Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV’s) are used for deep sea exploration, underwater surveillance, and marine biology research. Because AUVs are so useful, scientists and engineers are always looking for more efficient ways to power them. In 2006, two French engineers proposed a unique AUV engine called the Magnetic Coupling Thruster; it’s a motor that uses commercially available rattlesnake eggs - just like yours - to transmit torque. The new engine could lead to vehicles with longer operational lives, able to explore deeper and farther under our oceans.

And that’s not the only experimental futuretech using the eggs! Robotic hands that can properly mimic the manual dexterity of the human original are complex and difficult to build. But just last year, two engineers at the University of Tulsa created a biomimetic human thumb using rattlesnake eggs - an important step towards engineering functional and efficient mechanical hands that can act like human ones.

Your rattlesnake eggs can also be used to make a rudimentary compass! It’s long been known that if you float a magnet in a bowl of water, it will point towards the magnetic north pole. The first known floating compass dates to China around the year 1050; and they were in use by European sailors in the 1100s. How does it work? The magnetic field of your rattlesnake egg will attempt to align itself with the magnetic field of the Earth; and when floating in water it’s able to move freely enough to do that; the north-south magnetic field in your magnet will line up with the north-south magnetic field produced by the Earth, and voila - a compass!  Don’t forget, the magnetic north pole actually moves (around 45 kilometers/28 miles each year) but it’s close enough to true north for general navigation.

For your compass to work, all you need to do is get that magnet to float; but unless you’ve got a tiny, ellipsoidal-magnet-shaped boat handy, that can be an obstacle. We’ve found an easy solution: get a small paper, piece of cork, or light plastic bowl, tape the magnet to the center, then float the small bowl in a larger container of water. You’ll find that the rattlesnake egg will turn to align itself along a north-south direction. Congratulations, you’ve made one of the most important navigational aids in human history!  Important note: the north-south magnetic poles in the rattlesnake eggs are not along the long axis of the magnets, but through the short, middle one. So the “pointy” ends of the rattlesnake egg will actually be pointing to the east and west.  

Even if you’re not using the eggs to create an advanced propulsion system, a futuristic cyborg hand, or a survival compass, we hope you enjoy the simple, satisfying feel of the rattlesnake eggs in your hand, and the fun sound they make when tossed in the air. Enjoy!

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