Radioactive Element Coasters
What’s every holiday party missing? Drink coasters that protect your table while evoking dangerous unstable chemical elements, of course. The coasters light up with an eerily radioactive light when you set your drink down on them, and are adorned with the chemical symbols for radium, plutonium, uranium and thorium.
Suggested by Joseph Stromberg
Leonardo da Vinci’s Wooden Invention Kits
Da Vinci was many things: a painter, sculptor, anatomist and architect. He was also a prolific inventor and engineer centuries ahead of his time, creating, among other things, a helicopter and ornithopter (a winged flying device). These deliciously geeky wooden models give you the chance to appreciate his work at home or at the office. Just don’t use the catapult to attack your coworkers.
Suggested by Mark Strauss
Want to give your budding engineer a chance to create a working electric circuitry without risking electrocution? This starter kit includes ten color-coded pieces that snap together magnetically to produce hundreds of different projects, like a working doorbell, powered robot or motorized car. Premium ($149) and deluxe ($199) versions include even more components. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Suggested by Joseph Stromberg
There aren’t many self-enclosed ecosystems that fit entirely on your kitchen counter. In the Aquafarm, you can grow basil, mint, spinach, baby greens or other plants on top and keep a betta fish below. The fish waste fertilizes the plants, which simultaneously clean the water. The kit includes a three-gallon tank, plant seeds, a dechlorinator, fish food and a coupon for a fish.
Suggested by Megan Gambino, staff writer
Do-It-Yourself Molecular Gastronomy Kit
As part of the burgeoning molecular gastronomy movement, avant-garde chefs are harnessing the tools of modern science to perform all sorts of culinary magic: making lemon and beets into a flavorful foam, turning tzatziki sauce into jelly-like spheres and making spaghetti strands from chocolate or arugula. Now, you can achieve these feats at home. The kit includes 50 recipes, an arsenal of lab tools (pipettes, silicone tubes and a syringe) and exotic additives that allow you to gelify and emulsify on your own. Finally: sodium alginate and xanthan gum in your kitchen!
Suggested by Mark Strauss, senior editor for Smithsonian magazine
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, on a T-Shirt
Litographs takes the entire text of a book and turns it into an attractive design for a T-shirt, poster or tote bag. The company offers an array of classics, for the science-inclined (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; On the Origin of Species) and other literati (The Canterbury Tales; The Importance of Being Earnest). Legible reading? Perhaps not. The most comfortable copy of Jules Verne’s sci-fi classic out there? Absolutely.
Suggested by Joseph Stromberg, staff writer
If you’re looking for a silk neck scarf ($55) with a mitosis-inspired pattern or a Christmas tree ornament made from a petri dish ($18), head over to the Etsy shop of Washington, D.C., artist Michele Banks. Her unique items bring a scientific sensibility to fashion and design. “I'm not a scientist,” she writes, “I just love and am fascinated by the natural world, especially at the microscopic level.”
Suggested by Hannah Waters, Oceans Portal writer