Memetic Alert: Color-changing Whatchamacallit!
Now that I think of it, I’d seen similar contraptions before but this one is particularly elegant and interesting: you throw it in the air and it changes color! Pure witchcraft. And the forms — the forms! — are beautiful in that uniquely arresting way that only mathematics can give. It’s our generation’s geodesic dome WP.
I remember one high school philosophy class where our fantastic teacher (James Kurtz) had nothing prepared but a smooth, solid piece of metal he had found inside his car engine. The assignment for the one-hour class was to write an essay on what we could infer from the alien civilization that created the artifact if we suddenly found it on its own on a faraway planet, with no cues whatsoever of its purpose. It was jolly good fun with a pretty nondescript ferrous blob, so I wonder what I’d have said had he brought this color-changing whatchamacallit.
To begin with, I guess it’s fair to assume such civilization had to know its math pat. Perhaps several alien PhDs went into the theory of this ball and its theoretical inspiration even carries the name of some great alien topologist WP, à la Poincaré sphere WP. I’d be willing to bet that they have computers, there’s no way they could have built this without CAD WP. And the material itself, plastic, and the way it’s shaped, is nothing trivial — it shows some deep knowledge of chemistry, materials science WP, and manufacturing techniques.
And had I known that the whole thing was available for the alien equivalent of one dollar in the alien equivalent of a flea-market, and that it had no application than to be amusing, well, I’d have gasped!
At any rate, don’t (don’t!) let my babbling discourage you, go buy one!