The ninth annual Science Geek Gift roundup features holiday presents for the science-minded types on your list. But we’ll need your help to make the smartest choice.
Sure, there are lots of other msnbc.com holiday gift guides you could turn to. You could check out Life Inc., the Holiday Tech Guide, the TODAY Holiday Guide, even a list of crazy kitchen gadgets. But would any of those guides tell you where to get a nuclear-powered toy, a T-shirt to do science in or a six-dimensional crystal sculpture?
I didn't think so.
The guiding principle behind the Science Geek Gift Guide is to seek out the most educational and enlightening gifts, the items that best capture the scientific zeitgeist, or gewgaws that are just plain gooey with geekiness.
For example, let us consider brains. Braaaaains. If zombies were hot this Halloween, and "The Walking Dead" is the "most satisfying new series" of the current TV season, surely brains are just the thing for Christmas. You could decorate your desktop with the 4-inch-high Learning Resources' Brain Anatomy Model ($13 to $18), which gives you a cerebral cortex about the size of a Granny Smith apple (according to one not-completely-satisfied buyer). Or you could go with the pricier but life-sized Budget Brain With Arteries ($44). Or take your pick of brains at the Brain Mart.
This is also going to be the last holiday season for NASA's space shuttle fleet, so if there's a space geek on your holiday list, you'll want to beat the rush. Take a look through the shuttle memorabilia in the Kennedy Space Center's online space shop and on The Space Store website. And if you're looking for something that's handcrafted rather than mass-produced, check out the selection of NASA-themed craft items on the Etsy website.
Speaking of space, how about decking the halls with a solar system? I believe the holiday season is a time to be generous with our planet definition, particularly because I've written a book about "The Case for Pluto." That's why I favor planetary displays that don't stop at Neptune. The Authentic Models mobile is stylish, but perhaps too pricey ($85 to $165). Learning Resources' inflatable solar system ($28 to $50) and Geosafari's motorized desktop planetarium ($40) are more kid-friendly. And if you want to give your child the moon, Uncle Milton would be only too happy to oblige with Moon in My Room ($20 to $30).
But enough about my ideas ... I'd love to hear yours. Between now and Monday, leave your science-gift suggestions as comments below. Please don't suggest electronic gear such as audio/video/phones, or video games or game devices. Those sorts of things are handled by other folks here at msnbc.com. Board games are OK, as long as they're geeky. The more creative the gift idea, the better.
I'll put together a collection of the best suggestions and put them up to a vote next week. The biggest vote-getter as of Dec. 2 will win a grab bag of geekiness, including the following books:
- "Moon 3-D" and "Mars 3-D" by Jim Bell, complete with built-in 3-D glasses.
- "Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time," published this year to mark the Hubble Space Telescope's 20th birthday.
- An autographed copy of "The Case for Pluto."
Due to the logistics and cost of mailing, the grab bag can be sent only to a U.S. address. I'll let you know about additional goodies next week. In the meantime, here are some websites and archived gift guides to get you inspired:
Previous Science Geek Gift Guides:
- The gift of science (2002)
- For the scientist who has everything (2002)
- Toy traditions go back to the future (2003)
- Your toys will be assimilated (2004)
- Gifts for space geeks (2004)
- Find your star (2005)
- The top gift for science geeks (2006)
- Season's readings for kids ... and for grown-ups (2007)
- The top geek gift of 2008
- Gifts from the sixth dimension (2009)
More sites for science gifts:
- Edmund Scientific: The classic science store
- Educational Innovations (don't miss the Oil Spill Kit)
- Exploratorium Science Gift Guide 2010
- GeekDad Holiday Gift Guide 2010
- Home Science Tools gift guide
- Imagination Soup math and science gifts
- MakeZine Holiday Gift Guide
- Robot Snob Holiday Gift Guide 2010
- Sheldon Shirts: Big Bang Theory gifts
- ThinkGeek: Stuff for smart masses
- xkcd store