to the naked eye, take on a completely different character when viewed through the eyepiece of a telescope. Photos from a book, no matter how large or detailed, cannot convey the feeling one gets from a live-view of the same celestial object.

The iExplore 70AZ 70mm reflector telescope from iOptron is an inexpensive starter scope. It will give good views of the Moon and the brighter planets. For more ambitious beginners, the iOptron’s Astroboy is an excellent option. It is a portable GoTo scope with a 4000-object database. Just tell the Astroboy what you want to see and it will find it for you. Can it get any easier?

For those on your list who already have a telescope, here are a few accessories which will help them get a better view:

Want to fall asleep under the stars even when it’s freezing outside? The LiveStar projector will let you do just that. While the motion of the projections are not scientifically accurate, it is a fun way to put the constellations on the ceiling for the “camping trip” in the living room. What kid (of any age) can resist?

Hubbard Scientific’s celestial globe is a wonderful way of letting someone hold the heavens in their hands. The celestial globe may look complicated, but is actually extremely simple to understand, set up, and use. A celestial globe is constructed such that, when looking through the globe, the constellations you see are the same ones you will see up in the sky. The globe is not only easy to use, it even looks great when just sitting on a desk. Now how cool is that?

Manga is fun to read, but the format is also a great way to introduce those interested to all sorts of technical and scientific topics (PhysicsElectricityRelativityBiochemMolecular Biology, etc…). They are not replacements for a good text book, but they are great place to start or as a refresher read on a subject. The approach is light-hearted but the treatment of the topics is thorough and technically sound without being snooze-inducing.

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the great minds of the Millennium. Understanding da Vinci’s work and appreciating his genius has been difficult for a variety of reasons. The following books will make excellent gifts for anyone interested in learning more about this amazing individual:

The publishing house, Leonardo3, has been creatively tackling the task of making da Vinci’s work more accessible to all. We, for one, are grateful for their efforts!

Leonardo3’s most recent publication, the Interact Art Collection – The Last Supper, deserves a special mention. With the book, DVD Video and interactive software, the reader can experience da Vinci’s masterpiece in a way not possible previously. Explore the painting, examine details, see things which have been lost for centuries. See the complete digital restoration of the entire painting, including parts that have never been seen until now. Learn about the mural painting’s history and how it was made. Leonardo3 has gone further in combining the latest in technology to bring the reader closer to this great mind than any other publisher in history.

Gifts which excite the mind and stoke the imagination are great for all ages. Give a gift which encourages wonder and stimulates curiosity, and have a great Holiday!

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