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    In Brief: Five Interesting Things Today

    After a week-long exhale from Comic-Con, we're back to a regular schedule and looking forward to upcoming events, product testing, and more projects! Here are some stories currently sitting my browser tabs that I thought were worth sharing. First, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced that he would be spending $100 million over the next ten years to amp out the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Steven Hawking's on board. I also enjoyed this NPR story about the research into the curious sound of screaming. Windows 10 comes out in a week, and Microsoft has released an invite-only beta of its Cortana app for Android--Arstechnica has tested it. Boingboing's exploration of vintage Star Wars clothing collecting strikes a chord. And the best custom LEGO build in recent memory may be David Szmandra's enormous RC construction crane. "Massive erection" indeed.

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    Tested Goes to Comic-Con 2015!

    We're down in San Diego all week for Comic-Con International! As the doors to the massive convention hall open on preview night, Norm and Will walk through the show floor to check out some of the major booth setups. Awesome collectibles, costumes, props, and LEGO are on display. We'll be filming interviews and project reveals, so stay tuned on Tested for more from SDCC!

    LEGO with Friends: Carl Merriam, Part 1

    For this week's LEGO with Friends series, we're joined by a very special guest: LEGO product designer Carl Merriam! Carl, who we first met at a local LEGO convention, is visiting all the way from Denmark, where he works on the LEGO Minecraft team. We chat with him about what it's like working at LEGO and how these sets are designed. It's going to be an awesome week! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)

    LEGO with Friends: Phil Broughton, Part 1

    Time for another week of LEGO with Friends! This week's guest is one of the most interesting people we know: a radiation expert who also makes a brew of coffee known as the Black Blood of the Earth. Phil Broughton joins us for a week of conversation, storytelling, and of course, building LEGO! Follow along with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)

    LEGO with Friends: Veronica Belmont, Part 1

    Veronica Belmont joins us for some building in this week's LEGO with Friends! We discuss the projects she's been working on, the Game of Thrones premiere she hosted, and catch up while assembling some fun LEGO kits. It's going to be a fun week! Follow along with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)

    Building the Academy Awards LEGO Oscar

    One thing we forgot to mention in yesterday's podcast about the recent Academy Awards ceremony was the use of LEGO Oscars during The LEGO Movie musical performance. LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya, who we've previously interviewed, designed and built those statuettes for the show, and posted this short time-lapse video of the build on his YouTube channel. This video is brief, but you can see Sawaya using glue to bond the pieces together--something he does for all his sculptures for stability and durability. And for those of you who want to build your own LEGO Oscar, the kit is now up for voting on the LEGO Ideas website.

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #11

    This week's Show and Tell is our first LEGO mystery build of the new year! And here's a kit that was sold out for a long time before LEGO recently reissued it--and it was worth the wait. As the time-lapse engages, place you best guess as to what Norm is building in the comments below!

    In Brief: LEGO Announces Next Ideas Series Kits

    LEGO today announced the results of the latest review board decisions for kits submitted through the Ideas program. Submissions receiving more than 10,000 votes were under consideration, and two from a pool of 9 were selected to be official kits: Wall-E (designed by Angus MacLane, a Pixar animator!) and a Dr. Who set (designed by Andy Clark). Rejected submissions include the X-Men Mansion, Luke's Lightsaber, Brent Waller's Ghostbusters HQ, and Hubble Space Telescope. The board doesn't explain why individual projects didn't make the cut, but consider a variety of factors including licensing, playability, and safety. I'm super excited about the Wall-E approval, and can't wait to see how the final product will look. LEGO's in-house designers will base the final construction design on MacLane's submission, but can make changes as they see fit--as they did with last year's Ecto-1 set.

