Okay, so the holidays are almost upon us, and (in case you didn't know) buying into commercialism is rather troublesome. So we thought that we'd do a post about some  cool and thoughtful science themed gift ideas that you can get your loved ones (or maybe treat yourself with). I want to note at the start that we aren't affiliated with anything that is mentioned. We get no kickback for covering any of these things (monetary or otherwise). They are just some genuinely awesome things.

1. Donate To The Carnegie Institution for Science in Someone's Name

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a nonprofit organization that has a 99% rating on Charity navigator (a site dedicated to analyzing the effectiveness and transparency of charitable organizations). The Carnegie Institute works to help fund science projects and allows you to donate to areas that may be of particular interest to you. For example, you can fund space sciences, environmental science, the life sciences, and so on. You can make a donation in memory of a loved one, including an image and short bio with your donation. You can also make a monthly donation or one time donation.

In addition to funding research, as part of Carnegie’s outreach efforts, they host various science-related lectures, events, and seminars. It's a great way to avoid consumerism and contribute to a worthy cause.

2. Name A Crater On Mars After Someone You Love


The International Astronomical Union is the only body allowed to designate official names for celestial objects; Uwingu acknowledges this, but seeks to give people a cool way to donate to science and get a little something in return. To this end, they have organized an informal "people’s-choice" name system in an attempt to raise interest in (and money for) science. The organization is not interested in trying to impose any nomenclature on the astronomical community, just increase interest and help fund some cool science projects.

You can get a crater for as little as 5 dollars, and you get a handy certificate that you can print out (there are a number of different holiday certificates that you can choose from). You can pick whatever name you like, unless it’s later found to be profane, pejorative, or otherwise offensive (in which case it’ll be removed).

3. Get The Year In Space Calendar

If you want a more traditional gift, consider the Year in Space calendar. It's more than just a calendar that has pretty pictures, it's full of facts, important dates, and interesting asides. It's actually more like a magazine than a calendar.

Each day has a list of important events (like historical space missions, notable discoveries, and important celestial events). Each day also has an image of the Moon's phase. So you'll never miss a full moon or meteor shower again (yay!). It also has a "sky summary" of where to look to see the planets with your naked eye. And if you are wanting the pretty images, then fear not. There are large images of the planets, small images of notable scientists with a little bio, images of spacecraft...just look to the right and you'll see what I mean.

Of course, it also has all the traditional stuff that calendar have (space to write in your daily tasks, national holidays etc.). If you are super stripped for cash, no worries. You can access some of the information digitally by going here.

4. Get Creepy Magnetic Putty

Magnetic putty looks a little creepy (seriously, it does. I can’t be the only one thinking this, look at the image below), but it’s pretty astounding stuff. Like any other putty, it can be stretched, bounced, molded, popped, and well, all the other stuff that regular putty does. However, when you take this putty and put it by a magnet, it does some pretty cool stuff.

In the presence of a magnetic field, it exhibits fascinating properties. This is because magnetic putty has millions of tiny micron-sized magnets are embedded in it. So you can use other magnets to control the putty like a snake charmer (like what you see in the image). Or “charge” the blob of putty so it can become a magnet of its own and pick up small tacks and paperclips.

The colors come in black and silver, and it cost about 15 bucks. It's pretty fun to play with, and it also provides a good opportunity to discuss and investigate some basic science concepts. You can get some of your own here.

5. Make Your Own Ferrofluid

A ferrofluid is, quite simply, a fluid with magnetic particles in it. This means that, if the fluid is exposed to a magnetic field, it does some pretty awesome stuff. What happens is, all the magnetic particles will align with the field lines, forming some amazing, symmetrical shapes.

The substance invented in 1963 by NASA’s Steve Papell in order to transport liquid when there is a lack of (less)  gravity. It was designed as liquid rocket fuel that could be drawn toward a pump in a weightless environment by applying a magnetic field

Best of all, you can make it yourself. Learn how to make something like it here. Note: You will have to have a pretty strong magnet and some printer ink. What you will actually have is magnetorheological fluid, which is rather similar. The difference is that ferrofluid has dispersed nanoparticles. Although some ink toners have nanoparticles present, they come in aggregated clusters that are micrometer scale in size (it’s a fine distinction).

If you don't want to have all of the mess or do all the work (shame on you, who doesn't love a good mess or doing some neat science-type work?), then you can buy some here. ThinkGeek also has a few other cool science themed gifts that you can get.

6. Buy a Meteorite

Yes, you can totally buy a meteorite. You can get one on ebay for pretty cheap (20$ for some). However, you need to verify that they are real. So make sure that you take some time to do a little research. To see the listings, you can head here.

Aerolite, sells a whole bunch of meteorites. Best of all, each one is accompanied by an ID card detailing its chemical makeup and where it was found. You can also get a small one on some jewelry (much cooler than diamonds, and you can avoid all the terribly problematic things that come with the diamond industry). Prices vary, but they are kind of expensive. Most start at at least 100 dollars.

That said, certain kinds are definitely rarer than others. You can even choose one that is of historical significance. For example, the Odessa crater is one of the most famous craters in the world. It was where some of the very first metal detecting for meteorites took place during the 1940s. If you pick one of these, they all come from the collection of the University of New Mexico. Every piece carries a hand painted collection number and is accompanied by an original UNM Collection card. You can also get one from Wolf Creek (anyone see that movie?). Australia's largest meteorite crater is also one of the most spectacular and best preserved on Earth. The impactor is thought to have hit our planet at least 300,000 years ago.

7. Awesome, Informative, Hilarious xkcd Book

If you don't know who xkcd is, you probably haven't been on the internet very long (welcome, my friends). What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions was done by web comic creator Randall Munroe. Here are just some of the questions Munroe answers in witty, illustrated form: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light? How big would Google's data warehouse be if all digital data were stored on punchcards? What if a Richter 15 earthquake hit New York City?

Munroe answers all of these questions (and a ton more) by using basic physics and math principles. Sure, all of these scenarios are extremely unlikely, but that's kind of the point.

8. Go With the Tried and True: Get A Science Shirt

Science shirts are handy ways of satisfying that science lover in your life that doesn't seem to like much except, well, science.

You can find a number of nifty shirts at QuarkTees. You can also head to this Amazon store. And we are also selling our own science shirt (okay, so full disclosure, we obviously benefit from this one...just in case that wasn't obvious 🙂 ).

The Awkward Yeti also has a number of cool designs, and also a few books (one of which is especially great for kids, with beautiful illustrations).


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