High-quality precision engineering enables the creation of remarkable tools and machines, but once in a while it gets applied to something more frivolous, with extremely appealing results. This week, we're looking at a pair of ultimately not-that-useful toys which are nevertheless very cool, thanks to unmatched detail and precision.
This one is sure to make space geeks salivate, though only the hardcore among them will actually part with £300+ to get their hands on one. What makes MOON special? Well, while the non-detail-oriented might think a volleyball makes a sufficient lunar globe, the MOON is there for those who demand more: it's a completely accurate and faithful 3D reproduction of the moon, not based on 2D photos of the surface but on actual topographical data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. You can see — and even touch — every single perfectly-rendered ridge and crater, or just watch as they are cast into shifting relief by the ring of white LEDs that orbits the globe to create stark shadows and highlights and accurately simulate lunar phases. The rotocasted polyurethane resin globe comes in a couple of different sizes but, as mentioned, none of them are cheap.
Spinning tops are one of those funny pieces of simple engineering that most people can't help but find pleasing and intriguing for no immediately obvious reason, and this one might be the top to end all tops. It's huge — 3 inches tall by 2 inches in diameter — and hefty, made from high-quality aluminum with a precisely machined 2mm tip. After hitting full speed with the help of a kevlar pull-string, it's capable of some nifty feats for a spinning top: it can spin upside-down or on your fingertip almost as confidently as the normal way on a flat surface, and its high weight and speed make it function like a gyroscope and do tricks like spinning on its side (seemingly defying gravity) while hanging from the launching string. Essentially, it's an age-old toy made impressive by being engineered like an important machine — and while it's a slightly more accessible purchase than the lunar globe above, it still carries a $65 price tag (and that's just for Kickstarter backers — the intended retail price is over $100).