Whether they run their own lab or they're just entering kindergarten, the mad scientist in your life will love these presents.
The Elements App
Don't underestimate the impact of a carefully chosen digital gift. The Elements is essentially a beefed up, interactive periodic table, is one of the most popular apps for iPad, and comes in at under 15 dollars — which is actually on the pricey side for the great list of science-themed apps compiled by the Best Colleges Online blog. (A few of my favorites from the list include Star Walk, PubMed on Tap, and PLoS Reader.)
If you know any budding programmers, weekend engineers, physicists… or pretty much anybody who just likes to tinker check out NerdKits. Started by a group of recent MIT grads, the driving ethos of NerdKits is to learn by doing with a simple but elegant electronics starter kit. It even comes with the added bonus of an online community full of expert and amateur programmers to discuss everything from basic electronics to micro controller programming language. The USB NerdKit (which is more that enough to get you started) comes in at just under 80 bucks before tax and shipping, and expansion kits, microarrays, lcd modules, etc. range between $0.50 and $30.00 each, depending on what you're looking for.
Graphic designer and illustrator Simon C. Page has designed an absurdly awesome collection of prints for the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (which, by the way, also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize Awarded to Madame Marie Curie, as well as the 100th anniversary of the International Association of Chemical Societies). If you know anybody with even a passing interest in chemistry — or just good, clean graphic design — you can't go wrong with any of these. I seriously want one of each.
There are ten in all (eleven, actually — the one featured here actually comes in two different colors), but here are a couple of our favorites. Each poster is designed with a famous chemist or discovery in mind. This one, titled "Ions," a tribute to Lorenzo Romano Amadeo Carlo Avogadro di Quaregna e de Cerreto — but you can just call him
6.02x10^23 Avagadro for short. The poster up above is entitled "Matter," in recognition of Albert Einstein's 3rd paper on Brownian Motion, which confirmed the atomic theory of matter — what is viewed by many to be the first proof that atoms actually exist. These prints all run anywhere from 20—80 dollars apiece, depending on what size you're looking for (prints start at 12x18" and come as large as 24x26").
What's that mean, exactly? It means you build it, you tell it what route to take, and it'll fly there autonomously — just like a military UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). You can also control it personally if you so choose. This one's not cheap, coming in at $589, but come on — your own zippy little autonomous robot helicopter? (I can't remember the last time I used zippy in a sentence, but no joke, check out the video.) How can you even put a price on something like that?
Great Science Magazines
Whether you're purchasing for a seasoned scientist, one who's just starting out, or someone fostering a general interest, it's hard to go wrong with a subscription to a science journal or science magazine. Scientific American, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, and National Geographic are all mainstays, obviously, but Amazon has a pretty great list of similar publications you may not have heard of before that is definitely worth checking out.
If you're interested in going the peer-reviewed route, few scientists would turn down a subscription to a well-known publication like Science, or Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or Nature. And don't forget: many journals also have field-specific publications in everything from genetics to photonics, so choose accordingly if you're so inclined!
Mad Scientist Soaps
Over on Etsy, twoeggplants has gone and created some awesome Mad Scientist Soaps Gift Sets. Thirteen bucks plus shipping scores you one beaker soap and one test tube of the color of your choosing (and no, the test tube rack is not included).
One more poster, because these are just awesome. More famous for their city neighborhood prints, Ork Posters also has a couple of awesome screen prints designed around the heart and the brain — both of which are featured here. These will set you back 18 bucks a pop. They're available in different colors, too.
Astronaut Ski Coat
This Astronaut Ski Coat was designed and custom-made by JennasRedRhino. And while it's definitely pretty cool, it's also three grand. Will this end up on next year's io9 halloween photostream? I certainly hope so.
Biochemistry Geek Cards
Polypeptide thank you cards are a great way to say "thank you, fellow science nerd" — biochemists, in particular will appreciate this short amino acid chain, comprising threonine-histidine-alanine-asparagine-lysine-serine (the one-letter abbreviations for which spell out THANKS). Pick up a pack of six (with envelopes) from molarchae for 16 bucks.
Custom-made Lab Coats
Custom-made lab coats by MadScientistsLab over on Etsy. Bob-Ombs. Enough said. 35 bucks.
Does the person you're buying for work in a lab? Buy him or her a plant. Seriously. Scientists love plants. And if we forget to water them, somebody else in the lab will. Trust me. This one's from Ikea, which is just one of the countless places you can score a nice little potted number. (On a related note, a gift certificate to your local coffee shop is a simple way to remind your lab rat that you appreciate his or her contribution to the advancement of scientific knowledge, but you'd really love for them to be able to do it faster, longer, and later into the night than they ever thought possible.)
The Particle Zoo sells handmade subatomic particle plushies "from the standard model of physics & beyond!" and are quite possibly the most adorably nerdy thing I've seen in weeks. Neutrinos like the one featured here are bound to be popular items this season on account of OPERA's FTL findings, but you'll find everything from dark matter to the Higgs boson on their website, as well. Pretty much every plushie on here will cost you just a little more than a ten spot.