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Top Sci/Tech Gifts 2004

Our favorite presents to give and get this holiday season
DEADLY BIAS



CORBIS
It¿s that time again.

How can we tell? By the hour on our Einstein relativity watches, of course. Those of us with a little extra scratch are checking our TV wristwatches between shows, but we¿re all in agreement: the time has come to cull the finest in science gifts for our readers.

This year¿s picks include a viniology kit for whipping up some holiday merlot, neckties depicting M.C. Escher's mesmerizing patterns, and even a lock of woolly mammoth hair for the true historian on your list. For your nearest and dearest, check out the world¿s first wearable DVD player for a new definition of personal entertainment, or the Logitech digital writing system, which turns handwritten notes into typed text with the aid of a seemingly magical pen and paper. The little ones will flip for the talking telescope and stuffed wild animals from the San Diego Zoo.

There¿s still plenty of time to choose gifts for all the science enthusiasts on your list. See you in the cybershops! --The Editors

Special thanks to Melissa Kirsch for her assistance in producing this section.

GIFTS UNDER $25

Catch a Star
Who couldn¿t use a little more space in the kitchen? Whether reconstituting freeze-dried ice cream or baking up some regional cuisine that¿s a bit more down to earth, these oven mitts, emblazoned with the American flag and NASA logo will leave chefs starstruck.

Astromitts $7.99
Astromitts

Tangled Up in Taimyr
This year¿s must-hang for the library walls of sentimental prehistorians: a lock of hair from everyone¿s long-ago love, the woolly mammoth. Guaranteed to be at least 10,000 years old, this Siberian keepsake is sealed in a plastic case for safekeeping. Unearthed from the permafrost, the mammoth¿s curls will bring a warm touch to the winter hearth. No shampooing necessary.

Wooly Mammoth Hair $8.00
Wooly Mammoth Hair

Mini Einstein
Look out, G.I. Joe--you¿ve finally met your match, and he¿s five inches of solid plastic in a beige pullover and bespoke slacks. The Albert Einstein action figure boasts a delightful shock of gray hair and moveable arms and legs. Now you can practice your own Theory of Relativity by stuffing the whole family¿s stockings with their very own Li¿l Als, available at a discount when you buy six or more.

Einstein Action Figure $8.95
Einstein Action Figure

Big Shot
Who says a photograph should be snapped, Photoshopped, emailed and laser printed? Hearken back to simpler days by building a pinhole camera. Your favorite shutterbugs will capture holiday memories in the most avant-garde style with nary an optical lens to aid them in their DIY two-hour assembly and extravagant setup for this year¿s family portrait.

Build A Pinhole Camera Kit $18.95
Pinhole Camera Kit

Molecular Fuel
Some call it by cutesy nicknames like joe, others muck theirs up with loopy flavors and artificial sweeteners. Then there¿s that guy at the office who would sooner take his coffee via IV. For him, the glass beaker mug enameled with an actual caffeine molecule, so he knows just what the chemical structure is of that magic elixir that keeps his keyboard and toes tapping all day long.

Caffeine Beaker Mug $12.95
Caffeine Beaker Mug

Can You Say That in Klingon?
For the relative whose Hypercolor tee is so overwashed it seems to wear him, or anyone else who definitely doesn¿t need a date, what hipper than this "Talk Nerdy to Me" number? Punny? Oh yes. Clever? Definitely. Cool? That¿s the whole point--the sporter of this shirt has transcended cool and stands astride Geekdom with unflagging pride. Comes in baby doll and hoodie styles, too.

Talk Nerdy T-shirt $18.00
Talk Nerdy T-shirt

Colonial House
An ant farm for the 21st century! Based on a NASA experiment studying animals in space, the Antworks habitat contains a nutritious, non-toxic gel in which the colony can live, work and tunnel in a simulation of microgravity. Ants not included, but a booklet instructs crafty collectors on how to snare some, either in the wild or by mail.

Antworks $19.90
Antorks Ant Farm

Return to the Motherboard
Banish the fake croc skin or tired rubber band that¿s been functioning as your loved one¿s business card holder. You¿ll put the flash back in card-carrying with this streamlined stainless steel case, made from real circuit board. Recipients may still complain about the job, but they will love showing off their positions with a card holder as distinctive as this one.

