Holiday shopping for science lovers is tough. Their interests can be frustratingly obscure or maddeningly abstract, but please don’t resort to novelty t-shirts plastered with godawful “cutie pi” puns. Don’t diminish the march of progress! Instead, give presents that require thought and time to enjoy or allow science lovers to see the world from a different perspective.
Think of this as a roundup of fun ways to do research and development. And, yes, R&D is fun.
Virtual reality won’t ever really feel futuristic until we come up with a workaround for cumbersome headsets. Figment VR, a clip-on augmented reality phone case, comes pretty close: It’s an elegant iPhone 6 add-on that does pretty much everything Google Cardboard in style.
Nothing brings a family together over the holidays like a war against nation-crushing plagues. In Pandemic: Legacy, the race between your team of disease-fighting epidemiologists and four rapidly spreading diseases is not as easy as it looks: Game board modifications and new events — think riots and fires — make every round a little more complicated.
Cosmos Magnetic Wooden Blocks
The team behind Cosmos Magnetic Wooden Blocks isn’t trying to rework what’s arguably the most classic toy of all time. They’re just putting a sleek, space-oriented spin on it so both kids and overgrown kids with a penchant for aerodynamic design can enjoy them.
Skeye Nano Drone
At 2” across and 3/4” tall, the Skeye Nano Drone is one of the world’s smallest, but this little guy can fly 5-8 minutes on a single USB charge to distances up to 150 feet away from the controller. A dangerous gift to give annoying co-workers.
Tabletop Moonshine Still
Give the lush in your life the chance to do the one high school chemistry experiment they always wanted to do but never got to try. This sweet set lets home chemists make anywhere from 7 to 12 ounces of moonshine from the comfort of their own kitchen. (You might want to remind them about home distillation laws first.)
Darwin Jellyfish Tank
The rhythmic undulations of jellyfish, though alien, are also curiously soothing. Gift the stressed-out nature lover in your life with the Darwin Tank, an elegant aquarium designed to aspirate the water without ripping the delicate jellyfish to shreds.
3Doodler 3D Printing Pen
Industrial 3D printers can pop out drones and human organs. 3D printing pens can create 3D drawings of drones and human organs, which, while slightly less impressive, is still pretty fucking cool.
Amino At-Home Genetic Engineering Kit
In the age of CRISPR, everything from humans to micropigs can have optimized genomes. Budding bioengineers can start breeding their own E. coli designer babies with the Amino At-Home Genetic Engineering Kit.
David Wootton’s The Invention of Science; A New History of the Scientific Revolution
Science buffs with a literary streak will enjoy David Wootton’s retelling of the history of the scientific revolution, reframing it as more than just an opening of the floodgates of knowledge. The revolution, he says, involved redefining what “knowledge” was altogether.
Gift the James Cameron idolizers in your life with the Exosuit, an underwater space suit that lets you dive 1,000 feet in the ocean for up to 50 hours of thruster-propelled exploration.