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10K Club Interview: Meet Nathan Readioff of The Large Hadron Collider

From the wish to have a model to display on his desk at work to a LEGO Ideas project supported by 10,000 people from around the world. This week we welcome our next 10K Club member Nathan Readioff, a.k.a NathanR2015, whose LEGO reconstruction of The Large Hadron Collider spread across the science and LEGO community.

As a PhD student who has been hands on at CERN working on the ATLAS detector, Nathan knew the intricacies of this complex machine and was able to boil it down whilst maintaining the details.

Help us congratulate Nathan on becoming a part of the LEGO Ideas 10K Club!



About Yourself

  1. Where are you from?
    I was born and raised on the Wirral in the UK.


  1. How old are you?


  1. What do you study or do for a living?
    I’m a Physics PhD student at the University of Liverpool, using data from the ATLAS detector to study the Higgs boson - at the moment I’m finalizing my doctoral thesis.


  1. What hobbies do you have?
    Building with LEGO bricks, assembling model kits, reading books, watching movies and playing computer games.


  1. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    I’ve been interested in LEGO all my life, starting with DUPLO and then moving on to regular LEGO as I grew up. I’ll always have a soft spot for the spaceships from the mid 1990s, and the Technic Star Wars droids from the early 2000s.


  1. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    10188 Death Star. It’s a beautiful display piece and well-crafted playset, with a host of fun features and lovely details.


  1. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    I think I would have to say 75937 Plate with Octagonal Bar Frame. As a decorative element it can add nice detail, but it is also useful as a practical piece to link standard bricks and parts derived from the 3mm bar. It’s great at forming strong and sturdy cores for cylindrical structures of various sizes, which might not otherwise be possible in LEGO bricks.


  1. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    I know surprisingly little about the official LEGO designers, although I appreciate many of the official sets and am always on the lookout for new construction techniques. I have been inspired by Dr. Sascha Mehlhase, who originally designed a 1m long model of the ATLAS detector and later created an ATLAS detector model that got 10,000 votes on LEGO CUUSOO.


  1.  Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    I frequently visit Eurobricks, Brickset, and The Brothers Brick. I’m not an active member of the fan communities. I only post rarely, but I do enjoy reading about what goes on. It’s always fascinating to look at the different models and learn about the various building techniques being used.  


About Your Project

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    I’ve been studying for a PhD in high energy particle physics at the University of Liverpool, so I guess you could say the interest comes simply from my workplace. I’ve been using data from the ATLAS detector (one of the main experiments on the Large Hadron Collider or LHC) to study the Higgs boson and search for one of its very rare decays, while more recently I’ve been involved in searching for new, never-before-seen particles that might be out there.

    As part of my PhD I spent over a year at CERN, which gave me fantastic opportunities to meet colleagues face-to-face, take shifts in the ATLAS control room where I actually got to help run the detector, and go underground to see all four of the main experiments on the LHC - ATLAS, ALICE, CMS and LHCb.

    The LEGO model came about because I thought it would be fun to have a model of ATLAS sitting on my desk at work. I was really excited when I found an ATLAS detector model on LEGO CUUSOO, but when it failed to pass the review I simply hauled out LEGO Digital Designer and started work on my own version.  Once my own little “baby” version of ATLAS was finished though, I couldn’t stop until I had built the full set of experiments and built a model of the entire LHC.



  1. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    All the detectors apart from LHCb are formed from cylindrical layers of sensors, and so the main challenge lied in capturing those shapes out of generally cuboid bricks. I made this harder for myself as I wanted cutaway walls revealing all of the main subsystems, so I had to find ways of making the cylinders as open shells while preserving the strength and rigidity of the entire model.

    The LHCb detector has a unique cone-shape because of the physics processes it was designed to study, and the most difficult part to recreate was its enormous magnet coil - I must have gone through about 30 or 40 designs trying to come up with something that would capture its unique shape.


  1. How long did it take to complete the model?
    The initial model of the ATLAS detector was finished extremely quickly, but the full set ended up taking about 6 months. It took several iterations of designing in LEGO Digital Designer, ordering the bricks, building in real life and repeating.  My original attempt at the ALICE detector was a total disaster with a tendency to shatter (literally!) at the slightest touch.


  1. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes?
    It was an incredibly exciting moment - I’ve dreamed of this for a long time, the project has been on LEGO Ideas for almost 18 months, and I was thrilled when it actually made it. It got really exciting towards the end, particularly as voters seemed to be sharing the excitement with me and counting down the approach to the target as they voted.


  1. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    The model uses 373 bricks in the LHC ring, and a further 86 in the control room.

About LEGO Ideas

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    I think that for a LEGO Ideas project to be successful, it has to be immediately recognisable, a reasonable size, affordable, and something that captures people’s imagination - something that perhaps LEGO would not normally consider producing


  1. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
    Now that is a very tough choice. My favourite released project was Wall-E, although I am eagerly awaiting the release of the Apollo 11 Saturn-V rocket that was recently announced. Out of all the projects on LEGO Ideas though, I think my absolute favourites have to be the T-Rex and Stegosaurus sculptures submitted by “senteosan”, those dinosaurs were amazing works of art.


  1. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    I love the platform because it offers a rare chance to experience what it is like to be a LEGO designer.

    To anyone planning to upload an idea, I think you should make a model of something you’re really passionate about. The model has to be recognisable for what it is, a realistic size (until now, LEGO Ideas sets have never been more than about 800 pieces) but most of all it has to match the high design standard of official LEGO sets and look good along side them on shop shelves.


Chris Hart and Tammy Miles, enthusiasts of LEGO/CERN & the science community, created this video to humorously raise awareness of Nathan's Large Hadron Collider project on LEGO Ideas

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