Friday, December 19, 2014


The Kepler is an orbiting observatory tasked with finding Earth-like planets near other stars. It was feared that the mission was a failure due to mechanical problems, but recently a work-around was implemented so the it could be used, and this week NASA announced the discovery of a planet 2.5 times the size of earth about 180 light years away. Mr Grey designed this LEGO version of the Kepler.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, (here in LEGO by Stefan Schindler) was a low-earth-orbit satellite operated by the European Space Agency from 2009-2013 to map out the earth's gravitational field, and also to probe the structure of the earth's mantle, with some focus on volcanic regions, and study oceanic behavior.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Particle accelerator

A particle accelerator is a large (often miles in circumference) track that accelerates charged particles to very high speeds using a series of electromagnetic fields. In a collider the fast-moving particle then slams into a target, and physicists watch how it falls apart to learn more about the fundamental nature of subatomic particles. Jason Alleman built this one out of LEGO; be sure to watch the video to see it in action.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Planck's Constant

Planck's constant is one of the fundamental constants of the universe. E=hν is an equation relating the energy of light (E) to the frequency of light (ν), where h is Planck's constant. You can measure this constant in a number of ways, including the use of a watt balance. A watt balance measures the difference between the gravitational pull on an object and the the force pulling on that object by a magnetic field produced by an electromagnet. Since the calculation of the force of the electromagnet includes Planck's constant, the data can be deconvoluted to solve for h. Leon Chao and colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have designed a LEGO watt balance. BTW, for the last 139 years the kilogram has been officially defined by a chunk of metal stored in a vault in France. At recent meetings of the International Committee for Weights and Measures (sounds like a fun group) they have discussed changing the official definition of the kilogram to one based on Planck's constant by the use of a watt balance.
Fun new fact for me - metrology is the science of measurement. I didn't know that one until reading up on the use of the watt balance.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Northern lights

Hi all,
First up, I just wanted to apologize for my six month hiatus. I've been blogging about LEGO for nine years now, and from time to time I've just gotten a bit run down and distracted from my family of blogs. However, in the meantime, I'm constantly going through Flickr, Brickshelf, and other sites, and probably every day I bookmark a few more things that I keep meaning to post. I've gotten a couple of nice notes asking where I've been, and I guess it's time to come back. Also, during the year I save up LEGO books to review as people are getting ready for Christmas, and want to get those posted. And so, back to blogging. Hopefully I won't have too many interruptions in the near future. I've certainly got a backlog of great creations to feature.

The northern lights, or Aurora borealis, are depicted in this mosaic by Dave Ware. This light show actually starts at the sun. Extremely high temperature, and therefore high energy, collisions between particles result in naked protons and electrons being flung from the sun's surface. When this 'solar wind' hits the earth, the earth's magnetic field either deflects the particles or funnels them down towards the earth's surface at the north and south poles. As these high energy particles encounter the gases of our atmosphere, energy is given off in the form of light.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Chemistry lab

Billyburg built this great chemistry lab as a gift. Some of the details include a fume hood, safety shower, and a rotary evaporator (rotovap).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


About a month ago, Ordo graduated from high school (congratulations!) and he built a MOC to celebrate completing each final exam. Here we see his MOC for his biology class, genetics. The others aren't science-based, but you should still check out the MOCs based on his German literature, English and economics exams.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Research Institute!

The result are in for the next LEGO Ideas set. LEGO Ideas is the successor to LEGO Cuusoo, a website where fan builders can submit their ideas, and if they get enough votes, LEGO will consider making an official set. This has been good for LEGO science fans, with three of the six sets released so far being science themed: the Shinkai research submarine, the Hayabusa probe, and the Mars rover. The recent round of review brought still another science set - the Female Minifigure Set. The original idea was to create a series of vignettes showing women in different occupations (I previously blogged about this). The idea was narrowed down to the chemist, the astronomer, and the paleontologist. This got a huge push because of the gender politics of the issue; as I've previously ranted, that's not the cool thing about this set, though that is surely what will make the headlines. What is cool about this set is that it shows scientists at work. The ultimate set, which will be a variation of the original idea shown below, will be called Research Institute and will come out this fall.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mary Anning

I've been slacking off in blogging, but today's Google doodle is a good prompt for me. Today is the 215th anniversary of Mary Anning's birth. Anning was a fossil collector and paleontologist in Britain in the early 19th century, and her finds helped shape an understanding of prehistoric creatures. Her interest in fossils began very early, when she and her brother Joseph found fossils in the cliffs along the English Channel, as shown here in LEGO form by Fossil Friends. One of their important finds was an ichthyosaur. This LEGO ichthyosaur was built by Bright-Bricks as part of an event this past weekend at the Lyme Regis Museum in Dorset, England. Kids who attended the event could even build their own LEGO ichthyosaurs.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Welcome to the National Science Centre, Mr. Armstrong

