10: Big Bucket of Science
You just can't go wrong with a bucket chock full of scientific marvels -- especially if you're offering it as a gift. Steve Spangler's Big Bucket of Science is filled with 18 test tubes containing some of the science geek's most popular experiments. Spangler, a science teacher, author and toy designer, made his mark as the mastermind behind the Mentos Geyser experiment that resulted in a symphony of exploding sodas (and a viral YouTube video). He's also designed dozens of test tube experiments that offer a hands-on way to see scientific principles in action.
The Insta-Snow test tube experiment, for example, illustrates how absorbent polymers react to liquid. These polymers, which are supercharged microscopic sponges similar to those used in disposable diapers, erupt into fake snow the minute kids add water. Better still, if this powder-perfect faux snow is exposed to air for a few hours, the polymers turn back to dry powder. Sure, it's fun to own reusable snow, but there's something more to be learned: the Law of Conservation of Mass. This discovery dates back to 1789, when French scientist Antoine Lavoisier figured out that a chemical reaction -- like the one that affects Insta-Snow -- doesn't change total mass. The Insta-Snow, by the end of the experiment, will have returned to the same mass it started with, despite the chemical reaction in between [source: Sterner]. The Big Bucket of Science, designed for children ages 8 and older, also contains experiments using hydrophobic materials and illustrating UV-sensitivity.