Who says theres no science to gift giving? Tell that to the geek on your list whose bemused smile at "yet another acrylic turtleneck" is but a thin veil for his real desire for a James Watson Bobble Head doll.
Once again, we have left no stone unturned in ferreting out the very best gifts for the science lovers in your midst. Whats under those rocks, you might well ask. Well, the South American Longhorn Beetle Collection for one, mounted quite elegantly in your choice of frames in one of our most attractive present selections. Whats more, weve got a one-pound, anatomically correct chocolate brain for hungry minds, an at-home forensics lab for the pint-sized Sherlock, and, at long last, a clever contraption that will help your loved ones to divine their dogs most profound emotions. For your very nearest and dearest, consider a self-orienting telescope, a Swarovski crystal-studded computer mouse, or Sonys AIBO ERS-7, the latest and most astounding in robotic pet technology.
Scientific American.com stands firm in the belief that there truly is a science to gift giving. Weve done the researchnow you furnish the results! The Editors
Special thanks to Melissa Kirsch for her assistance in producing this section
GIFTS UNDER $25
|A Crick in His Neck?
Best known for his contributions to the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the structure of DNA, James D. Watson has never been so memorably depicted as in the form of the Watson Bobble Head. Bearing an uncanny likeness to the scientist himself, the doll's head lolls hither and yon delightfully, perhaps unsteady with the weight of all that knowledge! A mini-model of the famous double-helix clasped in his tiny hands, the figurine is a must-give for the biologists on your gift list.
James Watson Bobble Head $21.95
|Not Just for Hydrochloric Acid Anymore
One need not be a chemist to enjoy drinking that morning joe from a beaker! These sly Pyrex mugs sport handles, unlike many beakers in the lab, so your loved ones wont burn their hands on the vessels steaming hot potions. This addition is also useful for science teachers, as students can watch the transfer of liquids without the demonstrators hand blocking the view. The mugs hold up to 400 milliliters of coffee, tea or corrosive chemicals.
Beaker Mug $10.95 ($59.95 for set of six)
|Food for Thought
Studies abound detailing the effects of chocolate on our nervous systems. But weve yet to see a scientific study on the results of consuming a chocolate brain. Now you can find out when you give the gift of an anatomically correct one-pound solid milk chocolate brain to all the neurosurgeons, med students, brainiacs and knuckleheads on your holiday roster. Potential organ donors should note that warm climates require express shipping for their brains.
Chocolate Brain $16.95
|The Hypochondriacs Teddy Bear
Theres nothing adorable about a sore throat in real life, but when its magnified a million times, rendered in plush and given a set of button eyes, theres no denying it: this is one cute microbe. Joined by his other stuffed friends The Common Cold, The Flu and Stomach Ache, these pals from the Under the Weather Collection make a wacky gift for kids and adults alike. Each four-inch-tall critter is accompanied by an image of and information on the actual microbe it represents, lest anyone get too cozy with their darling little illnesses. Just as much fun is the Maladies Collection, which includes cuddly Bad Breath. Kissing Disease, Athletes Foot, and Ulcer.
Plush Microbes $19.95
For all those budding geniuses, here are endless hours of riddles, number games and word puzzles from the folks at the stratospheric-IQ society, MENSA. Choose from three different sets of elegantly designed quiz cards. At just about the size of your average index card, they're great for long car trips, sleepless nights or a post-dinner parlor game.
MENSA Mindbender Quiz Cards $13.00
|Dining Out at Zero Gravity
When space camp is out of the budget, Space Meals will give budding astronauts a fine taste of life in the shuttle. Used by NASA since the first manned space mission, these ready-to-eat freeze-dried feasts come in two varieties: Rice and Chicken Meal or Spaghetti with Meat Sauce Meal. Each comes with an ice cream dessert and space-age strawberries. The consumption of these meals could quite possibly be a galactic adventure in itself! No refrigeration required.
Astronaut Meals $12.95
Now your friends can be fashionably hi-tech while saving the environment at the same time. Made from actual recycled scraps of circuit board, these gifts are space-age attractive and make good use of old electronics parts that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Choose from a money clip, note pad, coaster set or clipboards in two sizes. A better option than destroying your own laptop for chips any day!
