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2017 Cool Science Gift Guide

If it nerds, gift it!

At last! Our seasonal round up of online gifting opportunities that will tickle the corners of your nearest and dearest science nerd’s heart. Although there’s a plethora of tacky science stuff out there—hanging a caffeine molecule on a pendant chain is so last year, and not at all scientific IMHO—I’ve found some really truly coolly awesome items that celebrate all the wonderment of science.

Read/gift on.

Books and magazinesBOOKS AND MAGAZINES

Always a good start for Christmas morning: suitable for young and old, reading material is a great distractor between wake-up time and the Serious Gift Session a little later. Parents, you might just buy an extra hour of peace; spouses/partners/introverts in general, these could be life savers.

Does It Fart? There’s nothing better than a good dose of flatulence humour at Christmas, the season for nutritional overindulgence. Not just for preteen boys, this book answers essential wildlife facts and could make for a pretty cool road-trip game. Authors Dani Rabaiotti and Nick Caruso not only categorize species as farters and non-farters, but they also explain why gassy emissions occur.

How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity has nothing to do with science beyond a really stretched analogy with Schrödinger (!), but hey—the Internet, kitten pictures…

This just in: A zero-gravity planter is apparently a thing; thanks to Vancouver Magazine’seasonal gift guide for pointing me to this spinnable, no-best-side vegetation display unit

Online giving and that feel-good factor

The vibe for giving experiences and not cluttering up landfill is still strong this year. I’d also highly recommend the warm fuzzies that come from supporting a worthwhile cause. High on my list are those adorable giant Apopo rats that sniff out mines in countries where warring factions left a somewhat less attractive gift that keeps on giving. Donate to support banana snacks, training or the human de-miners, or have a peek at the truly cool gift shop.

If rats aren’t your thing, then snuggle up financially with the otters at the Vancouver Aquarium; these hungry little marine furballs eat a heck of a lot—keep them in kippers or pollock or whatevers through adoption. Your heart will squee!

Gain entertainment, science smarts and also give back by supporting Vancouver’s Telus World of Science. Your annual subscription means you and yours can roam the exhibition halls at will while supporting outreach for science-deprived communities in BC.

Apart from the giant rats, all these are local options; if you crank up the Google, I’m sure you can come up with similar but local-to-you endeavours for gifting without garbage.

In-Person only

Planning a Christmas break? Then why not visit the gift shop at CERN (seriously)? Large Hadron Collider goodies must be the nerdiest and geekiest sci-gift option ever, but I’m willing to debate (see comments below or tweet your suggestions to @TalkScienceToMe).

The Talk Science local has to be the Beaty Biodiversity Museum—an entire blue whale skeleton for starters and then a subterranean exhibit hall full of specimen pickle jars just ripe for sketching. The gift shop here is well stocked with natural-world gifts. It’s also home to the amazing Phylo game; you can download your cards online (no visit required).

Gifts that keep on giving

Keep the kids and their adults busy with an activity box subscription. Science-themed ones include KiwiCo and Genius Box. Sign up to keep your little science fans regularly supplied with cool science stuff.

I haven’t tried the activity boxes, but I’m a great fan of keeping the scientist well fed; subscribing to FreshPrep was an awesome decision—no more starving artist/writer in this home…starving artist/writer’s family also well nourished. For less than a meal out, we’re enjoying gourmet-to-us meals made quickly and easily from scratch using the prepped ingredients. Bonus point for FreshPrep: none of the faux science gobbledygook that goes with a lot of nutritional outfits these days; the company does source as much as possible locally and mentions the word “organic” but without claiming miracles. A good score for no greenwashing. Sign up here and score free plates (and, full disclosure, associate link = this writer will starve even less).

If you like the idea of a book subscription, why not check out Raven Reads? With the full annual plan, carefully curated reading materials and giftware from an Indigenous perspective arrives on your doorstep four times a year to stimulate thought and discussion around Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

From the scientist’s hand

Science and art go hand in hand, as we see in the work of the scientists behind Craft Geeks and Vexed Muddler. The former are scientists involved in outreach and education/communication, while the latter works with bacteria in a genome centre by day and with ceramics when she’s not. Both artists sell amazing science-inspired art from the scientist’s perspective; IMO, much more authentic than simply copying a caffeine molecule on a T-shirt or a chain.

Etsy is, however, a treasure trove for the scientifically enchanted—how about black-capped chickadees discussing quantum physics or maybe an electrophoresis gel for the wall? There’s more of Sandra Black Culliton’s work on view here; you probably won’t be surprised to find out that a. she studied clinical microbiology, and b. she uses her art to explain science to her children.


Despite my jaded opinions on popular crafting and science, creativity with science is in no way limited to scientists; SciArt shows the inspiration beyond chemical formulae in work by Glendon Mellow and Rachel Ignotofsky. Mellow offers his art on device cases, T-shirts (personal recommendation: last year’s purchase still looks awesome) and calendars. Ignotofsky has beautiful prints, pillows and T-shirts capturing elements of science such as lab equipment, the internal workings of the cell and the anatomy of tooth decay. Click on the Shop buttons on their websites to feast your eyes on work inspired by and communicating the wonder of science. You will not be disappointed.

Pinterest science cake envy

The family that bakes together, stays together? Or maybe goes out separately to eat more often. If the weather is truly atrocious, why not check out Pinterest for family activity suggestions? There are science experiments, cool crafts and tech stuff,  but my favourite thing is to check out and re-create cakes of science…Merry Christmas!

And if you’re looking for the Darth Vader toaster and the lightsaber chopsticks, try GeekWrapped.