86 Pieces of Lego

My basement likely has thousands of Lego pieces collecting dust. Three grown children, two of them boys – I couldn’t guess how many Lego sets emerged from Christmas or birthday wrappers. I should have kept track – how much did we buy, vacuum up or step on with tender bare feet. Lego management was tricky – basic sets for little kids gave way to elaborate engineering feats, sets requiring itsy bitsy pieces of specialized madness. Agonizing objectives stopped dead in their tracks over misplaced nubs of quarter inch plastic.

Don’t get me wrong – Lego is pure genius, infinite possibilities limited only by imagination – a dream toy. Lego appeal isn’t limited to children, it sparks creative thinking in anyone who starts snapping blocks together. Much more than following sets of instructions, once you got the hang of it, Lego is akin to a game of chess. Kids visualized 2 or 3 moves in advance, formulated strategies and elaborate cerebral blue prints to bring their mind’s eye to fruition.

The name LEGO comes from letters in the Danish words “Leg Godt” which means “play well”. Danish manufacturer Lego patented their revolutionary 2×4 plastic block on January 28, 1958. In 2012, LEGO made over 45 billion pieces at a rate of 5.2 million an hour – enough to circle the globe 18 times. It would take 40 billion pieces to reach the moon. If you awarded an equal share of LEGO to every man, woman and child on the planet – we would all hold 86 pieces. LEGO “people” were introduced in 1978, since then over 4 billion rolled onto retail shelves. If you only had 6 ordinary 8 stud blocks – they could be combined in 915,103,765 ways. (2 blocks combine 24 ways, and 3 – 1,060).

LEGO is officially the largest toy company in the world. Congratulations – your leap past Hasbro and Mattel might have something to do with the hit LEGO movie – I’ll look the other way on that point. Heck – I’ll even shrug off pondering how many million barrels of oil were used to produce 50 plus years of indestructible plastic. LEGO reigns as the quintessential example of toy making brilliance.


26 thoughts on “86 Pieces of Lego

  1. I play with Mega Blocks with my two year-old grandson.

    I build castles and his dinosaurs or whatever figurines he has destroy them.

    Then I say… Oh no! My castle is destroyed… and I will build another one.

    Pure pleasure.

  2. I’m waiting to hear how many Lego sets you find in the BASEMENT! And whether the Black Widows have taken to making fortified castles in defense against Ponder!

    Alas, I grew up with Lincoln Logs, and I had a daughter. Legos were not a big part of our life (except when I played with other peoples’ kids. 😦

      • Hmmmm….
        a ‘basement rabbit’… an interesting concept.
        as we drove onThursday I looked up and saw a rather more menacing looking spider dropping down from above the windshield about 24″ in front of me and … I thought of you… 🙂 I should go in search of him — I believe he lives in the cabinet where our satellite equipment is stored — into which my hand sometimes goes wandering.
        I fear OUR ‘basement rabbit’ would freeze in our unheated basement.

      • I stopped active spider reconnaissance missions – nasty spiders have few manners when faced with eviction or worse, they do however have a tendency to stay put.I would rather draw a line in the sand with a known enemy than launch a bungled attack (one that sent them into parts unknown) Black Widows are polite enough to choose a spot and wait for breakfast to come to them.

        I wouldn’t recommend a basement rabbit – Earl took on mythic proportions, and sadly became “bad” through no fault of his own. 🙂

  3. I have no idea how many kids discovered they were engineers because of lego. Probably enough to have at least one among them that will figure out the carbon offset required for the oil needed to make these billions of bricks. And at least another one to figure out how to make bricks out of disposable nappies or brocoli trunks.

      • Not only that – think of all the other uses – emergency kindling or fire starters, livestock feed (low nutrition but acceptable in a pinch), insulating buildings when industry collapses – give me a few more minutes and I’m certain to come up with more.

        Just crossed my mind – ponder what ancient civilizations might have erected out of LEGO – holy crap! That alone makes me smile 🙂

  4. Funny you should say that. I rarely let contractors into my home because they nearly always disappoint me. And not just because of their fees. So I do 99% of everything myself. I often mention jokingly that there is little difference between a kid making a castle with LEGO and a grown-up building a garden shed.

    Perhaps LEGO could do a partnership with IKEA and build LEGO for Big Kids. Brick-sized bricks made out of palm husk. Standard hinges that fit everywhere. You get the idea.

    Give it a 2014 spin and 3D print the bloody things. Now we’re talking 🙂

    • No – funny YOU should say that because I’ve pondered precisely what you just described on more than one occasion. Chuck IKEA – maybe we should go into business 🙂 I’ve dissected the possibilities from too many angles to express – the idea is solid and attainable 🙂

      • You caught me at the right moment. I’ve taken a mental break from work (though in the office) and wondered where to take Genetic Fractals. Thanks to you, I figured that I should LEGOlize them. Do the LEGO building virtually and without the restruction of square blocks but freely stick them together as nature does it. 3D print it and Bob is your uncle.

  5. While I haven’t stepped on a lego piece in quite a while, even today I can still feel that special, harsh pain it created. I would put the stepping-on-lego total well above 20 🙂

  6. I love LEGOS…I did not think of the million gallons of oil used to make them…my Mother Earth conscience was struck! Well, I have always “recycled” the toys forward to my grandchildren. I was just thinking, if there was some way to bring LEGOS to the children in Togo, where my daughter is teaching. They have no toys…LEGOS would be amazing to them! The postage is so steep–they have little food…two seasons, The Rainy Season and the Hunger Season. Legos or food? WHY is life so hard…WHY must we suffer so needlessly when there is enough for all…sorry…I am off in Togo……
    Great piece on LEGOS…I reposted it on my Facebook page.

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