Last week, we asked you to name the gadgets you love to aimlessly diddle around with—the tools and toys you can just pick up and play with for hours. Here are some of your very favorites. Warning: it's about to get real nerdy in here.
The original question was inspired by my new infrared thermometer, a laser gun that measures the surface temperature of whatever you point it at. I bought it for a product review, and when the work was done I ended up just plain foolin' with it. It's the perfect time-waster.
I asked you to share your favorite time-wasting tools and tech, and you answered. Here are the top nine devices you grab when you just wanna fidget.
Turns out I'm not so crazy! A whole bunch of you love your infrared temp guns, whether it's for making pizza at home, tormenting your cat, pointing at the sky (or the dang sun), checking your neighbor's fever from across the street, or just, y'know, fooling around. Of course, mwhite66 just had to point out the technical limitations of these miracle gizmos, while Wraithen thought of perhaps the ultimate temp-taking trick of all.
Probably half the fun of an infrared thermometer is the laser aimer. Why not cut out the middleman? A whole bunch of you just like playing with plain ol' laser pointers. Doesn't matter what you're pointing them at, though hopefully you're all not pointing them at aircraft. No, seriouslyy. But commenter "Dr. Nemmo and his time-travelling submarine" found the best semi-productive use for a (seriously powerful) laser pointer: burning screw hole markings into the lumber for a home improvement project. Foolin' around, with precision.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of you mentioned your smartphone is your major device of distraction. Of course: it's the thing you spend all day furtively thumb-typing on under your desk. But you're probably at least communicating with people on your current device. Old smartphones, on the other hand, are great for the sort of pointless fiddling we're talking about here. With no mobile connection, and no worries about hobbling your communications should you seriously screw things up, messing around with an old smartphone can be a great timesink.
Drones can be useful. They can even make beautiful, dramatic art. Or, you can just use them to mess around. Creatively-named commenter Asscramp's gimbal-and-GoPro-equipped drone provides endless amusement, while "Denver is too damn high" could probably fly (nearly) endlessly with six batteries—just gotta figure out that midair battery swap. Those two have a friend in noted drone (and hashtag) enthusiast Martha Stewart. Y'all should fly by her farm sometime (DON'T DO THAT).
Buckyballs were great for visualizing the amazing powers of magnets. Unfortunately, they were also hellaciously dangerous: some young kids suffered severe and tragic injuries after swallowing the mini magnets. They've been banned from the market after a long and nasty legal wrangle, but commenter ImmaLion likes to live dangerously.
- Commenter sandworm scratch-built a 3D printer used solely for making useless trinkets.
- Trent built a battlebot named Rex that can haul 600 lbs. He rides it around like a remote-controlled soapbox. Here's a video of his creation and how he built it.
- And finally, commenter Zott blew us all away with a Soviet-era hand-me-down geiger counter. Great for finding tiny sources of radioactivity in smoke detectors and old radium glow-in-the-dark pocket watches. Zott was even kind enough to show us a picture: