SF Exploratorium Picks Ten Tech Toys for Xmas -- Suhhweet!

Categories: Tech

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If Black Friday didn't dent that bulletproof wallet of yours, the Exploratorium recommends their 10 neatest toys. All of them are both fun and educational, much like hip-hop statistics. These items are surefire ways to either unlock your child's wonder and imagination, or get them really pissed about not getting that ridiculously cool Optimus Prime figure. More than meets the eye:

Science Gift Guide 2007 Top Ten Holiday Picks from the Exploratorium Store

Build, experiment, cut, color and light up the holidays with new gifts that go beyond the everyday. Chosen by the staff of the Exploratorium, the world’s first and foremost hands-on science museum, these ten toys and gifts make science facts -- whether familiar or new -- come alive in fun ways. All gifts are found at www.exploratoriumstore.com , or call (415) 561-0393 for phone orders.

All proceeds from the Exploratorium Store support the activities of the Exploratorium. Stop by often — in person or on the web — and take a little science from the Exploratorium home with you for the holidays. Among them are:

Ball of Whacks
A must have for all future multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, Ball of Whacks is the latest incarnation of Roger von Oech’s creativity enriching products used by millions around the world. By dividing one of nature’s most beautiful shapes -- the thirty-sided rhombic triacontahedron -- into 30 pyramid pieces, the Ball of Whacks is in fact a fun set of magnetic building blocks that can be reshaped into a virtual kaleidoscope of beautiful forms. ($29.90)

--Oscar Pascual

Rainbow in My Room
This amazing rainbow projector fills the walls and ceiling with a dazzling spectrum that is both hopeful and uplifting. Using multi-colored LED’s, it can be turned on with a wave of the hand and shuts off automatically. Rainbows appear day and night. A perfect gift for ages 5 and up. ($29.90)

Milestones in Science
This is not a book, but an active research expedition through the history of science! Conduct experiments with the more than 94 pieces included that will literally take you through the great discoveries first hand. Learn about 140 famous scientists and inventors like Archimedes, Copernicus, Einstein, Watt and Darwin as you reproduce their ground breaking experiments. A perfect gift for young scientists and young historians and scientific historians of any age, this is a chance to do the science and learn the scientific and historical context in which such discoveries were made. Ages 10 and up. ($79.90)

The Pocket Paper Engineer
How To Make Pop Ups Step by Step by Carol Barton (Popular Kinetics Press)

Pop-up books with movable paper mechanisms have their roots in antique scientific texts. As early as the 15th century, paper dials and lift up flaps were used to explain concepts in astronomy, mathematics, and human anatomy. This wonderful guide to basic pop up engineering, whether for do-it-yourself kids books, greeting cards, art projects or your own new scientific treatise, gives you the tools you need. The only limit to your designs is your own imagination. ($24.00)

Red Blood Cell and other Giant Microbes
These plush toys are back with the cutest one ever. A cross between a red furry donut (without the hole) and magnified science, the red blood cell giant microbe has big black eyes and an expression of open-mouthed wonder. Besides being cuddly, it’s a way to learn that red blood cells are what carries oxygen and carbon dioxide round the body. Imagine there are more than 10,000,000,000,000 of these cute things floating in yours. If Red Blood Cells don’t do it for you, you might want to check out the Whole White Blood Cell (Leukocytes) -- he’s got legs! -- or the bright yellow Ulcer (H. pylori bacteria). ($6.25-6.50)

Moon In My Room
Find out what a little moonlight can do for you with your very own moon in your very own room. The authentically detailed Moon in My Room hangs on your wall and shines moonlight -- under your control. With twelve different settings you can match what the real moon is doing outside or if you’re feeling wild, make it a personal full moon of your very own. Includes a CD audio tour of the moon and its unique relationship to planet earth. ($29.90)

Physics Solar Workshop
Discover and harness the energy from the sun. With 12 building projects, 30 experiments, 329 pieces and a 64-page booklet to help you in your investigations, you’ll create a solar-powered tractor, truck, treaded vehicle, car, elevator, drawbridge, windmill, airplane, mobile crane and construction crane and learn about harnessing and using solar power, as well as motors and simple machines, all powered by the sun. For children 8 and up. ($59.95)

Stepping Into Science
This is a starter kit that teaches children basic science and experimentation in the key areas of biology, physics, chemistry, air, and water through 25 experiments. Children play with plants, light and colors, animals, weather, cars and motors as they learn. Instructions are in both English and Spanish for parents to guide their young children. Ages 5-7. ($34.90)

Kaleidodraw
Kaleidodraw software CD repeats your drawings around and around a central point -- called rosettes -- just as you see in kaleidoscopes. Explore the art and science of symmetry patterns as you make magic as you draw. Find inspirations in nature from snowflakes to flowers to galaxies. Ages 3-100. ($23.90)

Op Art/Optical Illusions/Prismatic Design
Coloring Books
Why just color when you can also explore the dazzling, receding, advancing, shimmering effects of op art and the interlocking rings, cubes, and other shapes that move back and forth in illusions and prismatic designs. Each of these three coloring books add an extra dimension of enjoyment and foster an appreciation of the mysteries of perception and whether seeing is in fact believing. Perfect for kids or designers and illustrators. ($3.95 each

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The Exploratorium is located inside the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco's Marina District. Museum admission is as follows: Members FREE; Adults (18-64) $14.00; University Students (with ID) $11.00; Senior Citizens (65+) $11.00; People with disabilities $11.00; Youth (13-17) $11.00; Children (4-12) $9.00; Children Under 4 FREE. Exploratorium hours are TUESDAY THROUGH SUNDAY 10am–5pm, CLOSED MONDAYS, except for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Exploratorium is wheelchair accessible. For information, call (415) EXP-LORE.

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