Fidget Spinners : The Science Behind The Cultural Phenomenon

Fidget spinners are practically everywhere these days. Fun, bright, and undeniably interactive, kids (and even adults) have flocked to join this fad. They may seem silly, but there's more to them than meets the eye. The science behind why they work and why we like them is entirely legitimate.

How They Work

On the surface, fidget spinners may not look very involved. They're simple in shape, and their function is just to rotate around and around. These spinners use ball bearings that limit the amount of friction the toy may encounter, making them simple and satisfying to spin. Even small hands can twist or flick the spinner to set the outer ball bearing in motion. The other ball bearing serves as the base of the toy the child can hold as they spin. The ball bearings also ensure the spinner has enough weight to balance the momentum. When kids spin it, they're technically experiencing torque (rotational force) first-hand, in that they need to push on the spinner to set it in motion. Spinners stay spinning and won't tilt due to conservation of momentum. Just like a ping-pong ball will roll fairly far without a lot of force, these spinners apply that same principle in circular form to keep everything in motion until another force is exerted upon it.

Why They Work

There is a certain amount of instant gratification when it comes to fidget spinners. People can carry them around practically everywhere they go (no wi-fi required), and it's easy for the owner to become addicted to the feel of a spinning object in your hand. The constant undulation and vibration that can be felt in the palm and in the fingers can have an immediate effect on the holder, allowing them to feel some sense of control — even when it seems there's no control to be had in a situation. When children often feel as though they're at the mercy of what other people want to do, there's little mystery in why they've taken to this phenomena so quickly.

As with any fad, people will find a way to put their own twist on the basics of the rules. Kids may try to spin with their toes, nose, or forehead. They can be stacked to create a tower, which can make even the most stable person feel a little dizzy. The ultimate challenge though seems to be trying to toss them back and forth to friends. Learning more about the science behind our favorite toys doesn't diminish their appeal, it only adds to our understanding about the world around us.

Meet Megalodon: "Big Tooth"

The largest shark to ever exist - the Megalodon - is more than just a physical marvel.

The discovery of a tooth from the Megalodon by a Croatian fisherman is allowing scientists to dig into the behavior of predators of the Early Cretaceous era. Compared with other specimen from around the world, the tooth was a central part in identifying the species and tracking its ability to migrate around the world.

The Megalodon ruled the seas 100 million years ago as an apex predator. According to scientists, the shark was more than 18 meters long (20 feet). A single vertebrae from this shark is as large as a human hand. The most current findings help to prove that previous estimates of the size of this shark were too small. Additionally, the Megalodon is also considered one of the most powerful predators to ever exist in the sea.

Megalodon may have weighed up to 100 tons. Its bite had the ability to produce a force of between 10.8 and 18.2 tons. Despite all of this power, the shark was also one of the fastest predators in the sea, able to easily catch whales and sea turtles. It is actually a mystery how such a powerful predator could have died out, because there was literally nothing in the sea that could have matched its physical prowess. Many scientists believe that they actually became too large for their environment, and even though they were dining on whales at will, there was simply not enough calories in the sea to sustain their existence!

It is possible that the species has been misidentified, although scientists are becoming more sure of themselves with every new discovery. The current Great White shark is the closest thing to the Megalodon, although it is unknown whether they are a direct descendant. The Megalodon is known to have gone extinct around 2 billion years ago during the Pleistocene era, leaving a great deal of room for the Great White shark to be derived from another species of shark. However, the ferocity of the two species causes many scientists to keep the Megalodon in the picture.

What do you think? Why don't you come take a look?

The Discovery Center of Idaho in Boise is all about introducing science to your children in a family friendly environment. Take it from us - sharks are one of the best ways to get kids interested in science as a whole! Come see the Megalodon, and stay for the other exhibits - we think they are great as well!