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12 Works of Literature Recreated in LEGO

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Give a bibliophile a set of LEGO, and she'll think outside the box. These creations, inspired by library mainstays, prove that LEGO bricks are more than just child's play.

1. Harry Potter

LEGO builder extraordinaire Alice Finch constructed a scale representation of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for BrickCon 2012 (BrickCon is an annual event for LEGO enthusiasts held at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall). Finch spent 12 months over an 18-month time span (she took a six-month break to work on “other projects”) and an estimated 400,000 tiny plastic bricks to build her massive model. The end result is not only gigantic—each side of the L-shaped replica is about 13 feet long—but incredibly detailed. Finch’s Hogwarts includes a Great Hall filed with students and faculty, Professor Lupin’s Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Quidditch pitch, Gryffindor common room, and more—so much more.

Finch’s Hogwarts took home both the People’s Choice and Best in Show at BrickCon 2012. And what has become of her magical structure? “I don’t plan on taking it apart anytime soon,” Finch told LEGO blog The Brother Brick in February of 2013.

Finch and her completed castle:

Alice Finch/flickr

As the first room Finch completed, the Great Hall set the scale for the entire creation. Here’s a detailed view:

Alice Finch/flickr

Dozens more photos of Finch’s Hogwarts can be found on her flickr account.

2. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

A year after completing the world’s largest LEGO Hogwarts, Alice Finch teamed up with fellow LEGO mastermind David Frank to create a replica of Rivendell, Middle-earth’s elven paradise. The finished model, revealed on The Brothers Brick in December 2013, measures 10 feet by 5 feet and was constructed using approximately 200,000 bricks.

Finch and Frank had a little help finishing their masterpiece—their children. Frank’s two sons and Finch’s two sons joined their respective parents to add some elbow grease to the build. Frank tells The Brothers Brick that his kids are responsible for 90 percent of the model’s water, and Finch credits her 5-year-old with coming up with a unique design for the trees.

Alice Finch/flickr

A detailed view of Elrond’s library:

Alice Finch/flickr

More photos here.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

OneLug, a fellowship of builders including Brandon Griffith, Alyse and Remi Gagne, and Bruce Lowell, created a Tolkien tribute of their own in the form of a 7-foot-tall Tower of Orthanc. The group unveiled their epic depiction of the Last March of the Ents, during which the living trees battle Saruman and his legions of orcs, at Seattle’s BrickCon in 2011. The completed structure is 8 feet in diameter and weighs over 145 pounds.

Detailed view:

the OneLug/flickr

More photos here.

4. Infinite Jest

Kevin Griffith, Professor of English at Capital University in Ohio, enlisted his 11-year-old son Sebastian to recreate scenes from David Foster Wallace’s opus Infinite Jest out of LEGO. Griffith would describe scenes from the novel to Sebastian, who would then build them from LEGO. To be clear here, Sebastian has not actually read Wallace’s novel, which is not only 1104 pages, but also filled with adult themes (sex, drug addiction, graphic violence, etc.).

The below scene is captioned: "P. 12 ’I am not just a creatus, manufactured, conditioned, bred for a function.' 'Sweet mother of Christ,' the Director says.”


Likewise: "P. 88. The operative sat at Marathe's feet…"


Griffith & Son’s genius blog, Brickjest, is here.

5. A Storm of Swords

To celebrate the release of The LEGO Movie in February 2014, British bookstore Waterstones created a number of LEGO literary representations. Below is the infamous Red Wedding from George R.R. Martin’s fantasy bestseller.


6. Romeo and Juliet

"Thus with a kiss I die…"


7. Dracula

Note the inspired use of Batman in lieu of a LEGO bat.


8. The Hound of the Baskervilles

In addition to creating their own scenes, Waterstones hosted a #LEGOLit competition for their customers. Readers created their own literary LEGO scenes and tweeted their photos with the aforementioned hashtag.

The worthy winner was Rob Browne, who composed a moody representation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.


9. Moby Dick

In 2010, the Sydney Wildlife World and Sydney Aquarium launched their LEGO on the Loose exhibition. The exhibit, which ran for one year, included 25 giant LEGO models made from over 1.5 million bricks.

Among the sharks, sailors, and mermaids was the White Whale himself. Designer Stephen Gerling made the sculpture from 365,420 Duplo bricks. The mural of Captain Ahab in the background is also made completely out of LEGO.

10. The Aeneid

LEGO enthusiast Jared Chan built his representation of the sack of Troy for the ACGHK (Animation-Comic-Game Hong Kong) LEGO architecture competition in 2011.

Jared Chan/flickr

11. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Alex Jones of Orion Pax Designs spent four weeks creating his scale model of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus, which measures just over four feet long. Jones based his recreation on the 1954 Disney adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel, which features a submarine designed by Harper Goff.

A detailed view of the bridge:

More photos here.

12. Ender’s Game

MOCpages user Mason Lindblad writes that he was inspired to create the Ender’s Game Battle Room after reading the Orson Scott Card novel at school. Lindblad’s tableau includes two teams of four players each and the corridor and doorway leading to the zero-gravity room. He even included one of the floating stars.

More photos here.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.