Juggling is hard. Keeping those balls aloft against the relentless forces of gravity takes skill. But what if you could just make gravity work a little bit differently? With the Feel Flux, you can.
What Is It?
The Feel Flux is the toy of your high school physics teacher's dreams. This IndieGoGo-funded project doesn't look like much when it's sitting on the table -- just a couple pretty cylinders and what appears to be a pinball. But, once you put it into action, it becomes a magic trick of sorts, one that's entirely rooted in the laws of physics. When dropped through the cylinder, the ball appears to float in midair before falling out the bottom. It makes for a great way to impress your friends and confuse small children.
There's actually a simple explanation for this gravity-defying effect. The little pinball is a piece of neodymium: a rare Earth metal with a very powerful magnetic force. Depending on the Feel Flux model, the cylinder is made of copper, aluminium, or pure silver. When the ball falls through the cylinder, the moving magnetic field changes inside the conductive material, based on a principle called Lenz's Law. This creates a voltage known as electromotive force that produces an additional magnetic field that resists the first one. This is why the ball slows down inside of the cylinder. The faster the ball moves, the stronger the resistant force becomes.
The science behind how the Feel Flux works is simple enough, but the fun you can do with it is limited only by your imagination. The toy's Hungarian designers say that the sort of gravity-defying tricks you can pull off while keeping the ball in the air "will leave even your juggler friends speechless." I wasn't able to do much more than drop the (kind of heavy) ball on my foot, but more on that in a minute.
Why Does It Matter?
It doesn't. The Feel Flux is a neat toy based on some interesting, if obscure physics. The anti-gravity effect is pretty mind-bending the first few times you see it, but becomes predictable over time. Inevitably, the Feel Flux probably isn't going to change your life.
It's a toy! Toys are supposed to be fun, and the Feel Flux is fun -- until you get bored with it. Depending on how good you are at doing tricks, that could be three months or three minutes.
The Feel Flux is pretty. It's very, very pretty. Even if you're not terribly impressed by what the device actually does, you might consider getting one just to set on your desk and stare at.
The design is delightful for its simplicity. The copper, aluminium, or silver cylinders are milled to a clean and pleasing finish that's wrapped in one of three types of leather: suede, perforated leather, or smooth leather. They're also designed with a cup-like top that fits snugly against the bottom of another cylinder. This makes it easy to stack up cylinders for tricks or for a taller desk ornament.
In a sense, anybody can pick up the Feel Flux and figure it out in two seconds. You drop the ball in one end; it comes out the other. If you stack up two cylinders and drop the ball in, you can keep moving the cylinder on top to the bottom so that the magnetic field keeps the ball from hitting the ground. This can be a zen-like exercise, good for clearing your head, while getting a teeny tiny bit of exercise in the process.
Beyond the simple little tricks, the sky's the limit. Some Feel Flux videos show skilled juggler-types bouncing the pinball-like sphere off of other objects and effectively catching it with a magnetic field. As such, it's almost like Magneto's version of devil sticks. (Remember devil sticks?) Given the magical floating ball effect, you have to wonder what a magician would be able to do with something like this, too.
The Feel Flux is a very nicely designed toy that appeals to kids and adults alike. It's both a good party trick and a relaxing solo activity. If you're like me and have always wanted to learn to juggle, the Feel Flux is a satisfying in between, despite the fact that you only have one ball in the air. Even the ball itself is fun, because its incredibly powerful magnet will actually seek out nails beneath your floorboards. Keep it away from your hard drive, though...
Where this thing gets really exciting is when you start to get creative. How far does your dexterity stretch? How long can you keep the ball afloat? And what kinds of crazy things can you do in the background while gravity's suspended? Again, the number of tricks you pull off is limited only by your imagination. If you're like me, though, you'll get a kick out of keeping things simple. The zen of neodymium balls, or something like that.
A lot of people will think this is a one-trick pony. You drop the ball in the cylinder, it slows down, and then it falls out the other end. Sure, there's some cool science going on, and it's trippy to see a heavy metal ball appear to float in the air. But doesn't it get boring after a while?
The other thing to keep in mind is the simple fact that you're dealing with a slightly heavy, very magnetic metal ball. You will drop it on your foot, and it will hurt. If you're playing with the Feel Flux on a hard wood floor, it will make noise when it falls, and it will leave marks. If you lose the ball, well, the cylinders aren't much fun without it.
Should You Buy It?
Magic doesn't come cheap. Because of the materials used to make it are themselves expensive, the Feel Flux is a pretty pricey novelty. The Feel Flux comes in three models -- FLUX Original, Skill FLUX, FLUX Black, and Fluxury -- each of which is more expensive than the last. Through IndieGoGo, you can get one copper FLUX Original cylinder and one neodymium ball for $US50, although not many of those deals are left. We tested out the Skill FLUX with two cylinders and one neodymium ball, which goes for $US70. A solid silver Fluxury set will set you back an eye-popping $US1500.
It's also worth remembering the story of Buckyballs, the rare-Earth magnet-powered toy that the government banned a couple of years ago. While the issue with Buckyballs concerned more than so-called Zen Magnet, the government's war on toy magnets is a thing. So you might just want to get your Feel Flux while you can.
You should buy it, if you like it. That hardly seems like sage advice, but the Feel Flux is a simple toy that either impresses you or leaves you to wonder who really cares. For most people, it probably won't provide endless hours of fun. If you can spare the money, it does make a good conversation piece, even if you're not trying to become a 21st-century juggler.