This little guy is one of the coolest things I own.

It’s called a drinking bird (or sometimes a “water bird,” “dunking bird,” or “dipping bird”). You might have seen one in Alien or on The Simpsons.

Once the bird gets its beak wet, it makes that same up-and-down motion for a long, long time; this time-lapse was taken over a few hours, and it was still going when I was done shooting.

Here’s what’s cool about it: It’s a simple, visible demonstration of a dozen different scientific principles like gas laws, states of matter, and laws of motion. Someone over a hundred years ago was able to take a bunch of seemingly unrelated ideas, find links between them, and make something completely original—they knew the same things other people knew but saw something no one else did. There’s nothing I admire more than that.

Also, when people ask about it I get to pull out a lab coat and chalkboard and say, “Well, different liquids evaporate at different temperatures, and…”

By the way: there’s a secret page on this site. If you manage to find it, I’ll send you a drinking bird!