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07 Dec 19:08

Time to travel to beautiful cityscapes

by Elspeth De Montes

If you feel nervous about the future and dread the thought of grey concrete buildings taking over our cities, these beautiful microscale futuristic cityscapes by Jeff Friesen should calm your fears. Each unique scene is beautifully crafted, with buildings, transportation links, water, and features like bridges, parks, and flora. The colour schemes have been well thought-out and there are lots of clever details in each scene despite their diminutive size.

It is worth having a closer look at each cityscape. Jeff has used a lovely selection of parts and techniques to create the buildings and add detail to each creations. I love the elevated road in the first scene and the art-Deco style skyscrapers with their minimalistic curves.

The railway bridge is a real eye-catcher in this scene, but I can’t resist the little subterranean metro trains peaking out from beneath the city streets.

As someone who loves the colour Azure, this city scene is definitely one of my favourites. The subtle curves of the rear skyscraper are achieved using 1×2 jumper plates to allow a bit of a twist in the build.

Finally, we have a monorail transport system linking these very futuristic pods. The lime vegetation is a perfect contrast in this clean ascetic cityscape.


The post Time to travel to beautiful cityscapes appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

07 Dec 10:51

Bitcoin’s insane energy consumption, explained

by Timothy B. Lee

(credit: Felix König)

The skyrocketing value of Bitcoin is leading to soaring energy consumption. According to one widely cited website that tracks the subject, the Bitcoin network is consuming power at an annual rate of 32TWh—about as much as Denmark. By the site's calculations, each Bitcoin transaction consumes 250kWh, enough to power homes for nine days.

Naturally, this is leading to concerns about sustainability. Eric Holthaus, a writer for Grist, projects that, at current growth rates, the Bitcoin network will "use as much electricity as the entire world does today" by early 2020. "This is an unsustainable trajectory," he writes.

Global energy production obviously can't double in two years, and it would be an environmental disaster if it did. Fortunately, while the Bitcoin network consumes a ridiculous amount of energy, particularly on a per-transaction basis, the situation isn't as dire as critics like Holthaus claim.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

06 Dec 22:11

Self-Driving Car Milestones

I'm working on a car capable of evaluating arbitrarily complex boolean expressions on "honk if [...]" bumper stickers and responding accordingly.
05 Dec 00:24

Volunteers Around the World Build Surveillance-Free Cellular Network Called 'Sopranica'

by BeauHD
dmoberhaus writes: Motherboard's Daniel Oberhaus spoke to Denver Gingerich, the programmer behind Sopranica, a DIY, community-oriented cell phone network. "Sopranica is a project intended to replace all aspects of the existing cell phone network with their freedom-respecting equivalents," says Gingerich. "Taking out all the basement firmware on the cellphone, the towers that track your location, the payment methods that track who you are and who owns the number, and replacing it so we can have the same functionality without having to give up all the privacy that we have to give up right now. At a high level, it's about running community networks instead of having companies control the cell towers that we connect to." Motherboard interviews Gingerich and shows you how to use the network to avoid cell surveillance. According to Motherboard, all you need to do to join Sopranica is "create a free and anonymous Jabber ID, which is like an email address." Jabber is slang for a secure instant messaging protocol called XMPP that let's you communicate over voice and text from an anonymous phone number. "Next, you need to install a Jabber app on your phone," reports Motherboard. "You'll also need to install a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) app, which allows your phone to make calls and send texts over the internet instead of the regular cellular network." Lastly, you need to get your phone number, which you can do by navigating to Sopranica's JMP website. (JMP is the code, which was published by Gingerich in January, and "first part of Sopranica.") "These phone numbers are generated by Sopranica's Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider which provides talk and text services over the internet. Click whichever number you want to be your new number on the Sopranica network and enter your Jabber ID. A confirmation code should be sent to your phone and will appear in your Jabber app." As for how JMP protects against surveillance, Gingerich says, "If you're communicating with someone using your JMP number, your cell carrier doesn't actually know what your JMP number is because that's going over data and it's encrypted. So they don't know that that communication is happening."

