Even though my primary fascination with the past has always been through archaeology, the science of paleontology has also provided a wonderful source of inspiration about the amazing world we live in. Officially unveiled today, the latest LEGO Ideas set is 21320 Dinosaur Fossils, so I was especially excited to get building with an early copy of the set that LEGO sent The Brothers Brick. The new set includes 910 pieces with two minifigures and will go on sale November 1st (US $59.99 | CAN $79.99 | UK £54.99).
Editor’s note: This LEGO Ideas set identifies and labels the individual species of each extinct creature included in the set, so you’ll find that we refer to them using binomial nomenclature, with scientific names in italics and abbreviations like T. rex for Tyrannosaurus rex rather than “T-Rex”. If you think Andrew gets pedantic about Star Wars lore, just wait until he digs into a scientifically inspired LEGO set like this!
Read our hands-on review of LEGO Ideas 21320 Dinosaur Fossils
Today we’re pleased to welcome Caleb Watson as a guest contributor to give a special introduction to his latest creation. We’ve featured some of his amazing models in the past such as the iconic ‘I am your Father’ Scene and the opening temple from Raiders of the Lost Ark. His newest model is starkly different from his past works being a chromosomal model designed for a project in his 11th-grade genetics class. He worked on this several-thousand-piece model for about two months and he explains his processes for designing it along with the scientific background behind the project.
The Building of an NF1 Chromosomal Model
By Caleb Watson
It’s no surprise that school is one of the biggest factors in my life that dictates how much time I’m able to build my LEGO models (along with friends, family, and running). As a result of this, I’m always looking for opportunities to integrate LEGO into what I need to do for school, which is how I came to build this model.
Right now, I’m wrapping up my junior year at Ballard High School in Seattle, and along with that, the final year of the three-year Biotechnology career pathway, a set of STEM-focused classes organized in a small cohort that takes biology, chemistry, and genetics. The first-semester project for genetics this year was to write a 9-page research paper covering everything about a genetic disease. I selected the disease Neurofibromatosis because it is quite common yet not well known, and has many interesting and unique attributes. For the second semester and capstone project of the Biotechnology Career Academy, we had to use the information we’d learned in our research papers to create a science project for the Student BioExpo at Shoreline Community College. Seeing the opportunity, I chose molecular modeling with the intent of building a LEGO model for my project. Continue reading
Unless you have been living under a black hole, you have probably seen the historical picture of the supermassive black hole in the center of the M87 galaxy. Chilean builder Luis Peña was inspired by the results of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration to build this new icon of science and the ALMA observatory, located in his home country. Luis loves science, and we have previously featured another historical event in science built by him, the Apollo/Soyuz meeting.
The mosaic on the left displays the famous black hole radiowave picture, where the resolution of a 16×16 mosaic actually gives an accuracy almost comparable to the original. Speaking of accurate to the original, the dish of the radio antenna (one of 66 antennas in the observatory) is strikingly clean and parabolic, for the perfect focusing of captured light into the detector. The dish is stabilized by a white rigid hose, making a robust and accurate recreation.
It’s still the largest single-storey building ever constructed, so what better tribute could there be to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building than a teeny-tiny microscale LEGO version? The level of detail packed into Ryan Olsen‘s small model is impressive — the grille bricks providing texture on the sides, the machinery on the roof, and the massive shutter doors. Don’t miss the Saturn V rocket on its way to the launch-pad atop the crawler-transporter, or the perfect shaping of the Launch Control Centre with its sloped windows, jutting at an angle away from the main structure. The only thing I’d challenge on this model is using 1×1 plates for cars — unfortunately they don’t quite fit the scale. The rest of it is bang-on though, making me want to head back to Florida and get a refresher boost to my space-geekery.
Fifteen years of unprecedented discovery came to an official end last week when NASA bid a final and touching farewell to its Opportunity rover. The announcement was marked by profound, even personal, loss for those who followed the rover’s journey across the Martian landscape. Outpourings of sorrow for the fallen explorer prevailed as at any funeral. I’ve seen few remembrances, however, as expressive or poignant as one shared in LEGO form by Stefan Schindler.
With her mission over, Opportunity appears to be guided by Curiosity, who alone remains to carry on the mission. Awaiting Opportunity is her departed twin, Spirit, and Sojourner, the first to land and travel on the red planet. There is a subtle, almost heartbreaking glance between Opportunity and Spirit. As if a few more discoveries would have made her inevitable end a little easier. It’s a small but incredibly eloquent scene, both honoring the history of the Mars program while conveying its current hope.
