flips and flops

This is a toy originally invented and marketed by by Orville Wright.
This version uses two neodymium magnets, I don't think Orville Wright's one used magnets at all although I have been unable to find a picture of it.

It flips a projectile made of one of the magnets attached to a tail made from a short length of drinking straw towards a target made from the other magnet attached to a counter-balanced pivot in such a way that the target spins round when the projectile hits it.

The projectile just rests on the end of the length of cane and is thrown off as the flipper swings over after being released. If it is always released from the same angle it will always hit the target. This is the same principal as the medieval trebouchet.

Neodymium magnets are quite easy to buy on the net and now extremely cheap however they are also to be found in the hard drive of a computer.
If this inspires you to take a computer to bits while you're about it take the motor out of the cd-rom drive. This type of motor (high impedance) can be used in a scalectrix car, if you do this lighten the car as much as possible (remove the body and front wheels); it will go round corners a lot quicker and accelarate much more smoothly. Because it now requires a much lower level of skill it is much more fun. Sony Walkman motors also work but they're not really the right shape. Pager motors would I think be even better but I haven't tried. If a neodymium magnet is used to hold the car onto the track it can go round corners even faster.

A health hazard with neodymium magnets is that they fascinate young children, it doesn't matter if a child swallows one but if it swallows two in succession they can stick together through the gut wall. This causes a perforated intestine and is very dangerous, a doctor may not guess what has happened even if he sees the magnet(s) on an x-ray.

I wonder if it's possible to modify a weaving shuttle with two neodymium magnets, one on each end that could be attracted/repelled by electromagnets one each side of the loom for throwing & catching the shuttle. Nice & simple if it worked.

paperclip trebuchet
trebuchet site
more trebuchets
millimetres matter
A practical use
gaussian gun


It was early last September nigh to Framlin'am-on-sea,
An' 'twas Fair-day come to-morrow, an' the time was after tea.
An' I met a painted caravan adown a dusty lane,
A Pharaoh with his waggons comin' jolt an' creak an' strain;
A cheery cove an' sunburnt, bold o' eye an' wrinkled up,
An' beside him on the splashboard sat a brindled tarrier pup,
An' a lurcher wise as Solomon an' lean as fiddle-strings
Was joggin' in the dust around 'is roundabouts and swings.

'Goo'-day said 'e; 'Goo'-day,' said I; 'an' 'ow d'you find things go,
An' what's the chance o' millions when you runs a travellin' show?'
'I find,' said 'e, 'things very much as 'ow I've always found,
For mostly they goes up and down or else goes round and round.'
Said e', the job's the very spit o' what it always were,
It's bread and bacon mostly when the dog don't catch a 'are;
But lookin' at it broad, an' while it ain't no merchant king's,
What's lost upon the roundabouts we pulls up on the swings!

'Goo' luck,' said 'e; 'Goo' luck,' said I; 'you've put it past a doubt;
An' keep that lurcher on the road, the gamekeepers is out';
'E thumped upon the footboard an' 'e lumbered on again
To meet a gold-dust sunset down the owl-light in the lane;
An' the moon she climbed the 'azels, while a night-jar seemed to spin
That Pharaoh's wisedom o'er again, 'is sooth of lose-and-win;
For "up an' down an' round," said 'e, "goes all appointed things,
An' losses on the roundabouts means profits on the swings!"

patrick chalmers

my email is davidvwilliamson@hotmail.com
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