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04 Dec 23:03

The Jacobite Risings took 5 builders 10 months to build using 1 million LEGO bricks

by Elspeth De Montes

This year’s big build by Brick to the Past is called ‘The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne’. The risings took place between 1689 and 1746, mostly in Scotland as supporters of the Stuart dynasty attempted to restore them to the throne. They were effectively Britain’s last civil wars.
The model is around 16 square metres in size, sitting on the equivalent of 105 48 stud baseplates. It has a mountain in its centre that reaches about 1m high. It was built by the Brick to the Past (BTTP) team,  Dan Harris, James Pegrum, Simon Pickard, Tim Goddard and Steve Snasdell, and took around 10 months to complete.

BTTP never really know how many parts they use, but they think it’s in the 750,000 to 1 million range for the build plus about 2,00 minifigures.
On one side there is a detailed model of Corgarff Castle and on the other , Ruthven Barracks, which was built after the 1715 rising in an attempt to prevent further conflict.

One of the other aspects of BTTP’s huge models is that there are many different smaller stories and details to spot.  I love the brick built animals that appear in the highland landscape,  including deer, capercaillie, ptarmigan, osprey and black grouse.

The Brothers Brick had an opportunity to speak with Dan Harris from the BTTP team and ask a few more details about their  Jacobite Risings creation.

TBB: Can you tell us more about this year’s big build?

BTTP: This year’s big build is called ‘The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne’. The risings took place between 1689 and 1746, mostly in Scotland as supporters of the Stuart dynasty attempted to restore them to the throne. They were effectively Britain’s last civil wars.

The model is around 16 square metres in size, sitting on the equivalent of 105 48 stud baseplates. It has a mountain in its centre that reaches about 1m high. It was built by Dan Harris, James Pegrum, Simon Pickard, Tim Goddard and Steve Snasdell and took around 10 months to complete.

We never really know how many parts we use, but we think it’s in the 750,000 to 1 million range, although this is a really rough estimate.

TBB: Why did you chose the Jacobite Risings and what research did you have to undertake prior to starting the build?

BTTP: 2017 is Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, so we wanted to build something that had a strong Scottish theme. This turned out to be a great move because we’ve been able to piggy back on a lot of ongoing publicity and events which has meant that we’ve reached a much wider and more diverse audience than usual.

As always, we did a lot of reading in preparation for the model and I now have quite a respectable library on 17th and 18th century Scotland. This year we’ve also been able to pack in a lot of field trips because I live within about half an hour of most of the buildings and features we’ve included in the model. Highlights included visits to Culloden Battlefield, Corgarff Castle, Ruthven Barracks and the Highland Folk Museum.

TBB: What are the key features of the model?

BTTP: The most striking feature of the model is probably the 1 metre high mountain that runs across its centre. This was built by James Pegrum and is made entirely out of LEGO. It takes an age to set up and James describes it as a nightmare! The mountain and the landscape around it are alive with brick built animals, which are characteristic and in many cases unique to the Scottish Highlands, including capercaillie, ptarmigan, golden eagle and black grouse.

The model also has a pretty epic battle between Jacobites and redcoats, which we’ve roughly based on the Battle of Killiecranckie, which took place in July 1689. Stylistically, our armies are based on a later date, but we wanted to be able to recreate the awesome geography of that part of the Highlands. There are about 2,000 minifigures on the model, with the vast majority on the battlefield.

Finally, we also wanted to create a glimpse of everyday highland life, so Simon Pickard and Tim Goddard have built a number of highland houses characteristic of rural life during the period. These are bought alive with all sorts of traditional activities, such as waulking the cloth, peat cutting and shinty.

TBB:  How do you divide up parts of the build amongst the team of builders and do you find some build faster than others or can on take a greater volume of the final footprint?

BTTP: We have a plan that is drawn out right at the beginning and our builders get to choose what they want to build and they can build as little or as much as they like. We try and make sure everyone has got something interesting to do because our main aim is to have some fun! Some of us can build faster than others, which is why we were able to display about 80% of the model back in July, This year has been a been quite hard going because due to unforeseen circumstances some of our builders had to drop out late in the process. Of course we know life is full of surprises, so we always have contingency plans and everything was fine in the end.

