In the process of preparing a lecture on my adventures with oscillations and waves, I considered a wide range of wave machines dating back to the middle of the 19th century, and came to the conclusion that if you can only have one wave machine, you ought to have a Slinky.

For my 10th birthday in 1947 I was given a Slinky. At the time it was best known for its ability to descend a flight of stairs, one at a time. It was invented by a naval engineer named Richard James in 1943, and when it was introduced at Christmas time in 1945, the inventory sold out in 90 minutes. Only when I began to teach physics at Kenyon did I realize that it was the ultimate wave machine. Early in my career I acquired one about seven inches long. When laid on a smooth floor and stretched out...

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