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    LEGO with Friends: Patrick Norton, Part 1

    Here's the first episode of a new series for Tested members: LEGO with Friends! This week, Patrick Norton of TekThing stops by to help assemble a few kits while we chat about his new projects, CES, and why hummingbirds are awesome. Follow along with with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)

    LEGO Invisible Lift Contraption is Hypnotizing

    My only real encounter with LEGO technics pieces are the ones included in standard LEGO sets, but this amazing ball elevator contraption makes me want to start building those mechanized kits. Designed and built by hobbyist Akiyuki (check out his other YouTube videos too), this "Great Ball Contraption" elegantly elevates LEGO soccer and basketballs through a Rube Goldberg-like sequence. The build took 70 hours. It's the kind of thing I would expect to see on display at a science museum. (h/t Adam)

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #10

    Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We're starting this week off with a LEGO Mystery Build! It's been a while since we've done one, but the timing couldn't be more appropriate. This week's build is actually three of the same sets, with different colors, assembled concurrently. As the time-lapse engages, place you best guess as to what Norm is building in the comments below!

    In Brief: LEGO Ideas Next Set May be Their Best

    LEGO Ideas (formerly Cuusoo), has really taken off in the past year or so. The program, which allows users to submit their own creations and theme ideas for voting and review, has produced eight sets (and spawned a whole line of Minecraft sets) since it began in 2008. This year saw the release of the Mars Curiosity Rover set, a space-themed Exo Suit, the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, and the very popular Research Institute. The first two Ideas sets to be released next year have also been announced: there's a Big Bang Theory playset, as well as what may be the best set I've seen in a while: Birds. Designed by Tom Poulsom, this set includes a Blue Jay, Hummingbird, and Robin, each on their own stands and with a flower to boot. The set is 580 pieces and priced at $45, going on sale Jan 1. These sets usually sell out really quickly, and LEGO has not been known to do second runs after they're gone.

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    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #9

    Let's kick this week off with a LEGO Mystery Build! Norm gets a new custom kit designed by one of his favorite LEGO artists, and assembles it in his home office. Place your best guess as to what the kit is in the comments below!

    Show and Tell: LEGO Ideas Research Institute

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm snags a new LEGO kit that sold out in just one day: the Research Institute minifies set that was designed through LEGO's user-submitted Ideas program. Here's why we wish LEGO would release more of these sets.

    Photo Gallery: Bricks by the Bay 2014

    We're veterans of CES, E3, Maker Faire, and even Comic-Con, but one type of event we're still very new to is the LEGO convention. And there are many of them. There's BrickFair on the east coast, BrickCon in Seattle, KidsFest, Brickworld, and Northern California's own Bricks by the Bay. For the past three, years, I've attended this gathering of LEGO aficionados to appreciate the amazing custom creations designed by locals and visiting builders. Held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, this year's event expanded to two ballrooms, with tables set up to display builds in various themes: space, fantasy, historical, high seas, pop culture etc. My personal favorite category are the intricate diorama scenes showcasing intricate architecture and clever use of mini-figs. This year's large-scale standout was a massive Rivendell set made by Seattle-based builder Alice Finch. Finch spent five months assembling over 200,000 bricks for her set, which was carefully driven down to the convention by friends. I also loved the beautiful HMS CrazyBricks Man-O-War ship build, which carried a crew of 300 wacky mini-figs. There are many LEGO conventions held around the world, big and small, and I encourage you to make it to one if you ever have the chance!

    In Brief: The Average Price of a LEGO Brick

    Since we're building LEGO on the site this week, it's a good time to revisit the economics of toy bricks. The price of a single LEGO brick is a topic that data nerds love to analyze. I've previously shared this in-depth statistical analysis of LEGO set pricing from early 2013, and Wired's wonderful Dot Physics blog tackles the topic again today. Wired's surveying of modern LEGO sets identifies an average price of about 10 center per piece--what LEGO fans and Brickset traders have known for a long time. But Wired also points out that LEGO Duplo and Train themes are the most expensive sets (per brick), while the Architecture theme is the best bargain. Of course, LEGO fans know that it's not just about the number of pieces you get per set that determine its value, or even its licensed theme. Some sets are prized because of their diversity in LEGO pieces, as well as one-off pieces. Of course, there's also mini-fig exclusivity. And the people who may worry the most about the variations and fluctuations in brick pricing? LEGO artists.

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    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #8

    We saw many new LEGO kits announced at this past Comic-Con, so what better to celebrate that than a LEGO mystery build! This week's kit is an official LEGO one that was actually designed by a Tested reader. Place your best guess as to what's being built in the comments!