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Toys & Play

Red and Green Top


Spirals such as those seen on this top’s stem and body are a popular decoration for tops around the world, and for good reason. When a top is at rest, a spiral seems to imply the motion it is capable of. Moreover, when a top is put in motion, a spiral does not blur into a field of pure color as many patterns would, but instead remains visible to the human eye as a series of stripes. Essentially, a spiral presents a lesson in optics, only one of the many physical properties that tops put on display. In fact, the Eames film Tops was regarded by some as an elegant lesson in physics. According to film critic Paul Schrader, “All the complexity and variation of tops have resolved into the basic form of two planes, one suspended by the balanced forces of gravity and gyroscopic momentum.” And although a viewer may not have been able to name these forces after seeing the short film, they would have likely gained a better intuitive understanding of them, and this was precisely the kind of experiential learning that the Eameses valued most.

  • Medium:Wood, paint
  • Dimensions:1 3/4 x 2 in. (4.4 x 5.1 cm)
  • Item:T.2019.2.246.20