Legos in the Lab | Discover Magazine

Maria J. Danford

On Aug. 5, 2011, the Juno spacecraft blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral and started off its 5-year journey to Jupiter, the largest planet in our photo voltaic process. The spacecraft carried a mass of scientific equipment designed to identify parameters like the planet’s composition and the total of water existing, as perfectly as map out its gravity field. Juno also carried some unusual passengers: three tiny Lego figures. They represented the Roman sky and thunder god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and Galileo Galilei, the scientist who studied Jupiter’s four largest moons in 1610.  

The Lego figure cargo was supposed to encourage fascination in science and cosmology among the kids. Each of the space-traveling characters are the very same size as typical Lego figures, but they are forged in a “particular space-grade aluminum,” in accordance to Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator. “They have long gone by way of all the screening to make sure that they in good shape on our spacecraft in a way that is like our other science instruments.” 

Regrettably, the Lego passengers will facial area a fiery end. The spacecraft is currently orbiting Jupiter but it has been given a demanding departure date in order to do away with space debris and avoid a collision with just one of Jupiter’s 79 moons — which could cause biological contamination. Therefore, in September 2025, Juno will be intentionally de-orbited by cutting down its velocity and crashing into the atmosphere of Jupiter, the place it will burn off up.   

The Lego figures of the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and Galileo Galilei manufactured it to space in 2011. (Credit history: NASA)

The Lego figures, which traveled about two billion miles from Earth to Jupiter, will meet their destruction in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Whatsoever continues to be of them will probably reside on Jupiter for billions of years and whip about at hundreds of miles an hour with the planet’s winds.  

Lego components have not been confined to space journeys: The iconic yellow figures have assisted groups from a wide variety of scientific fields. For just one, they have participated in experiments in so-referred to as acoustic time reversal, in which seem waves are centered at a one issue. The method was applied by Brigham Youthful researchers to knock more than a one Lego figure while other folks remained upright.

Past enabling Lego bowling, centered seem waves could create sounds cancellation by amassing the seem and concentrating it somewhere out of earshot. The technique could also direct seem waves on to kidney stones to crack them up, or mail audio signals to submarines that are undetectable by enemies. It may even let you to speak to a one man or woman in a group without other folks hearing. 

In a further study asset, Lego figures can withstand extraordinary cold. The UK’s Lancaster University’s small-temperature physics group cooled a Lego figure to the coldest temperature on Earth, just a couple of thousandths of a degree previously mentioned complete zero (minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit). The Lego figure survived the ordeal, and so did four bricks assembled in a stack. 

What started off off as an amusing experiment brainstormed in a bar yielded some beneficial scientific success — particularly that the stack of Lego bricks furnished superior thermal insulation than the costly substantial-overall performance insulating supplies usually applied in small temperature study.  

Legos can endure even the coldest temperature on Earth. (Credit history: Josh Chawner, Lancaster College)

Components with small thermal conductivity aid isolate components to achieve the extremely small temperatures required for this sort of work. When they are clipped together,  thermal resistance may possibly arise from the voids in between adjacent blocks and the reasonably compact place of contact in between them.

In a further instance, MIT engineers are building a process built completely of Lego bricks to go very small quantities of liquid. This creation could aid labs work far more successfully by rushing up drug protection screening procedures, for instance. And European Area Agency scientist Detlef Koschny built Lego types of the Rosetta space probe and lander to aid visualize and exhibit their operation in conferences. 

What will make Legos so valuable:  Labs use the plastic bricks because they are manufactured to precise technical specs and come in a common size no make any difference the place they are acquired. This makes sure uniformity in products about the globe.  Plus, Lego-primarily based applications can be modular and conveniently altered for various experiments. The copyright for the Lego has expired, letting researchers to make their have bricks, for instance, from a various material. 

The children’s toys ultimately provide an unrestricted variety of structures crafted from precision-engineered device elements (and charming figures).

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