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Treat your sweetheart to a Valentine's Day gift with a techie vibe
Ready to shop for a Valentine’s Day gift for your geek-minded sweetheart? We’ve found 25 gifts inspired by tech, science and math. From the chemistry of caffeine to the artistry of Pi, we’ve got you covered.
Coffee and chemistry
You can feel the polygonal structure of caffeine molecules in this glossy, sculptural mug. Why? “Because you can never have too much C8H10N4O2,” says designer Joaquin Baldwin of his ceramic Caffeine Molecule Coffee Mug ($69).
Lego iPad case
Perfect for Lego fans, the BrickCase by SmallWorks ($39.99) is a snap-on hard case for the iPad mini. It has a studded surface so you can build a personal creation for your Valentine. A microfiber lining protects the device’s screen.
It takes 33 tetrahedral shapes to create the Tetra Kinematics 33b bracelet ($45). The triangular pieces are hinged to create a flexible structure; the hinges are built in during the 3D printing process, according to design shop Nervous System. Founders Jessica Rosenkrantz (who holds degrees in biology and architecture from MIT and Harvard Graduate School of Design) and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg (who majored in mathematics at MIT) say “a study of natural phenomena is an essential ingredient to our design process.” Check out their web site for more stunning jewelry and housewares.
High-tech cooking app
Intrigued by the math, science and physics of cooking? If the six-volume, $446 "Modernist Cuisine" set is too much cookbook, check out another option from techie author Nathan Myhrvold, who was Microsoft's first CTO. “Modernist Cuisine at Home” is geared for home cooks, and it’s available in hardcover ($106.55) and app form (the ebook is $79.99; individual chapters are $4.99). Want to learn how to sear steak with a blowtorch? The interactive ebook has a video
High-tech meets low-tech
No charge left in your iPhone but you need to do some quick math? No problem, if you’ve got the Abacus iPhone case ($24). It has a functioning abacus, with beads shaped like tiny apples, built into the flexible plastic form. The designer is Joaquin Baldwin, who has a shop of 3D-printed gadgets and sculptures on Shapeways.
LaCie takes industrial design seriously, and the Sphere backup drive ($490) is its latest head-turning creation. Designed by Christofle, it’s handcrafted and silvered in France. Best of all, there are no extra power cords to dull the experience (Sphère is powered through a USB cable).
Brooklyn-based designer Alison Cutlan created the Mesh Bead Bracelet available from MoMA Store ($80). It’s made with hand-painted, flexible mesh tubing that’s filled with layers of tiny glass beads, creating a pixilated effect.
For green-thumbed Valentines, the Smart Herb Garden ($99) from Click & Grow is engineered to supply plant roots with just the right amount of oxygen, water and nutrients. Sensors measure the conditions. All you have to do is add water and plug it in.
Give your Valentine an old-school status update with the hashtag chalkboard from Etsy shop Grace Graffiti ($28). Each piece is handmade to order, and you can choose your colors.
Shopping for both Valentine’s Day and Darwin Day? (Feb. 12 is the birthday of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin). Darwin's Silver Cladogram Tree ($80), rendered in sterling silver, covers both occasions. It’s another creation from designer Joaquin Baldwin, who was inspired by one of Darwin's sketches.
Tunes without wires
Turn up the volume with a portable Bluetooth speaker from Beacon Audio. Packed into a 3-inch cube, the Phoenix 2 ($79.99) has two speakers, 10-hour battery life, and a microphone for placing and receiving calls.
Buy a Little Sun lamp ($30) for someone special, and you’ll be supporting the company’s efforts to distribute Little Sun lights to off-grid areas. The tiny solar-powered lamps provide lots of light: 5 hours of charging in the sun produces 10 hours of soft light or 4 hours of bright light.
Tap into your Valentine’s love of Pi with a pencil holder from cinemo, a design shop that works with 3D printing company Shapeways. The first 546 digits of Pi are arranged along a spiral path to create the Pi Pencil Pot, which is made from flexible plastic in a range of colors (prices start at $44.31).
Bring some chemistry into the kitchen with a cutting board engraved with the periodic table (prices start at $55). You can select the type of wood, and each board is made to order by design shop Elysium Woodworks.
Design in motion
A sculptor and a mathematics professor teamed up to create 3D printed mobiles, including Mobile 4.2 ($212). The collaborators are sculptor Marco Mahler, who specializes in mobiles, and Henry Segerman, an assistant professor in the department of mathematics at Oklahoma State University. The two met via Twitter and wound up launching a shop on Shapeways, where their designs are printed and available for purchase.
Tech-friendly mood lighting
Give your Valentine’s eyes a rest with the easy, diffuse glow of a Light Drop lamp. Created by Berlin-based design firm e27 and manufactured by pulpo, the Light Drop gives off a subtle glow that’s intended to complement devices -- PC, tablets, smartphones -- that already have their own light source. It has a perforated metal top over a hand-blown glass base. A variety of sizes and color combinations are available, including a small copper model with turquoise glass ($515).
If sugar-coated sentiments aren’t your thing, check out the I Love You Plate ($22) designed by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. The duo chose a knife, a bloody heart, and a horseshoe to make their point. There’s also a matching enameled metal I Love You mug ($20).
Jewelry for map-lovers
Inspired by topographical map lines, the Geographics Necklace ($125) is made from leather and metal-tipped foam cording. It’s designed by Melissa Zook and handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY.
Light switch? How old school. With the Philips’ Hue BR30 downlight lamps, you can use your smartphone or tablet to tune, dim, and control the lighting. The starter pack ($199.95) includes three Philips Hue BR30 light bulbs; one Hue bridge with a power supply; and a LAN cable to connect the Hue bridge to your router.
Piece together your Valentine’s love of puzzles and caffeine with Fellina Sok-Cham’s Espresso Set ($70). Manufactured by Lexon, the set includes a bamboo tray with six inset bamboo saucers, six porcelain cups, and six stainless-steel spoons that rest across each rim.
Set the mood without striking a match. Flameless candles from Candle Impressions are convincing. They’re made from real wax and powered by AA batteries. (Prices vary; a five-inch pillar is approximately $25).
Create a window to your heart with Adam Frank’s Reveal ($280). The projection system lets you mimic the look of sunlight streaming through a window and onto an interior wall. Reveal comes with one window and one tree slide installed, plus a collection of different window and tree designs. You can create 25 combinations using the library of windows and trees.
Dress up your Valentine’s keyboard with a pink-hued decal ($10.39) that adds a little pep to ordinary keys. It’s available from Etsy shop Tloveskin.
Artist Joshua Harker created the Coleoptera Filigre ($180), which is made from 3D-printed plastic. He writes on this blog: “Coleoptera (beetles) include more species than any other order constituting almost 25% of all known types of animal life-form, therefore likely being the most common natural living shape ever.” Beetles may be common, but there’s nothing common about his exquisitely detailed representations.