i-Top Takes A Turn As Top Physics Toy

I’ve discovered more wonders of physics in the toy aisle of Wal-Mart. (If you must know, I was trying to find a toy that would drive my sister utterly insane via endless repetition as it was used by my new nephew Jack. I succeeded admirably).

From the award winning mind of game designer and programmer extraordinaire Scott Balaban (a possible SciScoop interview target, perhaps?) and his buddies Otti, Seger and Fuhrer comes the incredible i-Top fold-up spinning top sold by Nextoys and i-Toys. Check out the 15 and 30 second i-Top video commercials. For only $5, (OK, $10 if you order i-Top from Amazon) you get a classic spinning top that folds up in your pocket – except this thing also has batteries, an onboard computer and an alphanumeric display system for less than you’d spend on lunch. Synchronizing the firing of rotating LEDs to form readable messages is a really neat visual effect, and I’m still trying to figure out just what sensors have to be onboard to get it all working correctly. Amazing.

Tops are a bottomless pit you can fall into that leads to a well of knowledge about history, astronomy, basic physics, advanced mathematics, classical mechanics and even general relativity theory. Plus, they’re fun. It’s springtime; go get an i-Top and start spinning, preferably with a kid around. Use the one inside if you can’t find a kid anywhere else.