What's the tallest Lego tower possible? One scientist has the answer

Benjamin Esham/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

About a year and a half ago, an astute Reddit user asked the community how many Lego bricks could be stacked on top of one another until the bottom brick gets crushed from the weight.

The question garnered over 1000 responses (the vast majority of which are entirely unhelpful and entirely hysterical), and although there was a great deal of speculation among the wisecracking, no one had access to the requisite tools to test the hypothesis themselves.

Fortunately, as Boing Boing points out, the fine folks at BBC Radio 4’s More or Less have put the hypothesis to the test. The show asked Open University’s Dr. Ian Johnston to figure it out. After his initial advice of “just Google it,” he realized that the answer wasn’t online. He jumped at the opportunity to use the hydraulic testing machine from the engineering department at Open University to close the book on the mystery once and for all.

In order to perform the experiment, a single 2-by-2 Lego brick was “placed on top of a metal plate, which a hydraulic ram is pushing upwards. On top of the brick is a second plate, with a load cell on top of it, measuring the force being exerted.” After reaching over 4,000 newtons of force (equivalent to a mass of 950 pounds), the brick melted. Yeah, it didn’t pop or explode; it just melted.

Using the data gathered from the machine, he was able to calculate a number: you could stack 375,000 Lego bricks until the bottom brick caves. Just for reference, a stack of that many Lego bricks would stand approximately 3,500 meters (2.17 miles) high.

I think I finally understand why it’s so painful to step on a Lego brick.

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