This weekend was the Brickish Weekend at the National Space Centre in the UK. Members of the Brickish Association and other AFOLs displayed space-themed MOCs, and members of the public could help assemble a couple of large creations, I think both designed by Bright-Bricks. Bienvenue sur la lune, Mr. Armstrong was a large mosaic featuring Tintin. In the early 1950's Tintin traveled to the moon in a series of comics. A decade and a half later, after the Apollo 11 mission, Hergé, the creator of Tintin, drew this cartoon as a gift to Neil Armstrong. The other model created during the event was a large V2 Rocket. The V2 was developed by the Germans during World War II as a ballistic missile. They launched over 3000 of these at London and other Allied targets. After the war, the US, UK and USSR captured both rockets and scientists, using them to develop their own weapons. The V2 rocket design and many of the German scientists that worked on it became part of the NASA program, and ultimately led to the Saturn V rocket. Fittingly, to bring this all together, the rocket that brought Tintin to the moon in the comics was also visually based on the V2 rocket, in a red and white color scheme.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Brickish Weekend at National Space Centre UK

If you're a science-minded LEGO fan in the UK, you might want to check out the Brickish Weekend at the National Space Centre in Leicester. You'll probably see lots of great space-themed LEGO creations, and attendees will participate in building a large mosaic. Here's a segment - I've got no inside information on how the overall design of the mosaic will turn out, but I'm guessing this will be one small step for man ...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Periodic table

The periodic table, here by Richard Harrison, lays out all of the different elements, the different types of atoms that make up the world around us. There are a little over a hundred different types known, and some scientists are continuing to work on finding bigger and bigger elements. The elements get bigger and bigger as you read left to right and down the table (technically this is increasing atomic number). The key insight that helped Mendeleev categorize the elements was that when you list them in order there are repeating, or periodic properties. The lines are broken up so that everything within a column has these periodic properties. Chemists can look at where an element is on the table, and what other elements are nearby, and make conclusions about the properties of that element.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Benjamin Franklin

In addition to being a politician and diplomat in the early days of the United States, Benjamin Franklin (here by Tormentalous) was also a scientist and inventor. One of his most famous experiments was the kite experiment depicted here. Contrary to popular belief (and my own belief until a few minutes ago when I looked this up), his kite was not struck by lightning. Instead he flew his kite up into storm clouds and found that static electricity built up on the kite (and traveled down the wet string to the key), and he got a static shock from touching the key. From this he deduced that lighting bolts were an electric discharge, and subsequently he invented the lightning rod to protect tall buildings.

Ben Franklin lived in Philadelphia, and this weekend is Philly Brick Fest, a LEGO gathering here in Philly. I hope to be at the public exhibition with my son, so maybe I'll see you there.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Magdeburg hemispheres

Otto von Guericke, a German scientist and also the mayor of Magdeburg, invented a vacuum pump and studied the effects of vacuum and air pressure. In one of his most spectacular experiments, he fit two copper hemispheres together and used his pump to create a vacuum inside. This created a force holding the hemispheres together that was so great, teams of horses could not pull them apart until the valve was opened and air was let back inside. This experiment was illustrated here by Tim v.F. for the New Scientist LEGO contest.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

T4 virus

Recently NewScientist held a LEGO contest. Lisa Strazdina was runner up with her model of enterobacteria phage T4. This virus infects E. coli, injecting DNA into the bacterium and using the bacteria's own enzymes to reproduce itself, killing the bacterium in the process.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Flickr LEGO Astronautics group

A new group has started on Flickr, LEGO Astronautics, for people to share their real-space (as opposed to science fiction) creations. Check it out to see lots of great MOCs. I'm sure I'll be returning to this group often to find content for SciBricks.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What is black and white and red all over?

A recent study that appeared in Nature Communications saying that zebra stripes somehow help them ward off biting flies. Here's a zebra that I'm pretty sure is from the life-size animal displays that Sean Kenney has been building for zoos around the US.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Freedom 7

Legohaulic built Freedom 7, the Mercury capsule that carried Alan Shepard into space for fifteen minutes back in 1961, the first American in space.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Golden ratio caliper

The golden ratio is the ratio between two numbers, a and b, that together are a solution of the equation a/b = (a+b)/a. This ratio is equal to one plus the square root of five, all divided by two, an irrational number roughly equal to 1.61803. The golden ratio is also the ratio between subsequent terms of the Fibonacci sequence (as the length of the sequence approaches infinity, it shows up in geometrical divisions of certain isosceles triangles, a five-pointed star, a regular triangle inscribed in a circle, and other geometric shapes. These shapes play a role in art and architecture. For instance, the golden rectangle has sides where the long side is 1.61803 times longer than the short side, and this featured, for instance, in the construction of the Parthenon. A golden ratio caliper, such as this working LEGO version by Amida Na, can be expanded and contracted, but the ratio of the distances between the points, and also the ratio between the longer of those distances and the distance between the outer points, always equals the golden ratio.