TBB: Are there different smaller scenes and stories that each builder likes to add to the overall build to make their mark?

BTTP: Story telling is an important part of what we do and while most of the stories we tell are simple tales of everyday life, some are based on historical accounts. Part of our mountain has a cave system that tells the probably mythical story of Sawney Bean, who is said to have been the head of a family of cannibals who lived in a cave in Ayrshire.

Another story we tell is that of a government soldier named Donald McBane, who while fleeing the now victorious Jacobites at the Battle of Killliecranckie, ran down the hillside towards the River Garry and leapt the 18 foot gap of the river’s gorge to escape.

TBB: Where can people see the model in person?

BTTP: The model is currently on display at Stirling Castle and will be there until the end of January. This is an amazing venue and well worth a visit in its own right, so if you like history and you like LEGO then you need to go!

TBB: Brick to the Past is known for their huge, detailed models, how many of your models stay build past the year point?

BTTP: Our models usually get taken apart before we get going on our next project, but we do keep bits of them. From this model we will be keeping Corgarff Castle, Ruthven Barracks and the highland township. We’ve already built up quite a good collection of models that cover different periods in British history and we plan to bring them all together to create a really high quality exhibition sometime in the near future.

TBB: Has work began on the next model or is there a period of relaxation after a build is finally complete?

BTTP: There is no rest! We have a number of commissions that we are working on in the background and planning for next year’s big build is already under way. For the last couple of years we have been pretty landscape focused, so our next project is going to be something quite different – we will have an announcement in the New Year!

TBB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and we look forward to hearing more about your next big project.

The post The Jacobite Risings took 5 builders 10 months to build using 1 million LEGO bricks appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

03 Dec 20:26

Big things come in small cottages

by Daniel

Fall is changing to winter, at least in North America, and it always seems to inspire LEGO builders to depict these changing seasons in bricks. emillide has put together a lovely set of tiny cottages, experimenting with many interesting roof and tree techniques, some of which are truly baffling.

Micro Cottage 1

Take this summer scene, for example. I am at a total loss trying to figure out how that tree on the left is holding together, but I love it. Also, each cottage has a different base construction, making a nice finished model.

Micro Cottage 2

Micro Cottage 3

Micro Cottage 4

The post Big things come in small cottages appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

03 Dec 04:20

A monument to the old world

by Luka

There is a strange beauty in decaying industrial architecture, with chipping paint, broken metal supports and collapsing concrete walls everywhere. Or maybe I am just nostalgic for apocalyptic LEGO creations that used to be all the rage when I discovered the online community. Whichever is the case, Exetrius has hit the nail on the head for me with this ruined communication tower.

Ruined Communication Tower - mainCommunication tower

Sand green is the perfect colour to make a creation like this, and combined with dark gray and limited splashes of colour it makes for a beautifully bleak colour scheme. This is further facilitated by great textures of disuse and weathering. The tower is 120 cenimeters tall (47 in.), a task made easy by using train tracks for its main segment. Everybody who uses train tracks in unique ways is awesome!

Communication tower

The post A monument to the old world appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

01 Dec 21:04



I feel like any "debate" about temperature scales are easily resolved like a lot of other seemingly intractable issues. If we just pretend like the US doesn't exist, then it will look a lot more like there's a global consensus on most things.

The symbol for degrees Felsius is an average of the Euro symbol (€) and the Greek lunate epsilon (ϵ).
01 Dec 01:07


by Minnesotastan

A comment from the discussion thread at the CrappyDesign subreddit:
"...someone at temple commented that it was done intentionally to prove a point, and to continually reiterate that point to every student who entered the building."
30 Nov 08:51

YouTube Begins Blocking Music in Finland Due to Licensing Failure (Updated)

by Andy

YouTube is used by millions of people worldwide to access a broad range of content but it is music that is increasingly one of the platform’s big draws.

With an almost unrivaled library, YouTube is the go-to service for music fans globally but over in Finland this morning, things aren’t playing out well.

As shown in the image below, users who try to access music are now getting the following graphic. When translated the text reads “Video content owned by Teosto. The video can not be used in your country.”