Since it’s first flight in 1966, the Russian Soyuz rocket system has become the world’s most frequently used launch vehicle. With over 1,700 flights in 50 years, this Russian stalwart has hauled cosmonauts, satellites, and cargo aloft, with its relatively simple design creating an enviable reliability record. However, this LEGO version of the latest Fregat version of the Soyuz is anything but simple — Jussi Koskinen has pulled out all the stops to capture every last feature of the spacecraft’s detailing. The scale of the effort involved is impressive — the model took 18 months to put together, and measures over 1.25m.
The overall structure of this massive model is excellent, and the shaping and angles on the lower boosters are particularly good. The smaller details are worth a look too — don’t miss the texturing around the base of the boosters, the scaffold-style connection between stages, and the nice integration of the Russian flag into the upper stage’s colour scheme. This formidable model wouldn’t look out of place on display beside the LEGO Ideas Saturn 5 set, and that’s high praise indeed.
By the time the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars with its splashy “Sky Crane” in 2012, the unassuming Opportunity rover had already been trundling across our neighboring planet’s surface for 8 years. But on February 13, NASA declared its 15-year mission over, having received the last transmission from the rover ahead of a major dust storm on June 10, 2018. To commemorate the end of the mission for what is arguably one of humankind’s greatest achievements, here’s my LEGO Opportunity that I built back in 2012.
We’re going far away from civilization into the cold reaches of space with this LEGO ship by Chris Perron. But it’s not for fame or glory — no, this ship has a more noble goal: to research! Even Chris admits he’s not quite sure what it’s researching, but one thing is clear: it looks awesome outfitted with highly scientific doodads and whatsits. And there are lots of interesting techniques, from the mix of struts holding up the large side-mounted instruments to the cheese slopes crammed into the front of the ship’s long probe.
The one thing that worries me, though, is that the ship doesn’t look big enough for an airlock, which might be bad news for the astroscientist doing an EVA.
First proposed by the American physicist Gerard O’Neill in the 70s, an O’Neill Cylinder is a large tube, pressurised with an atmosphere, and spinning to create artificial gravity. The hull features alternating strips of “land” and transparent windows, allowing sunlight to be reflected inside from large mirrors. The cylinder has become an iconic design, familiar from a raft of TV, movie, and videogame depictions of mankind’s future. Ralf Langer has built a beautiful LEGO version of an O’Neill-based space colony, using microscale to ensure his space settlement features fields and trees, flowing rivers, and towering cities. The rings supporting the curved land panels have technical-looking greebles, and the entire creation looks much bigger than it really is. This is epic LEGO sci-fi, depicting a future I’d love to see.
Great museums like the American Museum of Natural History in New York City include educational displays that span the entire history of life on earth, from samples of banded iron (chemical evidence of early lifeforms such as stromatolites) to dioramas of creatures from the Cambrian half a billion years ago to the Holocene today. But you don’t have to travel to a museum in a far-off city to see great tableaus that illustrate early life on our planet — just check out this colorful scene built in LEGO by Luis Peña. Luis’s scene features an ammonite and sea jelly bobbing along in the warm current above a trilobite scrabbling along the ocean floor. Luis has included pearl-gold pieces in the ammonite’s shell, capturing the pearlescent look of the extinct creature’s nacre.
Brothers Brick regular Alanboar explores the link between LEGO art and science in his latest Butterfly Mimicry creation; his exquisite case of mounted butterfly specimens being made in honour of pioneering naturalist Henry Walter Bates. The concept of Batesian mimicry argues that harmless species, such as these butterflies, evolve the markings of poisonous animals avoided by predators.
Tracing the subtle differences in pattern across these beautiful LEGO butterflies, each created from a limited set of elements, reminds me of our understanding of the malleability of genetic code and the way Bates’ work foreshadowed these discoveries.
Many people see LEGO building as art, me very much included, but there are examples of creations which take this a step further and fully embrace their artistic potential. Often depending on composition and built for one perfect picture, builds like this symbolic image of the beginning of a new life inspire many builders to keep improving and create stunning art from what is, in essence, a toy. Sad Brick has generated a great deal of interest with his latest creation and it would not be surprising seeing it serve as inspiration for the next generation of LEGO fans.
The build itself is very simple, as there are no more than three bricks connected into any of the elements here, but simplicity is sometimes exactly what we need to portray a message. Of course, this is not a simple image of a microscopic view of conception, because all the cells are replaced with different shapes of eggs. This adds a layer of ambiguity to the picture, and since the builder does not provide a description, only you can decide what the symbolism means!