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KosmosKosmos has an excellent chemistry set available for the American market, and all its products are of the highest German quality, including their physics, electronics and solar sets. Truly remarkable to see in America, considering Toys R Us and Walmart don't carry hobby items any more, and it's very hard to get LBG 16 gage train equipment for kids at reasonable prices in the US. The only science items I see at the mass marketers are logo type licensing or naming-rights items associated with a quasi-governmental museum that are are totally third hand — except for the Elenco line of snap circuits and the University of Cambridge line of electronics laboratory gear, which, although vanities like the Smithsonian's, do not appear as derivative. I was responsible for getting Kosmos into the US (but it cost me, it cost me) after pining for their products for my kids after seeing their beautiful sets available only in Europe in Germany. The two best toy companies I have ever seen are Galt Toys in England and Kosmos in Germany. I wish I had more time to play with all their great products myself — my children and grandchildren will provide that function.

Marion Dreyfus adds:

With reference to trains and sophisticated toys, my friend's father has an entire room of considerable dimension set aside for a smashing Lionel railroad, with scenery and fire engines and bridges and cabooses and all manner of extremely costly but exacting trains and paraphernalia he has been pretending to fire up and furnish with more and more amazing controls and bells and whistles (literally) for so-called grandchildren. But whether he has granduns or no, he is down there playing with the immaculate miniature chuggers. He of course hopes for the rationalization of grandkids, but if they don't come, n'importe… It is always a deep pleasure to be able to take the controls and send those eight-car similacra racing over hill and dale. to be invited into this sanctum is high privilege and I cherish the engraved invites I have been accorded.

Marlowe Cassetti reminisces:

I quick search found many physics and chemistry sets from Thames and Kosmos, and on Amazon they have an array of science kits from physics to microcontrollers to perfume to fuel cells. Oh, if they were available in the 1940s when I was a child! I did have a chemistry set, erector set, and microscope. My father, a physician, valued learning. And what discoveries I made as a child — it opened up a world of wonder. Then as a twelve year-old I branched off into model aviation and that changed my life forever. My father was never supportive of that hobby. He considered it play rather that anything useful, but it taught me the foundations of physics and engineering. Years later he put my NACA and NASA research reports in the trunk of his car and would show them to anyone who asked about me. I'd finally arrived.

Ken Smith extends:

Your chemical experiments brought to mind Leon Lederman, who works with particles, enjoys the things as if they were toys. All he would want for Christmas is a new particle. In one of his books he wrote:

When I was growing up in the Bronx, I used to watch my older brother playing with chemicals for hours. He was a whiz. I'd do all the chores in the house so he'd let me watch his experiments. Today he's in the novelty business. He sells things like whoopee cushions, booster license plates, and T-shirts with catchy sayings. These allow people to sum up their world view in a statement no wider than their chest. Science should have no less lofty a goal. My ambition is to live to see all of physics reduced to a formula so elegant and simple that it will fit easily on the front of a T-shirt.

Particle physics folk are looking for a formula so simple a child can play with it, like a toy perhaps. They'd like a formula that did not cover the entire blackboard.

My trading could use a formula like that. The nearest I've found is P&F squiggles!


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