In the early 90s, when they first became popular, we called them awesome. In 2012, when they’re back, we call them Photoshopped. At least that’s the response for a lot of people when they see a picture of this amazing Balancing Bird: it must be Photoshopped.
It’s most definitely not, as any of us who rocked the 90s can tell you. It is, however, still awesome.
The Balancing Bird is a little plastic bird that comes with a pointed base. Incredibly, when you place its beak on the tip of the base, the bird balances; body, tail, outstretched wings and all. You can balance it from the tip of your finger, too (even the tip of your nose!), for a quick and easy magic trick. It looks impossible.
Its secret, in a word, is weights. There are weights in the tips of the wings. Look closely, and you’ll see that the wing tips extend past the point of the bird’s beak, so they balance out all the rest of the body behind them. It’s all about the center of gravity, and this bird’s center of gravity is not in its body, as you’d think, but in its wing tips.
|Balancing Bird will balance on the tip of your finger!||Here you can see one of the weights located in its wing tip.|
So where has this bird been for the past couple decades? Not so easy to find, actually. Like a lot of fads, it faded away for awhile, relegated to retro toy stores, attic boxes and "oh yeah, I had one of those" moments.
Of course, a few of these are still around from their heyday, mostly in science classrooms. Balancing Birds are educational toys as well as interesting ones, because of what they teach about the properties of physics. (There’s even a way to build a replica, using a toothpick, cork and 2 forks that is equally impressive; find it here.)
But now that 90s hipsters have grown up to be 21st-century entrepreneurs, some of the nostalgic ones have re-introduced these marvels of physics. They’re not so hard to find anymore: a simple search on "Balancing Bird" will yield about 11,000,000 results (no, really, it will). These wonderments only cost around 3 bucks.
What seemed almost space-age in the 90s, due to its molded plastic magic, is decidedly simple and old-fashioned today: the kind of non-electronic toys parents complain there aren’t enough of anymore. For kids growing up in the twenty-teens, the Balancing Bird offers colorful, inexpensive proof that some things are just inherently awesome, no Photoshop required.