All geeks are special. Some because we're being polite and using euphemisms. Others because they are good-natured and endearing and fixed our hard drive and unlocked our iPhone. No matter what kind of special your geek is, check out Dude's shortlist of geek-themed gifts for the one that's sure to get you the most bumbled and awkward, but equally heartfelt thanks this holiday season. (Note: All items' prices are listed as they were at printing. Prices are subject to change.)
Gallium - Melts-in-Your-Hand Metal ($16). The chemical element Gallium does not exist in pure form in nature, but since it's so magical and badass looking all solid-to-liquid-at-the-touch-of-a-human-hand and all, of course man figured out a way to extract it from bauxite and zinc ores to use as his personal plaything. The shiny silver masses begin liquifying at 85.85 degrees F; when held on the palm and spoken to sweetly in iambic pentameter, a hunk of gallium will melt into an oozy yet glistening metallic blob in 5 to 7 minutes.
Black Useless Box Kit ($45). This black box is nearly impossible to put together. Ninety-nine percent of those who try will fail. But for the always-elite 1%, once your corners are aligned and screws affixed, the world will be your oyster. Flip the box's switch On to take Earth over. Then watch your mischievous righthand finger sneak out and flip it back Off to activate a galactic nuclear apocalypse. Haha, sike. Don't get too excited about a Dr. Claw transformation yet. The finished black box doesn't hold great power. But it does hold the next best thing: uselessness.
Euler's Spinning Disk ($28). A chrome-plated steel disk with 9 pieces of magnetized holographic foil, Euler's needs only a simple flick of the wrist to set it a-twirl with glimmering visuals and ever-changing, marginally disquieting noises that last for 975 years.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions ($14). Randall Munroe, former NASA roboticist and creator of the science/tech/language/love webcomic xkcd tackles some of the stranger questions his fans have posed to him over the years: What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?; How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?; If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?; How close would you have to be to a supernova to get a lethal dose of neutrino radiation?
Sodium Acetate - Hot Ice ($10). They call it hot ice because sodium acetate is extremely unstable (probably moody and demanding too) and begins hardening immediately as it drops below its melting point of 58.4 to 58 degrees C (about 136.5 to 137 degrees F). The process is exothermic, and the resultant "ice" hot. When boiled and cooled again, the substance returns to its starting liquid form. Without forming crystals, which is part of what makes it an ideal compound for consumer items such as heating pads and hand warmers. For our purposes, it just makes a sweet chemical to screw around with.
DIY Internal Combustion Engine ($41). Mirrors a simplified 4-stroke car engine. The kit's box contains all parts and tools needed for assembly, plus a Haynes manual with (allegedly) clear step-by-step building instructions. You'll need to provide 2 x AA batteries and some vegetable oil. The latter for lubing parts and frying up some popcorn chicken upon completion to celebrate your success.
AntWorks Illuminated Blue Ant Farm ($25). It's blue, it's gelatinous, and it contains live bugs. Enough said.
Circuit Scribe Conductive Rollerball Pen ($25). Filled with magical (i.e., specially developed reactive silver) ink that enables users of all ages with average or better fine motor skills to draw circuits on demand.
PC Prankster ($30). Made in the innocent likeness of a flash drive, the PC Prankster plugs into any USB port and, based on its toggle switch setting, drives the next person to use the receiving computer down one of three different roads to insanity: Caps Lock randomly enables and disables the Caps Lock key; Keyboard splatters garbled text all over open documents and spreadsheets; and Mouse prompts erratic, uncontrollable cursor movements.
Raspberry Pi Computer ($50). This do-it-all computer is the size of a credit card. It plugs into a TV and keyboard to produce full PC functionality in the form of spreadsheets, word processing, games, and HD video projection.
Flux Capacitor USB Car Charger ($25). Yet another Gotcha! toy turned toy ready to take down your credit card number and shipping information from ThinkGeek's April Fool's Day archive.
Laser Projection Virtual Keyboard ($68). Fat fingers rejoice! This virtual keyboard is a 63-key QWERTY holograph that projects at full size onto any flat surface, lessening the tediousness of mobile texting and emailing, and helping curb embarrassing auto correct fails.
Emperor 1510 Workstation ($6,000). The pinnacle of functionality and comfort. And it looks like a scorpion.
DataLocker Self-Encrypting & Destruction Drive ($418). Here's a fun James Bond toy for the everyday man. The DataLocker Enterprise has 1 TB of 256-bit encrypted portable storage, and is the first USB hard drive with FIPS 140-2 validation. It also spotlights one of spy movies' most beloved tropes: the Self Destruct Feature.
