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How Many Combinations Are Possible Using 6 LEGO Bricks?

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Mathematician Søren Eilers was intrigued by a LEGO-related math problem. Let's say you have six "standard LEGO bricks" (the rectangular 4x2 bricks seen in the original LEGO patent). If you fit them together, how many possible structures can you make?

This question was first officially "answered" in 1974, and LEGO mathematicians arrived at the number 102,981,500. Eilers was curious about the mathematical methodology behind that number, and soon discovered that it only covered one kind of stacking—thus, it was dramatically low. So he wrote a computer program that modeled all the possible brick combinations. After running the program for a week, he ended up with a massive number: 915,103,765 combinations.

(Incidentally, Eilers encouraged high school student Mikkel Abrahamsen to write another program in a different programming language, on a different computing platform, without consulting on the solution or methodology. When Abrahamsen's program concluded, the math matched up—and Abrahamsen's method for computing it was actually superior!)

Then, of course, Eilers had to ask what happened if you added a seventh brick, or an eighth, and so on. The math gets exponentially more time-consuming with each addition. Even with a revised version of his program running on a modern computer (which can now handle the original six-block calculation in just five minutes), calculating the eight-brick solution takes about three weeks, and a nine- or ten-brick solution would "probably take years. Maybe hundreds of years."

Here's a brief clip from the documentary A LEGO Brickumentary in which Eilers explains how it all came together:

Of course, because Eilers is a math professor, he put all the math online for fellow nerds to peruse. There's a lot on that page to digest. I enjoyed this snippet from the page in which he considers the possibility of a 25-brick solution (emphasis added):

With the current efficiency of our computer programs we further estimate that it would take us something like

130,881,177,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

years to compute the correct number. After some 5,000,000,000 years we will have to move our computer out of the Solar system, as the Sun is expected to become a red giant at about that time.

If you like this stuff (and have the math skills to decipher it), dig into the academic paper "On the entropy of LEGO" by Bergfinnur Durhuus and Søren Eilers.

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Build Your Own Harry Potter Characters With LEGO's New BrickHeadz Set

Harry Potter is looking pretty square these days. In a testament to the enduring appeal of the boy—and the franchise—who lived, LEGO has launched a line of Harry Potter BrickHeadz.

The gang’s all here in this latest collection, which was recently revealed during the toymaker’s Fall 2018 preview in New York City. Other highlights of that show included LEGO renderings of characters from Star Wars, Incredibles 2, and several Disney films, according to Inside The Magic.

The Harry Potter BrickHeadz collection will be released in July and includes figurines of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and even Hedwig. Some will be sold individually, while others come as a set.

A Ron Weasley figurine
LEGO

A Hermione figurine
LEGO

A Dumbledore figurine
LEGO

Harry Potter fans can also look forward to a four-story, 878-piece LEGO model of the Hogwarts Great Hall, which will be available for purchase August 1. Sets depicting the Whomping Willow, Hogwarts Express, and a quidditch match will hit shelves that same day.

[h/t Inside The Magic]

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Bre Burns, The Brothers Brick
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This Working Pinball Machine Is Made Entirely of LEGO Bricks
Bre Burns, The Brothers Brick
Bre Burns, The Brothers Brick

LEGO sets are fun when you're piecing them together, and significantly less fun when they're fully assembled and gathering dust in your closet. That's not the case with the latest masterwork from builder Bre Burns. Her functioning LEGO pinball machine provides hours of entertainment even after the last brick has been laid.

According to the LEGO fan site The Brothers Brick, Burns built the initial model of the machine for the BrickCon LEGO exhibition in October 2017 and debuted an improved version at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle in March. The 2.5-foot-tall machine consists of 15,000 blocks put together over the course of 200 to 300 hours. Even the castor steel balls, lights, motors, and sensors are official products from LEGO Mindstorms and Technic—collections originally designed for building and programming robots.

Burns dubbed her creation "Benny's Space Adventure" after the excitable classic blue spaceman minifigure from The Lego Movie (2014). The final design includes sound effects, a coin slot, a gumball dispenser, a mosaic of Benny, and a moving spaceship mounted on top of the machine.

Master builders have been using LEGO bricks for years to make items that work in the real world. In 2015, Italian carpenter Nicola Pavan used LEGO to build a fully functional guitar, and that same year a team of professional builders broke a world record with its 215,158-brick camper.

[h/t The Brothers Brick]

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