Lego: how tall could a tower get?

by Toby Manhire / 03 January, 2013
Eventually, the bottom brick would melt like camembert. In theory, at least.

Lego: beloved, inspirational and also potentially lucrative. But no matter how much of the stuff you might have unwrapped at Christmas, the burning question, obviously, is how much do you need to build a tower that will crush the bottom brick?

It’s just the sort of puzzle the denizens of social news site Reddit like to ponder, and their debate spurred the BBC ‘s More or Less programme to enlist Open University engineering and mathematics expert Ian Johnston.

He finds that a 2x2 Lego tower could bear as much as 350kg of weight before failing. At that point, the lowest brick “just kind of melts – it looks like a square of warm camembert”.

In height terms, that’s the equivalent of about 375,000 bricks, as high as 3.5km.

Says Johnston:

That's taller than the highest mountain in Spain. It's significantly higher than Mount Olympus, and it's the typical height at which people ski in the Alps.

Except that, sadlly, it’s very much a theoretical height.

“There isn't a chance you could do it in reality,” says Johnston. “Long before the brick fails, the tower would fail as a structure itself, by buckling.”

Writes the BBC’s Ruth Alexander: “Real life can be so disappointing sometimes.”
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