11/6-13 13:13

'Lego physicist' wants his ATLAS detector in the shops

Photo: Sascha Mehlhase
A screenshot from a time lapse series of the building of the Atlas dector of the Large Hadron Collider (right) and the larger original Lego model (left) being assembled by Sascha Mehlhase. The smaller model, that may soon be available is scaled down to only 560 pieces
ATLAS — the particle detector from CERN — has been shrunk down to 560 Lego pieces by a University of Copenhagen physicist. Now it could be on the way to a toy shop near you

It won't be smashing protons and neutrons at speeds approaching the speed of light, but it will still be a hell of a lot of fun, and could be in your hands soon — Sascha Mehlhase, a post-doc at the Niels Bohr Instutute, who recreated the ATLAS detector in lego bricks, is now trying to transform his design to an official LEGO product.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is a high-energy particle accelerator, located in Geneva, Switzerland, and operated by CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. It is tasked with smashing particles at great speeds, in order to recreate conditions similar to the ones existing seconds after the big bang, which allows physicists to test theories about the composition of matter. ATLAS, the largest detector in the LHC, is tasked with detecting masses, momentum, energies, charges, and nuclear spins of particles created when subatomic particles are smashed together. It was instrumental in the detection of the Higgs boson, often dubbed 'God particle', last March. ATLAS is now reduced to 560 LEGO pieces, and might be in the hands of anyone who wants it, soon.

"We have been trying for two year to convince LEGO to work with us and help us create a product we can use for student outreach. After struggling for a long time to get the idea off the ground, we finally decided the best way to go foward is to set up a campaign on cuusoo.com. If we reach 10,000 votes, LEGO will consider selling a boxset containing all the necessary 560 pieces", Sascha Mehlhase said to the University Post.

Read the original article and see the pictures.

A nightmare of bags

In December 2011, Sascha, built a 1:50 scale model of the ATLAS detector using LEGO bricks. It took him over 80 hours, to make the design in a 3D modelling program, and put all the pieces together. Since then, the model has toured extensively, after University Post broke the story, and it was linked to by various international technology and physics blogs.

The model pitched to LEGO, is significantly smaller, and can be put together in less than one hour. It will come with a leaflet, explaining the science underneath the original ATLAS experiment, along with instructions on how to put the model together.

"Initially, I was attempting to make the large, 1:50 scale model, available to the public. I was using LEGO's Design By Me service, which allowed me to send them my design, and buy the real model in a custom lego box. Unfortunately, they shut down the service in January 2012. I can still order custom parts, but they come unsorted, in plastic bags. Sorting them is somewhat of a nightmare", Sascha says.

You can support Sascha's Lego bid by casting your vote here.

For the sake of the children

Sascha plans to use the model in education and outreach projects to promote particle physics in the public. It serves as an eye catcher, a tool to discuss the basic design of particle detectors such as ATLAS, as well as a souvenir, Sascha writes on cuusoo.com.

He has various events planned, where students from high-school can come in, learn about paticle physics, and use the ATLAS model to get an idea about the design and principle components of particle accelerators.

You can see a youtube time-lapse video of the creation of the large LEGO model, alongside the creation of ATLAS, below:


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