The Smithsonian Plasma Ball is a mesmerizing STEM toy that illustrates how atoms – one of the basic building blocks of matter – are constantly in motion. The warmer a substance, the faster the atoms move – up to millions of miles per hour. The Smithsonian Plasma Ball features a 5-inch glass sphere, filled with gases like neon and xenon, with a high-voltage electrode in the center. Plug it in, and captivating glowing filaments illustrate how gases in the atmosphere glow when their atoms collide with energized electrons. The colors are created when gas atoms are excited by electricity and then become relaxed again. When atoms drops back down to their unexcited level, they release energy in the form of light. The color of the light depends on the type of gas. In the ball neon glows red and xenon glows blue/lavender. One of the best parts of a plasma ball is how it reacts when someone touches the surface of the glass sphere. This has to do with the flow of electrical charge generated by the high-voltage electrode. When a person’s hand touches the sphere, that makes a much more attractive place for the electricity to flow than open air. Watch your fingertips create amazing light effects, and understand how this same science is at work in nature, with phenomena such as the Northern lights. The Smithsonian plasma ball also responds to sound and music and comes packaged with STEM educational content.