Circuit Board Card Case $24.99
Circuit Board Business card case

GIFTS FROM $25 - $50

Strange Brew
The holidays are all about miracles, so surprise your favorite oenophile with the news that she, too, can turn water (well, juice) into wine with this lab kit for grownups. Viniology contains all the accoutrements needed to make 15 bottles of crisp Chardonnay or rich Merlot from plain old grape juice. Best presented before family has glugged too much wassail to appreciate.

Viniology-Chardonnay and Merlot $26.95
Viniology-Chardonnay and Merlot

Fit to Be Tied
For that dignified dresser who loves an accessory sure to inspire vertigo, a wide selection of M.C. Escher print ties. Now the blocks that morph into geese, the fish that bait and switch into frogs, are immortalized on silk ties in varying colors. Beautiful, hypnotic and infinitely bewitching, these ties are perfect for anyone who loves a good knot.

Escher Ties $39.95
Escher Ties

Time Travel
The physics nut will flip for this Einstein-influenced watch. The numbers themselves rotate with each passing second, reminding time-minders that everything is indeed relative. Telling time is still a snap (although perhaps best for those who already have a good grasp of the practice) but no other watch offers its wearer the bonus of Einstein¿s ground-breaking theory along with news that they¿re late for that lunch meeting.

Einstein Relativity watch $34.95
Einstein relativity watch

The World Up Close
The animal kingdom and outer space find common ground with this children¿s talking telescope. Featuring images from NASA and 200 audio facts and questions on everything from Jupiter to Komodo dragons, the kids will be entertained at least until it¿s time to open their next present. Like all the best toys, this one combines learning and fun--but Junior doesn¿t need to know that.

Geosafari Talking Telescope $34.95
Geosafari Talking Telescope

Puzzling Polygons
192 magnetic tiles of varying colors and literally millions of possible artful solutions. From the word "fractal," referring to the process of repeating a pattern on every scale, we get fractiles. Flowers, starbursts, rosette windowpanes--the puzzler on your gift list will delight at the endless creative configurations.

Fractiles $39.90
Fractiles

Catch a Cold?
Instead of wrapping up against infection, wrap up with one, like Mad Cow disease, herpes, malaria or TB. These lovely 100 percent silk scarves are printed with images based on photomicrographs of actual organisms. Spread the diseases everyone will want to catch this holiday season with the knowledge that a portion of the proceeds will go to research or education.

Infectious Awareables Scarves $39.95
Infectious Awareables Scarves

GIFTS FROM $50 - $150

Invite Some Old Friends to Dinner
Why should Grandpa be the only fossil around the hearth this holiday? Treat the family to some museum-quality paleontological finds from Maxilla and Mandible, the New York natural history emporium. 350-million-year-old trilobites, the earliest creatures to possess vision, will thrill the gang. For even more flash, go for the irridescent, ram¿s horn-shaped fossil ammonite, relative of the living squid, octopus and nautilus--a true objet d¿art, clocking in at 112 million years old. [Click on "Paleontology" to see fossil descriptions.]

Fossils: Trilobites and Ammonites $58.00 - $74.00
Fossils: trilobites and ammonites

Watch Out
Look out: Here come Legos for the budding sleuth! The Logiblocs Super Inventors Lab contains 33 electronic blocks with wires, bulbs and an instruction manual so mad scientists can build such children's favorites as an electronic eye, door and drawer alarms and a lie detector. Your kids will have you under tight surveillance in no time flat!

Logiblocs Super Inventors Lab $88.95
Logiblocs Super Inventors Lab

Do the Wild Thing
We¿d all send our loved ones on safari if we could, but it¿s a long way to Zambia and, well, that¿s a pretty hefty chunk of change, even for the flushest among us. Instead why not give an ultrarealistic stuffed animal, compliments of the San Diego Zoo? It¿s a tad more affordable, and you can¿t snuggle with a real jungle beast (spouses excluded). Our favorites include the cheetah ($135.99) mandrill ($69.99) and flamingo ($74.99).

