Holiday Gift Guide for the Scientists in Your Life

Time to break out the egg nog and candy canes (or other festive snacks for the holiday tradition in which you might partake)! Despite the disconcertingly temperate winter we’ve been having in New England, the holidays are creeping up fast – which means it’s time for gift-giving. If you’re one for giving creative gifts, but find yourself in the dark about what to get for the nerdiest of your friends and families, here’s a list of top ten gifts for science lovers! Shout out to Moral Coral, whose blog I stole this idea from – if you find this list to be lacking (no hard feelings), check out her blog for more stupendously geeky gift suggestions.

10. A slide rule

ThinkGeek slide rule

In high school, I used to have this substitute teacher who always waxed lyrical about the virtues of the slide rule, predecessor to the calculator. This gift is for that special, seemingly paradoxical type of scientist who is also a technophobe – the one who prefers clunky cell phones with 12-button key pads to sleek smart phones, and the postal service to Gmail.

You’ll be amazed to learn that you can perform all sorts of calculations without so much as a AA battery. These include: multiplication, division, squares, square roots, cubes, cube roots, proportions, logarithms, sines, cosines, tangents, and cotangents.

Here’s the ThinkGeek description for the product:

ThinkGeek has re-created the classic student slide rule in a last homage to all that is good and geeky. Now you can own a bit of technological history and do some handy math calculations to boot. The ThinkGeek Slide Rule is a faithful replica of the original rules used during the 50s and 60s. All the standard scales and calculations work just as well as they did fifty years ago with no batteries required. Since no slide rule manufacturing facility exists currently, we were forced to start from scratch. You will find that each ThinkGeek Slide Rule is individually hand tooled and printed and comes complete with a vinyl sleeve in an authentic retro styled box.

9. Educational shower curtains

Because nothing says “thoughtful” like a novelty shower curtain, right? You can pick your own, but here are a few suggestions. They’re all ~$30, and made from environmentally conscious, non-carcinogenic plastics.

Pi Shower Curtain (Containing over 4,600 numbers of Pi)

Periodic Table of Elements Shower Curtain


Periodic Table of Elements

Metamorphosis Shower Curtain


Metamorphosis close-up

Weather Shower Curtain


Weather close-up

8. A roadside geology book

Specialized for individual states/ regions, these handy guidebooks are perfect to bring along on any road trip. Each book is around 200-400 pages and contains plenty of maps, photos, cross-sections, sketches, and detailed descriptions of noteworthy geological features.

7. Anatomically correct chocolates

What’s better than chocolate? That’s right … anatomically correct chocolate! These candies are made by Visual Anatomy, a company that specializes in medical illustration for publishers, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, medical journals, and medical attorneys. I guess the chocolate department is where they put all their silly employees. You can get these treats in any combination of milk, dark or white chocolates. And, at $8.65 for a box of four and $19.65 for a box of twelve, they’re certainly affordable.

Chocolate brain
Chocolate vertebra
Chocolate lung
Chocolate heart

6. Dinosaur origami (or sea-life origami, etc.)

For the arts-and-craftsy scientist! An origami book is an affordable gift that can provide hours of entertainment on a rainy afternoon. You might want to also get some extra dinosaur-print folding paper to go with that.

5. Really geeky t-shirt

Punny t-shirts are a classic gift option for any science enthusiast. There are countless nerdy t-shirts out there (some more clever than others), but here are a few suggestions.

Introduction to molecular bonding

Lab partners

Sedimentary, my dear Watson

Stop staring at my cleavage

4. Fireplace flame coloring kit

This gift is for the pyromaniac scientist, or the fancy scientist with a fireplace. It evokes memories of high school chem labs, when you’d add salts to a flame over a bunsen burner and watch it burn pretty colors. Copper sulfate makes green, copper chloride makes blue, potassium chloride makes purple, the list goes on. Years later, it’s still cool…

Image from United Nuclear Scientific Supplies

3. DIY pinhole camera

Pinhole cameras have the same mechanics as the human eye. Light passes through the tiny aperture in the camera, and projects an inverted image onto the film. This gift requires a bit of assembly time, but promises to be gratifying once it’s constructed! Plus, there’s nothing like some hands-on do-it-yourself to learn how something works.

2. Fossils

Give the gift of time travel with a nice ammonite or trilobite fossil, or perhaps some petrified wood! I know a prehistoric fossil would definitely make me feel special. You can order these fossils on-line from Evolution or Fossil Mall, or if you’re within traveling distance of New York, check out the Evolution Store in SoHo (esp since shipping can be pricey)!

Fish fossil from the Green River Formation, from the Evolution Store

1. Miracle fruit

These legendary fruit contain a glycoprotein called miraculin, which binds to your taste buds and causes bitter and sour foods to taste sweet. The exact mechanism by which miraculin alters your taste perception remains unknown, but if you ask me, the mystery makes it cooler. Your gift recipient can host a “flavor tripping” party, where people consume radishes, beer, and limes until everyone’s mouths burn! The product comes in three forms — frozen berries, freeze-dried granules, or tablets — or you can buy a miracle fruit plant or seeds to grow your own.

And there you have it – the top ten gifts for the scientists in your life. Hope you enjoyed it! What are your science gift ideas?


2 thoughts on “Holiday Gift Guide for the Scientists in Your Life

  1. Pingback: aKNITomy: Knitting for Science Lovers | Ink Chromatography

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