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Question #91890 posted on 12/10/2018 8:48 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I want to go Christmas shopping for a bunch of friends studying physics! I want to get them something physics-y. What would you recommend?

-Your brother


Dear Broseph,

You should get them a spherical pyramid in a frictionless vacuum. Physicists love spherical pyramids in frictionless vacuums. JK. Just a little physics humor for you there.

As far as actual suggestions go there are 3 books that are absolutely amazing and I cannot recommend them enough to the physics nerd in your life.

  • What If by Randall Munroe. This book is my favorite book of all time. Cartoonist and ex-NASA scientist Randal Munroe writes detailed answers to hypothetical physics questions. Some personal favorites include: "Could you make a jet pack out of machine guns?", "What would happen if you made an actual table out of the elements on the periodic table", and "What would happen if you had a mole of moles." This book is the perfect blend of cartoons, physics, and humor and I cannot recommend it enough (no really, I already recommended this in Board Question #91707).
  • Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe. Same guy, same combination of humor and physics, different book. The concept of this one is explaining extremely complicated technologies such as the Saturn 5 rocket, smart phones, and nuclear power plants only using the 1000 most common words in the English language. Forcing a physicist to only use the words used by Simple English Wikipedia is hilarious. Not only do you get terms like flappy sky boat (helicopter), but the book also does an amazing job of explaining how things work which is pretty cool. 
  • How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North. The premise of this book is that in the future time travel is invented, and is used for the sole purpose of time travel tourism. Unfortunately, the technology isn't all that reliable and people often get stranded in the past. This book is supposed to be a survival guide so you can invent everything from buttons to refridgerators to make your time stuck in the past less miserable. This book is another hilarious and imaginative combination of humor and physics/engineering. Oddly enough, the author of this book is also a cartoonist, Ryan North, the author of Dinosaur Comics and "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl".
Anyways, those are my recommendations. Nothing beats a good book and these are, in my opinion, the three best books any nerd could have. Hope this helps!

Dear one of seven, 

Physics people that I've met also seemed to be entertained by any and all physics related puns, which can be found en masse on T-shirts and mugs. Sometimes, prints/posters of funny physics related comics can be a fun idea. Etsy is a great place to look. I bought my boyfriend a cute math mug that I found just by typing in "Math" into the search bar. Because that's how creative I am. Lo and behold, plugging in "Physics" also yields a plethora of physics related toys, trinkets, and clothing items. 

Amazon also has a very expansive array of nifty physics toys/desk objects that they may be interested in. Again, "Physics Toys" in the search bar works pretty great. They've Newton's cradles, pendulums, fancy mag-lev things... you name it. 

Happy shopping,