Stuffed animals from the San Diego Zoo: Cheetah $135.99
Stuffed Animals from the San Diego Zoo

Survival of the Fittest
Swiss Army Knives have long been valued for containing all the necessary tools for surviving in the wild. Now the old standby¿s gotten a makeover--along with the scissors, pen, keyring and nailfile, the modern day survivalist can count a 128 MB USB memory drive among her switchblade selections. Windows 98 or Mac OS X or higher required.

Swiss Army Memory $99.00
Swiss Army Memory

Cut the Cord
It looks more like a little hub of modern art than a mouse, but leave it to Sony to come up with the Wireless Sphere, a laptop accessory that¿s as fashionable as it is useful. In your choice of metallic red, blue, violet, black, pearl or silver, this two-button mouse is like a little gumdrop companion for your computer. USB or PS2 connection; for Windows 98 SE/ Mac OS 9 or higher.

Sony Wireless Sphere Mouse $89.00
Sony Wireless Sphere Mouse

GIFTS OVER $150

Who Needs TiVo?
For the inveterate couch potato, a TV wristwatch from NHJ, so he can maintain his habits but leave the couch behind. He¿ll stroll the boulevard watching any broadcast channel on the 1.5-inch screen, listening through headphones that double as a sly antenna. The tube will run for a full hour on its internal, rechargeable battery, or for three hours on four AA batteries in the accompanying external case. So, unless the game goes into double overtime, he should be all set.

Wristwatch television $199.00
Wristwatch television

Moving Pictures
For the truly special technophile on your list, nothing says ¿the ghost of holiday future like the first wearable DVD player. Consisting of a small, discman-sized player, video image-projecting wraparound eyeglasses with embedded earbuds and a shoulder satchel in which to stash the gear, this revolution in portable entertainment is perfect for commuters and frequent travelers who simply need a private movie theater on the go (and who doesn¿t?).

Wearable DVD player $599
The first wearable DVD player

What Mission Was Your Parachute?
The Soyuz TM-8 flew to the Russian MIR space station in 1989 and returned in 1990. Although a ticket to the moon may have to wait until next year, you can give your high-flying friends a piece of the action today. The front flap of this laptop bag is made of an actual piece of the orange and white Soyuz mission landing parachute. The messenger-type wide-screen/Powerbook bag is durable and contains a padded separate compartment. The bag itself is a powerful shield, but the parachute remnant has withstood quite a bit more action than a little commuter jostling--you¿ll feel like a true cosmonaut carrying this piece of hyper-protective space history.

Soyuz Laptop Bag $195
Soyuz Laptop Bag

Desktop Lighthouse
Farewell, local weatherman, hello Ambient Weather Beacon! This desktop block is a fickle friend, changing color as the weather does. The Beacon receives continuous wireless updates from the National Weather Service, so figuring out what to wear is a cinch: bundle up when the block¿s blue, a scorcher¿s coming when it¿s scarlet, and great weather¿s coming when the Beacon goes green. Forecast fiends can program the Ambient Beacon custom-track for golf, gardening, sailing or whatever their particular weather-dependent hobby.

Ambient Weather Beacon $175
Ambient Weather Beacon

Write On!
For the executive who never learned to type, or the college student whose spiral notebooks are exceeding the space of the dorm room, a digital pen that converts handwriting to digital text in word-processing or email programs. Hi-tech paper locates dots and images on the page so scribblers can just dock their pens and transfer their handwritten notes to this century in seconds. The software actually learns handwriting so it recognizes each signature curlicue and balloon-dotted character. For PC only; sorry Mac users!

Logitech IO2 Digital Writing System $199.95
Logitech IO2 Digital Writing System

Galaxy Gallery
These original paintings of asteroids, planets, sunbursts and astronauts range from the realistic to the totally fantastical. Bring the cosmos home for the star on your gift list with a one-of-a-kind piece of signed artwork from Novaspace galleries. They may be mere acrylic on canvas and illustration board but each of these colorful pictures takes viewers on a personal star trek--who knows where they will land?

Space Art original paintings $400 and up
Space Art original paintings
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