Lego master Jumpei Mitsui spent over 400 hours building a 3D version of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa out of 50,000 Lego bricks — you can watch a time lapse of the construction in the video above. The build was included at an exhibition of Hokusai’s work at the MFA in Boston:
In order to create Hokusai’s Wave in three dimensions, he made a detailed study of rogue waves and their characteristics. He also drew on childhood memories of waves near his family home at Akashi on the Inland Sea.
The video slows down to realtime in spots, so you can see how fast he’s actually building (quite fast). And you can also see the level of trial and error involved as he builds and then un-builds the waves until he’s happy with them. (via the kid should see this)
Anyway, it's coming out in February and the main build is a 1369-piece model of the Atreides Royal Ornithopter with "fold-out, flappable wings, deployable landing gear and an opening cockpit". Baron Harkooooooooooooonnen. I can't stop! I, uh, may have pre-ordered this the second I saw it. (via polygon)
I just really love the hell out of these iterative Lego build videos from Brick Experiment Channel and Brick Technology. In this one, a car is repeatedly modified to roll perfectly on an increasingly inclined treadmill. I started watching and in 10 seconds I was 100% invested.
They’re not even really about Lego…that’s just the playful hook to get you through the door. They’re really about science and engineering — trial and error, repeated failure, iteration, small gains, switching tactics when confronted with dead ends, how innovation can result in significant advantages. Of course, none of this is unique to engineering; these are all factors in any creative endeavor — painting, sports, photography, writing, programming. But the real magic here is seeing it all happen in just a few minutes.
The creepy twins. Jack feverish at the typewriter. Danny riding his Big Wheel through carpeted hallways. The elevators of blood. These familiar scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining (and several more) have been recreated in this Lego stop-motion animation. The video took 50-60 hours over a three-week period to make and was an exercise in constraints:
“Mostly, it came down to choosing the right pieces,” he says. “I made this movie only with pieces I already had in my collection, so I had to do with just what I had laying around. For instance, the famous carpet pattern in the hallway could have been more realistic, but with the pieces I had, it became a little more abstract. I went with clay for the bloody elevator scene also because I do not have thousands of red translucent pieces.”
After 14-year-old Preston Mutanga’s Lego version of the trailer for Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (embedded above) went viral, the team hired him to animate a short Lego sequence for the actual film.
In the brief scene, we see a Lego version of Peter Parker as he observes a dimensional anomaly and sneaks off to the Daily Bugle’s bathroom to alert another Spider-Man about the issue. While the scene is short, it killed in my theater and it also looked as good as anything in the recent Lego films. After seeing it, a few friends of mine even commented that it must have been the same team that animated it. But nope! It was a lone teenager, actually.
Ok this is kind of incredible: Brick Technology built a solar-powered Lego clock that will keep time for a billion years. It’s got various displays in the style of an astronomical clock so you can keep track of seconds, hours, months, centuries, and even galactical years (the amount of time the Sun takes to orbit the center of the galaxy). The clock is powered by solar energy, and the solar cell is connected to the clock so that it tilts throughout the day to keep facing the sun.
The obvious thing that sprung to mind watching this was The Clock of the Long Now, a 10,000-year clock being constructed inside a mountain in West Texas. But I also thought of Arthur Ganson’s Machine With Concrete, which utilizes extreme gear ratios to turn an input of 200 rpm into a gear that turns only once every 2 trillion years. That’s slow enough that the final gear is actually embedded in concrete and it doesn’t affect the operation of the machine at all.
Lego did not invent the stacking, interlocking plastic brick — Kiddiecraft did. So why did Lego’s version win? As Phil Edwards explains in this entertaining video, the answer can be boiled down to two words: innovation and marketing.
The first Lego plastic mold was the same one that Kiddicraft used, and early Lego bricks were almost identical to Kiddicraft blocks, with a few minor differences. They slightly changed the scale and the studs, but as you can see, they were pretty similar. Early Kiddicraft blocks had little slots in the side for windows and other attachments. So did early Lego bricks. From top to bottom, these were very similar to Kiddicraft blocks. So with such a simple idea that had kind of already been done, how did Lego win?