Recycled Circuit Board Gifts $8.95 $22.00
For the consummate geek: Now, even telling time can be a scientific problem! The LED Binary Clock uses the same on/off technology as your computer to convey the time in dots of light. Totally inscrutable to the layperson, the clocks come in red LED with a semi-translucent blue face or blue LED with a silver face.
Binary Clock $19.99 $22.99
For the friend who works in the office where every day is Casual Friday, consider these charismatic mousepads. They come in a variety of patterns, each with its own particular embedded sound chip, so you can select just the right pad for everyone on your list. Choose from the swamp bullfrogs croak; the lone wolfs howl; the whales song or the sounds of countdown to space shuttle lift-off. Caution: Not suitable for librarians.
Bullfrog mousepad $16.99
GIFTS FROM $25 TO $50
|Buy Pluto Instead of Park Place
Monopoly, that perennial board game favorite, has been reinvented for the modern skywatcher. Players buy, sell and trade planets, comets and galaxies in attempt to rule the universe. The terrestrial trappings of the Reading Railroad and Water Works seem so limiting when faced with the prospect of charging fellow astronauts for use of observatories, spending a wad of "Astronomy Money," and picking up a bunch useful star-studded facts along the way!
Monopoly Astronomy Edition $29.95
The living room becomes a planetarium when you give the gift of a 3-D Space Projector. Just switch on the 25 full-color slide images of planets, comets and the like, pop in the CD audio tour, put on 3-D glasses (included!) and blast off for a one-of-a-kind voyage into outer space--without ever leaving the Barcalounger.
3 D Space Projector with CD $39.99
|At Home With Frog and Bog
With Planet Frog Habitat, future biologists witness the life cycle of Kermit from tadpole to grown-up in a remarkably life-like mini-pond environment. The aquarium is escape- and break-proof and has a handy vented, see-thru lid for no-fuss viewing. Recipients need only mail in the included coupon to receive their tadpoles--theyll be cultivating their own aquatic wonderland in no time at all!
Planet Frog Habitat $29.95
Pointing and clicking just got a lot classier. The most fashionable techies in your circle will ooh and aah when they catch a glimpse of this Swarovski Crystal-bedecked computer mouse. A gleaming, chrome-plated splash of elegance for any deskso beautiful, its a shame you cant wear it. PC PS/2 style connection.
Swarovski Crystal Ladybug Mouse $49.99
|Style and Substance
The modern Renaissance Man will delight to this imported silk twill tie decorated with adapted sketches of Leonardo da Vincis famous Sforza Horse drawings. Leonardos technological drawings of cog and pulley systems for moving the unrealized monument for a Duke of Milan demonstrate his attention to detail and scientific and aesthetic concerns. Available in gray or sepia.
Leonardo Silk Tie $40.00
GIFTS FROM $50 TO $150
|Style Meets Substance
The Ambient Orb Stock Market Monitor may well be the perfect gift for the geek who has everything. Everything, that is, except for a glass sphere that changes colors to any of more than 100 shades or pulsates when the Dow experiences change, IM buddies log on, a storm passes through the vicinity, or the pollen count rises. The Orb requires only a standard power outlet and nationwide wireless networkno computer or modem setup is needed. Easily configured with a little tech know-how to custom monitor any conceivable information.
Ambient Orb Stock Market Monitor $150.00
|Present of Holiday Future
Carry up to 256 megs of documents, mp3s, images or any other precious data in this clever, lightweight watch that comes with its own easily hidden USB cable. Its sleek black and silver design and simple plug-and-play interface wont betray the scads of information stored within--and, to top it all off, the water-resistant USB memory watch actually tells the time! Mac and PC compatible.
USB Memory Watch $139.99
Reduce, reuse, recycle, and run your car on water? Yes, you heard right! Welcome to the 21st century, where many believe that fuel cells, which produce only water as a byproduct, are the next wave of environmentally sound energy sources for motor vehicles. Once upon a time a model car that ran by remote control was tops in holiday gift giving. Today your loved ones on the go will decompose water, construct a fuel cell, and ultimately build their own eco-friendly cars. Road trip, anyone?
