Sophie got a set of Buckyballs for her birthday. She had seen them on-line and fallen in love with them. I didn’t understand what she saw in them. They’re just a bunch of rare earth magnets, 216 of them to be precise. They look like small ball bearings, but each one has a magnetic north and a south pole.
I’m a convert now. They’re addictive. They’re lovely to handle and they’re pretty. A string three balls wide makes a lovely choker. They’ll align themselves in particular shapes happily. A random amoeba of buckyballs will peel away from itself in a lovely string of metal pearls. They don’t like to lie in two-dimensional arrays unless they’re coaxed, but once coaxed they achieve a tenuous stability.
The magnets are strong: strong enough to function as jewelry, strong enough to scare each other off when like poles approach, strong enough to feel like they have a life of their own.
Sophie is quickly mastering the various techniques: using chains of 18 to make hex units by wrapping a dozen around a circle of six, pinching 9-ball circles to create reluctant but stable triangles, turning curved shapes inside-out if they don’t want to connect with complementary shapes to reverse the poles, doing all that nifty coaxing to form flat perfectly aligned rectangles and squares.
I think these will continue to be enjoyed over the long term. They’re cute. They have personality. They have tactile appeal. They’re unpredictable, but less so as you get to know them.