Tag Archives: lego

LEGO NASA Apollo Saturn V

I have been waiting for this set to come out since it appeared on the LEGO Ideas website a few years ago, and – oh boy – it was worth the wait! I built it in a bit less than six hours over the weekend; the assembly was a lot of fun, and it showcased a set of interesting techniques. The final model is fully functional (except for the part where it flies to the Moon): all the stages can be properly separated, the LM fits nicely inside the fairing, etc. It is simply gorgeous. Just look at it:

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Watching Hidden Figures was a perfect match for the evening after the assembly.

February, March, April…

Again more-or-less three months without blogging. It is getting more and more difficult to find time or motivation to write, but there are so many things I would want to remember later, and my blog is the best diary, so let’s see what you missed. (Also, since most of my written English practice comes from this blog, I have to admit that I felt quite bad about my language skills while writing this post… Another reason to write more often. Then again, there is this thing about promises and not being able to keep them, so, whatever…)

LEGO: After my mountain bike, I got myself another – much cheaper – present for my birthday: the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover from LEGO! It gave me a nice evening of assembling, and now it is on display below our TV. Undoubtedly, LEGO was the best toy of my childhood – even when we got our first computer, I kept playing with it. Among my favourite constructions were a suspension bridge, and an astronomical telescope in a proper rotating dome, but I always enjoyed simply following the instructions too. Ah, those were the days! I don’t think I will ever be too old for LEGO. Maybe at one point I should get all my LEGO from Hungary, since I don’t think my brother wants to play with it… The only problem is, that 1) we probably have no space for all that LEGO, 2) there is no way we could fly them over without paying extra for the overweight bags. It is really a lot of LEGO :)

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Plots: Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while must know, that I am a data-freak. While preparing my annual seminar talk for the institute I also spent some time on data-mining and visualisation using the database of observations made with the HERMES spectrograph (at the Mercator telescope on La Palma). It turned out, that I have the 3rd highest amount of observing time at the instrument. (Even without counting the time I spent there with the master students as support astronomer – if one was to add those nights to my sum, then I would be winning with quite a landslide.) As an example, here is a plot showing the distribution of all HERMES observations throughout the first 5 years of HERMES, and a plot showing their distribution on the sky near the original Kepler field (different colours mean different observing programs, the dark blue area on the first plot represents the night time, and the symbol size is connected to the exposure time).

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You can see – among many other things – how seasonal some observing programs are, and how well covered the Kepler field is. This was a nice exercise with python to learn a few new things about projections and calendar-data visualisation.

Making Belgian chocolate: After my public PhD defence I got a voucher for a chocolate workshop from my colleagues, but we only managed to go and do it now, at the end of March. It was a two hour session in the Bittersweet Chocolatier in the centre of Leuven, and we got to make small praline filled chocolate easter eggs, larger chocolate figurines, and pistachio balls covered in chocolate. It was a very nice experience, even without mentioning the half kilogram of – both self made and original Bittersweet – chocolate each of us got to take home afterwards :) I think it was definitely the best PhD defence present I have seen so far.

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Royal Greenhouses of Laeken: Last week my mother came for a visit, and this time she finally got to enjoy the Belgian sunshine for a bit longer than a few seconds. Her only wish was to visit the coast and take De Kusttram between a few of the coastal towns, which we did on our first full day. The weather was warm, but we still got to use our umbrellas in a short thunderstorm which caught us while walking through the dunes. I also brought along my kite, but this time there was basically no wind at all (which is extremely rare on the coast), so I could not play much with it. There were other people with kites desperately waiting for stronger winds too…

On the next day, we went to Brussels to visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, which is only accessible to the public during a short, three week long period each spring. It was very beautiful, despite being a little bit crowded. Although I think that the variety of plants in the – much smaller – botanic garden of Leuven (which we visited just a few days earlier with Clio, and on the following day with my mother) is larger, there is no doubt that the architectural beauty of this place, and the amount of blooming flowers there was truly exceptional.

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Work: Research usually takes more time than originally expected, but this time I really underestimated how much of it would take me to finish my latest paper. When I discovered something particularly interesting during the conference in Sydney last year, I though I could be finished with the necessary analysis before the end of the year (2013). Then we ran into various unexpected problems (shit happens when you do thing which were never done before), resulting in a delay of several months… But now, just before leaving to Chile (more about that later), I finally submitted the manuscript to the usual journal (A&A). Let’s hope the referee will find our work worthy, and I can show you (or at least post about) the results in a few months!

Denver, CO

After three days of cycling in the beautiful Rockies (or for Clio, being at her ice cold conference), on Thursday morning, we took the bus to Denver. It was a quick and comfortable ride, much better than I expected. It seemed that people in the USA just don’t take buses to travel that far. Or it was just too early on the morning, I do not know. Anyway, after arriving to downtown Denver, we walked to the local Light Rail (let me just say tram) station to meet up with our host, Djazia. This raised the astronomer density with 50% :D We took the tram to the southeast to check in and put our luggage down at our hotel (actually, a quite huge apartment suite) before we headed back to downtown to do a bit of sightseeing in the city itself. Also, Clio got her Nexus 4 so now we have the same phone ;)

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The thunderstorms of the previous days left towards the east, so the weather was nice and sunny again, with temperatures around 25°C. First we dropped by a nice old bookstore, then had a quick lunch at a cool (nerdy) restaurant (the Euclid Hall), followed by a huge cake in a huge bakery (everything is huge over there).

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Reaching our (ok, my) maximum intake capacity, we walked around the main street (16th Street Mall) to get rid off some of the calories… It was a nice transition from the low buildings of Boulder towards the still-to-come skyscrapers of New York.

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I got the second thing I wanted to buy in the USA, a huge set of LEGO, the Architecture Studio. It is a really cool pack of 1210 pieces of solely white and transparent LEGO blocks selected carefully by various architects, and a 270 page book about architecture illustrated with LEGO examples, giving mostly inspiration to your designs, while explaining architectural concepts.

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Afterwards we still walked all the way down to the parks near the Capitol (which was unluckily mostly hidden under a forest of scaffolding). This area did not feel too safe, so both Clio and I were happy to head back towards the more busy streets. For dinner we went to the best sushi place of the city (it was not easy to get there, it took almost an hour with two buses – the distances are surprisingly enormous), the Japon. It is situated within a very nice and calm residential area on a street with more small restaurants and shops. The sushi was indeed great (I accidentally picked the most expensive special rolls from the menu, but I am sure the rest was also as amazing), so we left very satisfied. Since it was getting quite late, we took the taxi back to our hotel, and fell asleep very quickly.

On Friday Clio went shopping with Djazia and I stayed at the hotel to sleep a bit more and play KSP (oh yes, maybe more about that in a separate post). On the evening we had a nice barbecue (although we failed miserably with setting up the fire properly, so at the end the meat was prepared in a pan). I was really happy to finally have a day of not doing anything, because I still felt tired after all the cycling earlier that week. Again, falling asleep was not a problem, even though the generator of the apartment complex started up once every half hour, which made quite some noise…

On Saturday morning we packed our bags again, and took a taxi to the airport to take our flight to New York…