ASMR videos don’t really do anything for me, but I could watch videos of gears and mechanisms doing their thing all day long. I watched this video of 20 mechanical Lego widgets being combined into one useless machine, absolutely rapt. Bevel gears, rack and pinion, camshaft, worm gear, universal joint, Schmidt coupling — this thing has it all.
If you were lucky enough to procure a set, Lego has produced an 85-minute audio piece about The Great Wave that you can listen to while you’re putting it together. The piece includes interviews with woodblock printer David Bull, Alfred Haft, curator of Japanese Art at the British Museum, and anime & manga scholar Susan Napier. Very cool.
From the Brick Technology YouTube channel, a demonstration on how to build a 5-speed manual transmission with Lego. It even has a gear stick and goes in reverse. Unloaded, 1st gear spins an axel at 384 rpm and 5th gear spins at 3000 rpm. Really impressive.
The Muppets are such a sprawling concern that not all your favorites are here, but you’ve got Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Animal, Janice, The Swedish Chef, and Statler & Waldorf — that’s a pretty good lineup.
Using Lego bricks, a Raspberry Pi mini-computer, an Arduino microcontroller, some off-the-shelf components like lenses, and 3D-printed components, IBM scientist Yuksel Temiz built a fully functional microscope to help him with his work. The materials cost around $300 and the microscope performs as well as scopes many times more expensive — the images above were taken with the Lego scope.
The microscope works so well that for the past two years Temiz and his colleagues in the microfluidics lab at IBM Research, just meters away from the picturesque Zurich lake, have been using the images they took with it in their papers, published in leading journals. They also use them for presentations at major conferences. Not all images relate to microfluidics — the area of science that involves manipulating fluids on miniscule chips in a very precise manner. The liquids can be blood or urine, used for cancer and infectious diseases research as well as understanding heart attack conditions, and more. Researchers also routinely take images of typical computer chips, and Temiz showed me, for instance, how to take a stunning close up of a fruit fly.
Here’s a quick video look at how to build your own:
Designers Roy Scholten and Martijn van der Blom have created a series of letterpress prints of birds made by using Lego pieces as the stamps (in lieu of lead or wood blocks). Letterpress, birds, Lego…that’s gotta be close to a bingo on many a designer’s card. (via colossal)
Craig Ward has been creating letterforms using Lego bricks and posting the results to Instagram. The ones I really love are the anti-aliased letters — reminds me of zooming all the way in to do detail work in Photoshop back when I was a web designer.
There is just something so satisfying about meticulously rendering digital artifacts in a physical medium like Lego.
In the second video by Brick Experiment Channel I’ve posted here in the past week, a Lego car is repeatedly adapted to cross larger and larger gaps, until it can cross a massive gap just a little narrower than the length of the car. As I said before about their climbing car video, watching the iterative process of improving a simple car performing an increasingly difficult task using familiar design objects is such an accessible way to observe how the process of engineering works.
One of the things you get to witness is when a particular design tactic dead ends, i.e. when something that worked across a shorter gap is completely ineffective crossing a wider distance. No amount of tinkering with that same design will make it work…you have to find a whole new way to do it.
In this video, a simple Lego car is repeatedly modified to navigate more and more difficult obstacles until it can climb up and down almost anything. This fun exercise also doubles as a crash course in engineering and how to build a capable all-terrain vehicle as it “demonstrates what you need to consider: wheel diameter, gear ratio, 4-wheel drive, tire grip, breakover angle, weight distribution”. (via the prepared)
Ok you’re going to have to trust me and just watch this — telling you anything else would spoil it. I’ve seen it a couple of times and I am still not 100% convinced how he does it or if it’s actually CGI or something. Solid objects should not behave like this? (thx, john)
A new iOS app called Brickit has been developed to breathe new life into your old Lego pile. Just dump your bricks out into a pile and the app will analyze what Lego bricks you have, what new creations you can build with them, and provide you with detailed build instructions. It can even guide you to find individual pieces in the pile. View a short demo — I’m assuming they’re using some sort of AI/machine learning to do this?