Build your own fuel cell car $149.95
|Move Over, CSI
Before you send Junior off to Quantico, start fighting crime at home with this state-of-the-art mini-forensics lab. The kit presents six cases to solve, and the tools and clues to do so, including: a 200x zoom microscope; battery-operated light table; blood analysis tray; plus ink, fiber, fake blood and hair samples. Its the holiday gift that takes "Hide and Seek" to an entirely new levelwatch your backs, Mom and Dad!
Discovery WhoDunit? Forensics Lab $79.95
Air, water, plant and animal life are precisely balanced in a hand-blown borsilica glass sphere using the results of NASA research into such bio-regenerative systems as space stations. Inside this four-inch EcoSphere, shrimp eat bacteria, the shrimps waste nourishes algae, and the algae photosynthesize oxygen for the shrimp and bacteria to thrive. This $65 EcoSphere can sustain itself on your desk for several yearshow much will you spend in sandwiches for lunch over that time? (Six-inch EcoSpheres and nine-inch EcoSpheres are available for $250 and $500, respectively.)
Four-Inch Self-Sustaining EcoSphere $65.00
|Zoom and Shoot
Shutterbugs need never bemoan the distance of that perfect shot again! The Celestron VistaPix is a full-functioning pair of binoculars and a digital camera all in one--perfect for bird-watchers. This next wave of photographic technology contains a 1.3 megapixel chip for extra-crisp images; takes up to two minutes of continuous video and connects to your computer via USB port for sharing snaps and movies with friends. Comes with a 16 MB memory card, expandable to 256 MB.
Celestron 8X30SD VistaPix Binocular/Digital Camera $149.00
Everyone has that pal who shares photos of their dogs as if they were babies. Well, now you can give them the walkie-talkie-sized Bow-Lingual Dog Translator and let them interpret Fido's feelings. It uses an exclusive system to translate the meanings of the dog's every utterance. Home Alone Mode registers 12 hours of the darling pups fluctuating emotions while separated from the owner; and the Body Language guide helps analyze mans best friends every wag and woof. Available in two colors to keep tabs on two dogs thoughts at once!
Bow-lingual: The dog translator $99.95
No armchair entomologist on your gift list could possibly have snared any of these natural wonders in the ol butterfly net. Insects great and small from the world over are elegantly presented in your choice of natural wood, black lacquer or simple cotton frames. Our favorites include the simple but stunning Giant Damselfly from Guyana ($109); Madagascars aptly named Sunset Moth ($89); the you-wont-believe-its-a-bug Malaysian Walking Leaf ($269); and for the inveterate Beetlemaniac, the crowning jewels: five Asian and South American Longhorns displayed in one dazzling frame ($495).
GIFTS OVER $150
|Point, Click, Fetch
Are you sick to death of Fidos inability to receive email messages? Wouldnt it be fun to turn back the clock and make the pooch a puppy again? These are just a couple of the things you can do with the AIBO ERS-7, Sonys latest artificial intelligence robot dog. Described as a "robotic pet alternative" with "the satisfaction of useful functionality," AIBO recognizes your face, expresses a wide array of emotions on its LED facial readout, uses voice recognition technology to cater to your needs, and even responds to wireless commands from afar to sing and take photos. AIBO also loves its mechanical bone and ball, and being pet under the chin--just like a real doggy!
AIBO ERS-7 $1599.00
Its almost 2004 -- who's doing their own vacuuming anymore? Let the Roomba Pro Elite take care of the dirty work for you. Less obtrusive than a housepet, this intelligent picker-upper ferrets out the dirt and leaves the floors "barefoot clean" while busy taskmasters handle more important chores. What's more, it has a remote control, a handy wall mount, spinning side brushes for walls and corners and an uncanny ability to get under beds where the old Hoover just can't reach.
Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner $249.99
Eye in the Sky
Leave them starstruck with the NexStar 60GT refractor telescope from Celestron. Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons are just the beginning--simply point the instrument north, and it virtually orients itself toward any of the more than 4,000 heavenly objects in its computerized database. Weighing in at less than 10 pounds and powered by batteries (AC adapter is optional), this scope is as suitable for traveling as it is for backyard use. The night sky just got a lot more interesting.
Celestron's NexStar 60GT Telescope