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Large Hadron Collider made with Legos, and other geeky creations

December 28, 2011 | 11:58 am

Using Legos, Sascha Mehlhase, a physicist based in Copenhagen, has built a 1:50 scale replica of the ATLAS detector, which is part of the Large Hadron Collider

Why make the Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS detector out of Legos? Well ... why not?

Sascha Mehlhase, a physicist based in Copenhagen, has built a 1:50 scale replica of the ATLAS detector, which is part of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.

Physicists hope the LHC will help them discover the Higgs boson, also known as the "God particle," which is responsible for mass of all the fundamental particles in our universe. "We hope to learn the nature of dark matter, which is most of the mass of our universe," said physicist Michael Barnett, one of the ATLAS coordinators of education and outreach. "We may even get lucky and discover that there are extra dimensions of space beyond those three we know."

As for the Lego version of the ATLAS detector, well, that just looks neat.

"It is an interesting concept because the ATLAS detector itself was quite a feat, with tens of thousands of pieces having been built in 38 countries and assembled by 3,000 physicists at the LHC in Geneva," Barnett said.

The real ATLAS detector is 75 feet tall and wide, and about 150 feet long.

Mehlhase's model is about 1 1/2 feet high and a bit over 3 feet long. In an email to The Times, he said he spent about 48 hours creating a digital 3-D model of the ATLAS using Lego's Digital Designer software. Assembling the detector took an additional 33 hours, he said, but he spread that out over weekends and after hours and got some help from his wife. In total, he used about 9,500 Lego pieces, he said.

Mehlhase said the whole project cost about 2,000 euros ($2,614), but because the model will be used for outreach, the Niels Bohr Institute, where he works, picked up the tab. (The labor, however, was free).

Those interested in building their own ATLAS detectors are in luck: Mehlhase said he is working on a construction manual that should be available soon, and Barnett said the ATLAS team is working with Mehlase to help create a slightly less difficult version of the project.

Mehlhase's ATLAS model may be the geekiest thing ever made out of Legos, but it is hardly the only one.

Here are six of our favorites:

1. The Lego iMac: Lego building superstar Chris McVeigh has made a lot of iThings in Legos, including an original Lego iPod in gray hues, and a Lego iPad with raised icons. His sleek Lego iMac is spot on and includes a Lego keyboard and Lego mouse.

2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 trailer in Legos: In November, Kooberz Studios (Alex Kobbs) made a shot-for-shot re-creation of the trailer for the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, using Legos and stop animation. In the video, cotton balls form smoke and clouds, and guns fire hand-drawn explosions.

3. The Lego stair car: Television comedy geeks will love Matt De Lenoy's stair car, a replica of the absurd vehicle Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is forced to drive around in "Arrested Development." On his Flickr page, De Lenoy writes that it took him two nights to build the car, and another night to carefully cut out the Bluth Company stickers.

4. Lego conceptual art: For a Lego artist, Nathan Sawaya is decidedly high-minded. His "Infinity" looks kind of like an M.C. Escher drawing, except that it's made of Legos.

5. Lego Zanzibar: Another piece by Alex Kobbs of Kooberz Studios. This is a scale replica of the Halo 2 Zanzibar map.

6.Lego portable cassette Recorder, circa 1987: Angus MacLane is an avid lego builder and an animator for Pixar. His Flickr page is full of super-cool Lego creations, including a robotic fighting chicken and a robotic praying mantis, but we're partial to his portable cassette recorder featuring an old-school portable cassette recorder and a Lego cassette tape.

  • The ATLAS detector in Lego, by Sascha Mehlhase.
  • The ATLAS detector in Lego, by Sascha Mehlhase.
  • The ATLAS detector in Lego, by Sascha Mehlhase.
  • The ATLAS detector in Lego, by Sascha Mehlhase.
  • Lego iMac in lime green by Chris McVeigh.
  • Lego iPad by Chris McVeigh.
  • Lego Twitter bird by Chris McVeigh.
  • Still from Modern Warfare 3 trailer in Lego by Kooberz Studios.
  • Still from Modern Warfare 3 trailer in Lego by Kooberz Studios.
  • Still from Modern Warfare 3 trailer in Lego by Kooberz Studios.
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-- Deborah Netburn

Photo: The Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS Detector, in Legos. Credit: Sascha Mehlhase

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