Sphero Ollie ($100). Sphero says Ollie, its latest app-driven RC toy, can "launch over the competition at floor-warping speeds." In the world of Bluetooth connectivity and USB rechargeable power, that's about 14 mph. Hmmm. Five times slower than a cheetah. But...more than twice as fast as me in an all-out sprint. I guess I'm impressed.
Keypad Fix Remote Control Reviver ($5). Keypad Fix cleans and restores conductivity to the carbon on controllers' keys and copper PC board pads so their contacts respond as they used to to gentle presses and caresses. It's like Passion Lube for electronics.
Geekwear & Gear
Star Wars Sunshade ($15). Chewie, Luke, Ben, and Han can't fly you to Alderaan (or get you sucked up by the Death Star), but in their accordion-style dash insert form, they can protect your vehicle's interior from UV rays and keep it slightly cooler than the 9th circle of hell on searingly sunny days.
Meteorite & Dinosaur Bone Rings ($400 - $1,750). If your special someone is really that special, you won't just give them a ring, you'll give them a ring from a bazillion years ago! Inlays of Gibeon meteorite and agatized dinosaur leg bone from the Morrison Formation in Utah decorate these standout titanium and 14K gold bands.
Pixelle Sprite Bags ($50). Designer bags go 8-bit. Ladies, say hello to Link Vuitton. These satchel-style handbags come in black or white, and feature 8-bit swords, hearts, robots, flasks, and books.
The Batman Collection ($30 - $100). Black Milk Clothing's Batman Collection has a Batsuit for every type of crime a girl could want to fight. For example, not looking hot. Or not showing enough leg. Not showing enough cleavage. Not wearing a belted Bat-Signal swimsuit--with cape--to the beach. Not wearing a Catwoman bodysuit on our first date....
Doctor Who TARDIS Mini Fridge ($50). If you need to keep a BLT and a tallboy of
PBR a delicious energy drink chilled at your desk, the TARDIS Mini Fridge will both complete the task satisfactorily, and attract longing gazes from co-workers and Daleks reprogrammed to clean the office.
Middle Earth Map Leggings ($11). Control Middle-earth--and likely all male Elves, Wizards, Orcs, Dragons, Dwarves, Ents, and Hobbits--on the cheap. You don't even have to enter into battle or acquire Rings of Power.
Codex Seraphinianus - World's Strangest Book ($80). First published in 1981, the radically strange and unparalleled Codex Seraphinianus took Italian architect, illustrator, and industrial designer Luigi Serafini 2-1/2 years to complete. What is it? Aside from floating in the general sphere of "art" no one really knows. The nearly 400-page book's illustrations are only slightly less inexplicable than the unknown language that accompanies them
Infinite Dungeon Corridor ($25). An infinity mirror gets the dungeon treatment in this intermingling of optical illusion and medieval fantasy trope. The desktop-sized corridor will distract and enamor you for hours with its seemingly unending walls of flickering torches, user-adjustable to 3 levels of brightness.
Magic Billet Boxes ($50 - $240). Each cubical Magic Billet is CNC-machined and engraved to look both nifty and inconspicuous. Only those familiar with the boxes will understand the tricks to opening them: either by sliding off one side, flipping it over, and repositioning it to activate the magnetic release of an inner lid; or by following a similar procedure while holding the box in your hand, and rapping a release button when the flipped piece is in place.
Mega Man Buster Gun Replica ($80). Includes the full gamut of light and sound effects. When turned on, the cannon will play a power up sound and illuminate its power meter as it fills up. Once your arm is nestled inside and your brain prepared for action, trigger pulls will fire off energy blast sounds and the blaster's end will flash. A held trigger will produce continual, intensifying sound as the power meter fills, and then fire a supercharged shot upon release.
Between the Lines: An Expert Level Coloring Book ($12). Self-described doodler (and maybe more appropriately described Grandmaster Ink Artist) Peter Deligdisch has turned 22 of his hand-drawn labyrinths of wonder into Between the Lines, a coloring book for those with the finest of fine motor skills. Or at least for those with an appreciation of exquisite shading and the maturity not to eat their Crayolas for a snack.
Dino Pet Bioluminescent Night Light ($60). Oh boy, it's like a dinosaur mixed with a firefly mixed with that neat-o photosynthesis word we learned in middle school. Dino Pet is a compilation of living, bioluminescent organisms called dinoflagellates housed in an apatosaurus-shaped container.