No license…..No access…

This is a pretty big deal. Teosto is a Finnish performance rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of local artists and composers. It represents around 30,000 local songwriters and publishers, small fry when compared to the three million foreign music entities it represents in Finland.

This means that YouTube must have pulled huge volumes of content from its platform locally, rendering the service far less attractive to users. However, according to a TorrentFreak source, things go much further than standard modern licensed music.

As shown in the image below, even music published in 1899 has found itself pulled from the platform.

Jean Sibelius’ masterpiece Finlandia? Gone..

The music licensing dispute, which appears to have led to millions of tracks being rendered inaccessible in Finland, was confirmed by YouTube this morning.

“We were unable to reach a new licensing agreement with TEOSTO. Because of this, some videos containing music will be blocked in Finland,” the team said.

While the removal of content will come as a disappointment to the quarter of Finnish citizens who use YouTube regularly, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

In September, Teosto issued an opinion on copyrights to Parliament’s Education Committee. The licensing group complained that rightsholders aren’t adequately compensated for content played on platforms like YouTube. Like other groups in the same position, Teosto is looking to obtain more revenue for its members. That seems to be the basis for the dispute with YouTube.

For YouTube to have pulled so much content, negotiations must have really broken down, but Teosto sounded a note of optimism this morning. The group noted that while Google had indeed pulled music content from YouTube in Finland, it may reinstate it during the next couple of days.

Update: We have a statement from Sami Valkonen, Director of International Music Publishing Partnerships at YouTube – EMEA

“We are in active conversations to bring TEOSTO content back to YouTube in Finland. Our previous licensing agreement had expired so videos containing music represented by TEOSTO are currently blocked in Finland in accordance with copyright law. Talks are proceeding on good terms and we look forward to having great music back up on YouTube in Finland as soon as possible.”

Update Dec 1: New update from YouTube’s Sami Valkonen

“TEOSTO content is back up on YouTube in Finland. Some music content was not available on YouTube in Finland for less than 24 hours as we worked towards a solution with TEOSTO after our license expired. We appreciate everyone’s patience during this time.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

30 Nov 02:29

"Fluidized bed" demonstrated

by Minnesotastan

More at Wikipedia.
28 Nov 19:25

An "alternating tread" stairway - updated

by Minnesotastan

When I first saw this photo, my reaction was that a designer or architect was being unnecessary clever.  But after studying it, I realized it is an eminently practical solution to a problem.

The problem being an extremely steep rise/run ratio for the location of the stairs.  The distance from the front step to the hallway behind is short, the vertical distance to be traversed high.  The choices would be extremely tall steps, extremely narrow steps, or perhaps a ladder/spiral staircase/other design.

I found more information at Fine Homebuilding, which discusses the practical aspects of stairway dimensions and also includes this interesting one:

Related: newel post.

Addendum:  An interesting and authoritative comment from reader Lars -
"I built one of these as the replacement staircase to my basement. my 1829 house was moved to a new foundation in 1915. the basement stair location under the main level staircase approaches the foundation wall. the previous case used a landing and a 90 deg turn. this could only be negotiated without ducking ones head if you were under 5 foot tall. the alt tread case with comfortable wide treads uses half the normal needed run. this allows me to walk upright for the entire flight and get feet on basement floor with a 3+ foot distance from the foundation wall.
3 caveats. one must be able to lead with both feet. NEVER attempt to turn around mid flight. use of these stairs is much easier with handrails on both sides. I made mine as a utility purposed design with a center a center stringer that you must straddle. this rail has allowed me to move/slide large heavy objects up and down the staircase- both a refrigerator and a freezer - with use of a rope block & tackle. once you are familiar with the stair, it is actually easier to hand carry large boxes down that obstruct your vision. you never need to step past the tread you are standing on to get your other foot onto the next tread. leg motion is a straight drop. never stumble over the nosing."
28 Nov 02:52


by Minnesotastan

Photo via the Pics subreddit, where the discussion thread notes the potential lethality of beach logs.
27 Nov 22:27

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Forgetfulness


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Holy crap, am I a talking skeleton?! Weiiiiiird.

