So let's say that you actually do like to tinker with electronics — if you're looking for a place to start, Minty Geek ($40) is as good as any. Taking its inspiration from the venerable Altoids tin, this pint-sized electronics lab includes a tray insert, linking wires, a 9V battery connector, a light-dependent resistor, a variable resistor, a breadboard, a capacitor, a relay, a switch, a speaker, and various transistors, resistors, and LEDs. Also offered is the Astronomer's Torch Kit ($30), shown above.
It's always fun to see the crazy things our geeky brethren are able to create with some sensors and a Wi-Fi connection, but unless you've got plenty of time and a penchant for coding, odds are those projects are out of reach. That's where Twine ($100 and up) comes in. Twine is a wi-fi- and sensor-laden gadget that hooks up with a web service to monitor whatever you want in real-time, updating a dedicated Twitter account when necessary. Sensors residing inside the 2.5-inch, soap-like square include a thermometer and accelerometer, and you can add external sensors with ease. Just don't forget to follow your own Twine, lest your warnings of a freezing house go unnoticed.
[Scouted by Taylor]