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Everyday science

Everyday science

The LEGO Large Hadron Collider

26 Feb 2015 Michael Banks

By Michael Banks

Avid readers of this blog may remember the 560-piece LEGO model of CERN’s ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which was built by particle physicist Sascha Mehlhase of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen.

Not to be outdone, LEGO fan Jason Allemann then created a LEGO-inspired particle accelerator – dubbed the LEGO Brick Collider – that was submitted to the LEGO Ideas site, which lets fans share blueprints of their own models.

Well, Nathan Readioff of the University of Liverpool in the UK, who also works on ATLAS, has now teamed up with Mehlhase to create a 371-piece, officially endorsed LEGO LHC model.

The kit contains small replicas of each of the four main detectors at CERN – ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb – as well magnets that are placed between the detectors.

Readioff, who says he has loved playing with LEGO “since childhood”, was inspired to design the LHC LEGO collider after seeing Mehlhase’s “stunning” ATLAS model.

Each detector in the LHC model took Readioff around 40 hours to design, but you will be glad to know that apparently it takes only about 10 minutes to build each of them. “All the [detector] groups have been most enthusiastic about my miniatures, and they were a great help in gaining approval from CERN to include the various detector logos on the instruction manuals and the LEGO Ideas site,” Readioff told

Like Allemann’s model, Readioff has put the design on the LEGO Ideas site and is now looking for the 10,000 supporters need before LEGO will conduct a review of it. If it were then to receive the green light, the model would go into the “development phase”, where LEGO designers refine the product and develop it for commercial release. At the time of writing, Readioff and Mehlhase already have more than 750 supporters, despite being on the site for only a couple of days.

“If we could get something like this on sale in stores, or in say museum souvenir shops, it could serve as a fabulous introduction to the amazing work that is done here at CERN,” enthuses Readioff. “The idea is that the set would include brief overviews of the real detectors, and give simple introductions to the physics they study, hopefully inspiring people to find out more.”

But if you can’t wait for it to be officially released as a LEGO product, you can get hold of a complete set of instructions and a parts list from Mehlhase’s website and build it yourself.

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