New comic!
Today's News:
27 Nov 09:44

Iconic Luke & Vader scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back recreated perfectly in LEGO

by Edwinder

One of the most iconic scenes from The Empire Strikes Back takes place in Cloud City, where Darth Vader reveals Luke’s parentage. Due to the sheer scale of the film’s setpiece, this memorable scene hasn’t appeared in many brick-built creations, but Caleb Watson and Carlyle Livingston have managed to pull off an incredible huge-scale build that’s appropriately and simply titled “Noooo!”


This impressive size of the central duct of Cloud City stands out, recreated perfectly though with a detailed backlit background. Although the patterned backdrop may look simple, the careful placement needed to get the textures just right isn’t easy.

Here Caleb (left) and Carlyle stand behind their masterpiece to give a sense of the scale needed to do justice to this scene in bricks.


View more details of this creation below.

Here’s a closer zoom in on Vader reaching out while Luke cries off his infamous one word that stretches into a long cry of disbelief and despair.



Here are a few other shots to give you a closer view of all the details.







The post Iconic Luke & Vader scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back recreated perfectly in LEGO appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

27 Nov 09:44

The Moon and the Great Wall

And arguably sunspots, on rare occasions. But even if they count, it takes ideal conditions and you might hurt your eyes.
25 Nov 20:08

Bicycle graveyard

by Minnesotastan

Wow. (person at far right edge for scale)

Explained at The Guardian.
24 Nov 18:13

Emoji Sports

No horse has yet managed the elusive Quadruple Crown—winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, and the Missouri Horse Hole.
23 Nov 18:41

Interstellar Asteroid

Every time we detect an asteroid from outside the Solar System, we should immediately launch a mission to fling one of our asteroids back in the direction it came from.
20 Nov 17:55

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - A Vicious Cycle


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I'm not sure why, but I find the idea that the bicycle has a switchblade to be comedy gold.

New comic!
Today's News:
19 Nov 20:57

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Pareto Romantic


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

You're the best you can be, which is technically the highest true compliment I can pay you, so why do you look sad?

New comic!
Today's News:
17 Nov 09:51

How to Make Friends

No, wait, come back! I want to be friends at you!
16 Nov 21:01

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Life Philosophy


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I hope Heaven has a periscope to Hell, because humans are really only happy relative to other humans.

New comic!
Today's News:

Hey geeks-- if you're any kind of a wecomics fan, you're surely familiar with Kate Beaton. I consider her to be the highlight of my "generation" of cartoonists. A sister of hers is dealing with an aggressive form cancer and is getting to the point where few options remain, and what remains is liable to be quite expensive. They're running a fundraiser to make sure she can get the right treatment. Please give it a look if you have a moment.

16 Nov 10:44

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Fascinating


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Eventually, someone will be able to look at photos of a Renaissance fair and not know who's in costume.

New comic!
Today's News:
16 Nov 10:43 But good try.

by Minnesotastan
15 Nov 19:54

Temperature Preferences

There's a supposed Mark Twain quote, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." It isn't really by Mark Twain, but I don't know who said it—I just know they've never been to McMurdo Station.
14 Nov 04:58


by Robot Hugs

New comic!

A few things kind of going sideways here but you know what, it’s basically all entirely my fault so.


14 Nov 04:55

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Flawed


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

The garden of Eden was the one time I tried to fix things and that went JUST GREAT.

New comic!
Today's News:
13 Nov 20:06

Nightmare Email Feature

"...just got back and didn't see your message until just now. Sorry! -- TIME THIS MESSAGE SAT HALF-FINISHED IN DRAFTS FOLDER: 3 days, 2 hours, 45 minutes."
12 Nov 02:06

Tremendous timorous beastie

by Rod

It’s not often you see a LEGO animal built almost exactly to scale. But this fantastic mouse by Thomas Poulsom (of LEGO Birds fame) looks almost ready to scuttle off around your house in search of cheese. I love the beady black eyes, the pink nose, and the way Tom has done the ears. And the whole creation is enhanced immensely by the short depth of focus — adding a fuzzy close-up feel which further reinforces the small scale. Squeakily-good stuff.

Squeak Squeak 🐁

The post Tremendous timorous beastie appeared first on The Brothers Brick.