My kids have approximately a billion Legos at my house, so I downloaded Brickit to try it out. The process is a little slow and you need to do a little bit of pre-sorting (by taking out the big pieces and spreading your pile out evenly), but watching the app do its thing is kinda magical. When I have more time later, I’m definitely going to go back and try to build some of the ideas it found for me. (via @marcprecipice)
The first one features the sound of Legos being poured and the second one is the sound of someone digging through the Lego bin & snapping pieces together. The full 3.5-hour album of Lego sounds is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.
The project was devised by Lego’s “head of creative” Primus Manokaran, who describes the streaming-only album as “a collection of soundscapes” designed to promote relaxation and mindfulness. Although the seven tracks, which each run to half an hour in length, are different in their granular details, essentially they were made by Lego pieces being poured out of tubs, sifted through and clicked together.
Manokaran’s team began thinking about why people love Lego during lockdown, and realised that a big hook was how it sounds. Inspired by the online craze for white noise as an aid to relaxation and focus, they began recording. “The acoustic properties of each brick was slightly different,” he says. “It was like composing with 10,000 tiny instruments.”
For his series called Building Black, Ekow Nimako uses only black Lego pieces to build fantastical and futuristic sculptures based on West African masks, folklore, and medieval kingdoms. From Colossal:
Running through each of these artworks is a fluid understanding of time and space that blurs the distinction between generations, locations, and histories in order to imagine a new reality. “We are all living proof of our ancestors, all their joy, love, knowledge, and pain. They live in our DNA,” the Ghanaian-Canadian artist says. “Aesthetically, I enjoy taking elements from bygone eras and creating futuristic landscapes, particularly of African utopias to imagine a liberated existence for us all.”
That blurred temporality that foregrounds his sculptures and installations parallels his own trajectory, as well. “My art practice developed when I was four years old, as I constantly told myself I want to do this (play with LEGO) forever, and sometimes it feels as though my future self communicated with my past self, astrally perhaps, to ensure this very specific destiny manifested,” he says, noting that the plastic blocks have remained a fixture in both his personal and professional life since becoming a father.
Vice did a short video feature on Nimako and his work:
Watch as YouTuber tomosteen makes a Lego chocolate cake out of Lego ingredients, from cracking the eggs to the frosting on top. The little details here are *chef’s kiss*: the transitions from food to Lego brick, the way the chocolate bar breaks imperfectly, the little peaky dollop left after piping the chocolate frosting out of the pastry bag.
This guide to Covid-19 variants (SARS-CoV-2 viruses that have evolved changes to meaningfully alter their behavior) by Michaeleen Doucleff and Meredith Rizzo at NPR cleverly visualizes how mutations of the virus’s spike proteins help bind it more easily to ACE2 receptors on human cells. The key to the visualization is Meredith Miotke’s illustrations of the viruses using Lego pieces to represent the virus spikes and cell receptors. The usual SARS-CoV-2 has 1x1 Lego pieces that can bind with 1x2 pieces, like so:
But, as everyone who has ever worked with a Lego set knows, a 1x1 piece stuck to a 1x2 piece is not super stable. So when a version of the virus with a 1x2 piece shows up, it's able to form a better connection to the 1x2 receptor:
The analogy breaks down if you look too hard at it1 but for many people, it can be a quick way to get the gist of the mechanism at work here. (via @EricTopol)
This is a huge pet peeve of mine when people try to poke holes in analogies: by definition, all analogies break down if you examine them too deeply. An analogy is a comparison of two different things that are similar in significant respects. If they were the same in every respect, it’s not an analogy…you’d just be describing one thing.↩
Jumpei Mitsui, the youngest-ever Lego Certified Professional, has created a Lego version of Hokusai's iconic woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The Great Wave is perhaps the most recognizable (and most covered) Japanese artwork in the world. Mitsui’s Lego rendering is composed of 50,000 pieces and took 400 hours to build. From Spoon & Tamago:
In ensuring that his 3D lego replica not only payed homage to the original but also captured the dynamics of crashing waves, Mitsui says he read several academic papers on giant wave formations, as well as spent hours on YouTube watching video of waves.