Shopping for other people is hard and gift-giving can be high pressure. But that doesn’t mean science-fans need to settle for sad maths-pun T-shirts (acute angles, indeed) or beaker mugs. Here are some scientific gifts anyone would gratefully use, even after the politeness-mandated festive stretch.
A Food Scale
Most of our everyday chemistry happens right in our kitchens, so it’s time to acknowledge a hard truth: How will you perfectly recreate that Mary Berry cake recipe with Jamie-Oliver-style eyeballed measures? Exactly.
OXO (not the makers of stock cubes) makes great, sturdy kitchen kit, and its Good Grips Food Scales with Pull Out Display would be a great option. Get yourself a good quality scale, bake something, and see what you’ve been missing out on all these years.
This year, thousands of lucky amateur astronomers will be gifted lovely introductory telescopes, many of which will still be safely in the box months later. Yes, telescopes are awesome; they are also fiddly to set up, heavy, and can be tricky to operate in the cold. Binoculars, though, can fit literally in the palm of your hand, require almost no set-up, and have image quality that rivals or betters many telescopes.
These Helios Fieldmaster 7x50 Binoculars are a nice handheld option and reasonably priced at £49, but really there are loads of models out there (ranging in cost and size, from those that you can slip in your pocket to ones you need a tripod for) to suit any pocket. The Helios model in question has won a BBC Sky at Night award, for its excellent star-gazing performance.
A Synth Kit
Synths can be a great fun to use, but first you need to get one — or, even better, make one. If you’re not quite ready to go it alone, though, this synth kit from littleBits is great. Because it’s modular you can even swap around the design quite a bit to create all the different kinds of sounds, and even hybrid instruments. A little dear at £134.99 but a really clever, informative thing to give someone wanting to get into electronics.
Genuino Starter Kit
Genuino (known as Arduino in the US) has some suggested uses for its starter kit, if you’re not quite sure where to begin — including a DIY theremin. But the real fun may be when you start figuring out how to link it to your other devices. It’s available for €80 at the Genuino store.
Commemorate the famed space telescope with these gorgeous public domain, hi-res Hubble images printed off into posters (any local printing shop will do just fine), frame them, and get a little closer to the cosmos. And speaking of free, my desk, it’s missing something, something important... Oh, that’s right...
A 3D-Printed Scale Replica of the Curiosity Rover
Look, 3D printers have turned out to be (not quite) the replicators of our dreams. But, while we’re not going to be switching over to 3D-printed dinners or tiny houses anytime soon, there is something that 3D printers do a great job of right now: scale models of really big, awesome stuff.
Plenty of places have released — completely for free — the schematics you need to print from their collection, ranging from Curiosity above to a surprisingly complete array of items from permanent collection of the Smithsonian Museum.
You can buy a 3D printer, if you want, I guess. Here’s one from Formlabs for £2,300, it looks fine. But, if you’re not looking to print that regularly, you can also just as easily use enlist one of the many, many 3D-printing services popping up across the UK out there to do your scientific bidding.