A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

A young mad scientist's first alphabet blocks

Q is for Quantum Physics. (Photo: Nick Bock, SLAC)

Q is for Quantum Physics. (Photo: Nick Bock, SLAC)

Wandering the Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, this weekend, immersed in the do-it-yourself creative hacking culture, I came across a lot of fun tech, craft, invention, and art. Each year at the event, I notice a different selection of science being appropriated in some other cultural context.

This year, one of the fun objects I came across is a set of wooden blocks, laser-etched from American maple wood. They are in the style of a child's alphabet blocks, with each letter illustrated with a science or science-fiction object or reference.

Turning over the blocks, I suddenly came face to face with a miniature etched image of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. It sat on the face Q for Quantum Physics. Other faces include Invention, Experiment, Bioengineering, and the whimsical Nanotechnology, which is etched with just a small dot. Moving toward science fiction, the combination of Freeze Ray and Goggles made me think of Dr. Horrible, and then Maniacal, Underground Lair, Zombies, and Peasants (with Pitchforks), inspired a rush of B-movie sci-fi horror flashbacks.

The ATLAS detector at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

The ATLAS detector at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. (Photo: CERN)

With tongues firmly in cheeks, the creators announce, "...we have noticed that there is absolutely no training in the K-6 grades that prepares students to become mad scientists. In this competitive 21st-century world, the need for mad scientists will only increase, but the lack of basic education in primary school leaves us concerned that there will be no future students capable of leading in this illustrious field."

You can read more about the creators at Xylocopa (named for the carpenter bee) and get a set of these alphabet blocks for the budding young mad scientist (of any age) in your life.

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