Tag Archives: Science

Shiny gold New Horizons probe by Stefan Schindler

The NASA New Horizons mission to Pluto feels like the most exciting space story since the Mars Curiosity rover landed on Mars nearly three years ago. It’s no surprise, then, that we’re seeing plenty of great LEGO models inspired by this historic achievement.

Like many spacecraft, New Horizons is covered in gold foil for insulation. A couple weeks ago, Iain built his New Horizons probe using yellow bricks, since finding the parts to build an all-gold probe is quite challenging. Stefan Schindler solved this with the help of a dash of gold paint, producing this beautiful gold New Horizons probe.

New Horizons

While some of our readers may balk at Stefan’s solution, picky builders looking for some “NPU” should focus instead on Stefan’s solution for the GPHS-RTG (the plutonium generator) built from tank treads.

It’s a Plutopalooza!

It really doesn’t feel like 9+ years since NASA launched the New Horizons probe on a mission to explore the dwarf planet Pluto and its system of moons. But now the craft’s closest approach is finally less than a week away, and NASA wants you to celebrate the occasion by throwing your very own Plutopalooza party! (Heads up: You’d better make the party last 16 months, because at 1kbps that’s how long the probe will take to transmit back all 64Gb of its data from the encounter)

Since several of my Brothers Bricks co-contributors are hopeless space junkies, I thought I’d mark the occasion by building the above LEGO model of the little probe …accompanied by targets Pluto and Charon naturally! A lot easier to do now that we finally know what color they are.

It’s an interesting milestone for me since my very first true MOC was of the Voyager 2 spacecraft, back in 1979 when it passed Jupiter. Armed with a clothes line, white bed sheet, length of string and basic film camera, I had no idea that the resulting images would be…. hopelessly out of focus! T_T

Chemistry Tools

When I first spotted this, I did not realize it was a render. I am a big fan of scientific builds, and this is definitely up my alley. I particularly love the molecule model. The scale is fantastic. The periodic table is instantly recognizable.

Matt Bace is definitely knocking out some amazing things, like the power strip we featured last week. I definitely recommend poking around a bit in his flickr steam.

Chemistry Teacher's Desk

LEGO, Quantum Mechanics, and Defining the Kilogram

As Adult Fans of LEGO, we know that our hobby with LEGO bricks has some amazing applications, and we see how the creativity flourishes. I think it’s amazing when LEGO finds some very practical uses in real-world places that help not just creativity, but further science and innovation.

Five researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards (NIST) have used LEGO to create a LEGO Watt Balance. The Watt balances at NIST as well as other facilities are being used to help push the “measurement precision to within a few parts per hundred million,” which will hopefully achieve a redefined kilogram by 2018. This is important because as of right now, the kilogram is the only fundamental unit of the International System of Units that’s defined by a physical object, not a universal constant.

Leon S. Chao, Stephan Schlamminger, DB. Newell, J.R. Pratt and Xiang Zhang have recently submitted their paper on their LEGO Watt Balance to the American Journal of Physics. Their creation is helping bring quantum mechanics into the classroom, and will hopefully inspire a new generation.

Particle Accelerator in LEGO

While this rendition isn’t going to get the same results as a real particle accelerator, I invite you to take a look at this fantastic LEGO version from Jason(JK Brickworks).

Particle Accelerator (Large Brick Collider)

This “working” accelerator does in fact send a LEGO soccer ball around the track at 440 studs per second, or approximately 12.5 km/hr. Jason outlines some of the build in more detail on his blog.

I highly recommend checking out the video, too.

LEGO Ideas 21110 Research Institute [Review]

It should come as no surprise at all to long-time readers that the new LEGO Ideas Research Institute has been on my list since the day it was confirmed as a set, if not before. I’m all for more gender-equality in my minifig world, and love seeing sets with female figs.

All three vignettes

I picked up this set as well as the 21109 Exo Suit while I was on vacation, and admittedly I’ve been waiting to get a chance to break in and build it. Great way to spend the first day back from vacation, I wager.

So let’s get on with the review.

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Rosetta comet encounter recreated in LEGO

After over 10 years in flight, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe today arrived at it’s target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. And builder Stefan Schindler decided to commemorate the event by recreating it in LEGO! Not only did he do a splendid job on the probe, he even managed to capture the bizarre shape of the comet as well.

Stefan has entered his creation in the ESA’s official #RosettaAreWeThereYet photo contest. So LEGO fans should head over there and VOTE FOR IT NOW! (Entries are piling up so you may have to search for it on the second or third page).

LEGO Makes You Smarter

I think we can all agree that LEGO helps nourish the mind in various ways. We know it helps with spacial awareness, eye-hand coordination, creativity, and problem-solving.

ROOK gives us some of the tools needed for some very important mathematical and scientific skills, helpfully constructed in brick:

Math & Science

I have to say, I’m really fond of the protractor. The compass is pretty nifty. If you find yourself more comfortable in a lab coat, he’s got some rather clever test-tubes full of who-knows-what waiting for you.

No evidence children harmed by greater variety in LEGO minifig facial expressions

Mr. HydeWe’ve been studiously ignoring the rather ridiculous press coverage of a study published last month in the Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction. The study itself is simply a numerical analysis of minifig facial expressions from 1975 to 2010, concluding that facial expressions perceived by adults as “happy” have decreased over time in favor of “angry” faces and other emotions. It’s actually a rather interesting study, if you bother to read it.

But the media frenzy surrounding the study has been silly at best and consistently inaccurate — not necessarily about the trend toward more variety in minifig facial expressions but about the substance and conclusions of the study. One of the more moronic trends among the articles — or at least their headlines, which many people probably don’t read past — is claiming that the study says that the greater diversity in minifigure facial expressions is somehow harmful to children.

Conan O’Brian did a bit last night that is representative of the misunderstanding many people have about the issue. While Conan and his writers put the material to good comedic use, it reminded me that we might still want to post something about the study and the press coverage surrounding it. The story just doesn’t want to die!

Thankfully, not all the coverage is as idiotic as what you’ve probably seen on your local news. Scientific American editorial intern Arielle Duhaime-Ross has written an excellent blog post about the study and its media coverage, with insights into why people have been so attracted to the story.

She quotes one of the New Zealand researches as saying, “Our little LEGO study was never intended to give scientific evidence of the minifigures’ harmful effects — it cannot even give a hint.” Christoph Bartneck continues, “The media fights for our attention and one mechanism they use is to invoke fear.”

It’s this fear-mongering that I find so distasteful (and consistent with the controversy surrounding LEGO Friends). I’m no defender of the LEGO brand or corporation, nor do I always agree with the decisions they make — I’ve been advocating for more ethnic and gender diversity in minifigs for years, in fact — but I do take issue with bad journalism.

Head on over to ScientificAmerican.com to read Arielle’s post, and let us know what you think yourself in the comments.

LEGO Microscope by Carl Merriam

LEGO certainly has some small elements, and Carl Merriam has really taken that idea to the next level with this fabulous microscope. I’m impressed with the build, and the presentation, and that’s what originally caught my eye. Then I read the description:

“A little more tinkering and I connected the focus to a magnifying glass and fiber optic light in the eyepiece, so adjusting the focus knobs would actually bring the writing on a LEGO stud in and out of focus.”

So in additon to be a beautifully presented, excellent build, it actually works.

Bravo, Carl. Bravo.