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Grumpy astronauts, LEGO overpopulation, videogame quantum mechanics and more

The xkcd webcomic about LEGO titled

The “Minifigs” comic from xkcd (Credit: Randall Munroe/Creative Commons)

By Tushna Commissariat

This week, the Red Folder seemed filled to bursting with amusing and captivating news stories from around the web about physics. To start off, this rather hilarious and candid account of the Apollo 7 mission on the Discovery News website. I will not give too much away and let you read the story yourself, but suffice to say that having a rather bad cold while in space sounds dreadful and is bound to make the best of us quite grumpy – and I am sure the Apollo 7 crew would agree with me!

In other news, it seems that LEGO figures will be our plastic overlords within the next six years. At least that is what Randall Munroe, a former physicist who is now behind the popular webcomic, has suggested in his latest cartoon (see above) – his graph shows that there will be more LEGO people than humans by 2019. You can read more about the story at the Huffington Post, which has also included a video about the first female-scientist LEGO minifig from its Minifigure Series.

We also came across this nifty animated infographic on the Washington Post website that gives an overview of what the Japanese government is doing to prevent further radioactive leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The graphic allows you to click through all the measures taken to date, including the most recent plan to build an ice dam.

Meanwhile, in hopes of inspiring scores of children (and adults) across the globe who fervently play the popular videogame Minecraft, Google’s Quantum AI Lab Team  has collaborated with MinecraftEdu and Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter to include a tiny bit of quantum mechanics (if you will excuse the pun) in the game. According to Google, the new Minecraft modpack, known as “qCraft” lets players “experiment with quantum behaviours inside Minecraft’s world, with new blocks that exhibit quantum entanglement, superposition, and observer dependency.” You can learn more about how it works in this video.

And finally, for some light weekend relief, take this “Macro or Micro” test from the Smithsonian blog and learn how to make the perfect paper airplanes, thanks to the New York Times education blog.

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