I saw a TED Talk. You can watch it here on Youtube for your convenience.

At 07:17, he introduces a toy made with a pencil on which, a few notches are present; and on rubbing them with something, a fan attached to it rotates.(See transcript at TED if you are unable to watch it.)

And it is funny how he makes fun of LHC -

And you don't need the three billion-dollar Hadron Collider for doing this.

He mentions, it is a 100 year old toy, six major research papers, and one by little Feynman!

I tried to find any reference to the research papers. Considering that he mentions they are major, I had hopes I will find something on internet but I didn't find anything.

I have the following questions:

  1. What exactly is the toy called?
  2. Which research papers is he talking about? I mean, any reference to them? I really want to read them...
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia calls it a Gee-haw whammy-diddle $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Apr 3, 2014 at 12:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos: That is the strangest Wikipedia article title I have read in at least the past 7 weeks. Possibly second only to Wikipedia's seminal dissertation on the List of Fictional Ungulates. $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2014 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


Miller, J.S.: The notched stick. Am. J. Phys. 23/3, 176 (1955). http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1955AmJPh..23..176M

Laird, E.R.: A notched stick. Am. J. Phys. 23/7, 472 (1955). http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1955AmJPh..23..472L

Scott, G.D.: Control of the rotor on the notched stick. Am. J. Phys. 24/6, 464 (1956). http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1956AmJPh..24..464S

Scott, G.J.: A mechanical toy: The gee-haw whammy-diddle. The physics teacher 12, 614 (1982). http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1982PhTea..20..614A

H. Joachim Schlichting, Udo Backhaus "Zur Physik der Hui-Maschine" Physik und Didaktik 16/3, 238 (1988). https://video.uni-muenster.de/imperia/md/content/fachbereich_physik/didaktik_physik/publikationen/hui_maschine.pdf

Leonard, R.W.: An interesting demonstration of the combination of two linear harmonic vibrations to produce a single elliptic vibration. Am. Phys. Teacher (now: Am. J. Phys.) 5, 175 (1937). http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1937AmJPh...5..175L

Can't guarantee these are the exact six he means! The same concept is being applied or suggested for micro and nano machines. For example "The rotation of the added molecule would then resemble that of a well-known children's toy in which a propellor rotates at the end of a rubbed notched stick." A.M. Stoneham The challenges of nanostructures for theory

Bonus references:

Scarnati & Tice, "The Hooey Machine", Science Activities: Classroom Projects and Curriculum Ideas, vol. 29, Issue 2, pages 30-35 (1992) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00368121.1992.10113024?journalCode=vsca20#.U0H43xuPLmQ

J. Satonobu, S. Ueha and K. Nakamura, "A Study on the Mechanism of a Scientific Toy 'Girigiri- Garigari'," Jpn. J. Appl. Phys., 34, Part 1(5B): 2745-2751, 1995. http://iopscience.iop.org/1347-4065/34/5S/2745

Maybe the mention of Feynman is just Feynman's Ratchet

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you a lot! This is exactly what I want. I will go through them ASAP... $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2014 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ There are also many patents relating to the toy, for example one of the early ones: google.com/patents/US664382 $\endgroup$
    – DavePhD
    Apr 7, 2014 at 12:43

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