How LEGOs Work


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Josh Clark: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant, with his hair looking mighty fine today.

Chuck Bryant: Is it a good hair day?

Josh Clark: Yeah. Oh, it's a great hair day.

Chuck Bryant: Thanks, man.

Josh Clark: Are you doing great?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Sure.

Josh Clark: You feeling peppy, full of energy, and happy?

Chuck Bryant: Full of - my hair is happy.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I can tell.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Josh.

Josh Clark: Hey, man, before we get started we should plug Facebook -

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: - Twitter and your mom's cooking.

Chuck Bryant: My mom's cooking is great. Facebook, you can find us at Stuff You Should Know in the search bar. And we're personally interacting now.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: It's not a ghostwriter.

Josh Clark: It's not a net bot.

Chuck Bryant: No. And you'll be able to tell because it's clearly our silly, inane voices.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And Chuck started a trend that solved of a big problem, of saying, "Hey, Chuck here."

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Because our profile picture is the album art for your podcast.

Chuck Bryant: I don't people to get what we're saying confused, buddy.

Josh Clark: No. Me neither.

Chuck Bryant: My words are my words.

Josh Clark: I don't want them to be like, "I didn't know Josh was an old crotchety man."

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: He's just a young jerk.

Chuck Bryant: I didn't know Chuck was in a flight club.

Josh Clark: So that's Facebook. And we already had a page, but we consolidated them. If you were a fan of the old page, they ain't around anymore. Join the new one, will you? Let's get with it.

Chuck Bryant: And Twitter, we are tweeting at SYSKPodcast. That's the name of our account. It should be funny and fun. I'm trying to follow CoCo's lead.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah?

Chuck Bryant: Well, I was anti-Twitter until I saw Conan O'Brien's. I think I told you that. They were funny, and I thought, "You know what? I could do that."

Josh Clark: Well, of course you can. You're Chuck Bryant.

Chuck Bryant: In 140 characters, I can do that.

Josh Clark: Yeah. I think its 160, pal.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, is it?

Josh Clark: I don't know.

Chuck Bryant: Well, we'll figure out when it cuts me off in the middle of a sentence.

Josh Clark: All right. So we're done with plug fest 2010, right?

Chuck Bryant: I think so.

Josh Clark: Okay. Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Josh.

Josh Clark: Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal, he's finally arrived.

Chuck Bryant: Donnie Darko himself.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Much to his chagrin, he was not a member of the cast of the fine fine picture Hot Tub Time Machine.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: But he was cast in the starring role for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, or something, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I saw the trailer for that the other day.

Josh Clark: As a result, Mr. Gyllenhaal will now have his own LEGO mini figure.

Chuck Bryant: And as a result, he's very buff now.

Josh Clark: Yes, he is.

Chuck Bryant: He got all jacked up for the role as the Prince of Persia.

Josh Clark: Yeah. But again, what we're focusing on here is the LEGO mini figure.

Chuck Bryant: Well, but is the mini fig buff?

Josh Clark: It has stubble.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. That's a start.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and it bears something of a resemblance to him, which is actually a new trend among LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really? To look like the thing or to just be branded like that?

Josh Clark: Well, both. They started branding or working with license brands, with Star Wars in 1998. And they were like, "Oh, we don't know. This goes against our corporate philosophy -

Chuck Bryant: Until they cashed the check.

Josh Clark: - of letting kids use their imagination." Then all of a sudden sales went through the roof.

Chuck Bryant: They said we can bend.

Josh Clark: And they're like, "Yeah, okay. This is the way we put it now. We let kids' imaginations run wild with the added element of storytelling."

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Which is cool! The LEGO Group, as they're called from what I understand, is a pretty great company to tell you the truth. And we should say in no way are Chuck and I Wilford Brimley-esque commentated endorsers.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, when we do a brand name like this, don't think that we're shilling. We just have chose some of these iconic brands to cover. Because I think it's interesting.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it's a part of pop culture. It's part of who we are.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. And people seem to dig it.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So anyway, no we're not getting rich off of LEGOS, unfortunately.

Josh Clark: So to answer your question, they started doing the licensing branding sets, like Star Wars in 1998. I think that was their first big hit. And Indiana Jones was another big hit - Harry Potter, obviously.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: But it wasn't until they released the LEGO basketball set, they started messing with skin tone. Up until that point, if you had a LEGO character, even if it was based on somebody, it was yellow.

Chuck Bryant: Sure. And for a while there, they were asexual, right? They were neither male nor female.

Josh Clark: Right. In 1974, when they released the first figures, they had a neutral facial expression; they were genderless and raceless, right?

Chuck Bryant: That's kind of boring.

Josh Clark: But in a kind of backhanded nod to women, the female character was the first gender-specific character introduced - wait for it - as a nurse.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Yeah, for their hospital play set.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Because there's no such thing as male nurses?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Interesting. Well, that was better than - at least they made her a working woman and they didn't say the first one was Betty Homemaker.

Josh Clark: Right. Or a homeless person?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that would've been bad, too.

Josh Clark: Shoot. Let's start at the begin - we've got plenty. This is a stat heavy extravaganza.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah, Chuck's all excited.

Chuck Bryant: I love it.

Josh Clark: That's why your hair looks so good.

Chuck Bryant: It is. It's standing up in excitement. LEGOS, Josh. Like you said, the LEGO Group, they employ about 5,000 people. They've got about 150 designers of 18 nationalities on their team. And they began way back in 1932 - and I love this guy's name.

Josh Clark: I do, too.

Chuck Bryant: Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And his first name is Ole, but we've decided to refer to him as Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Josh Clark: Do you remember when we went to Tandberg and we found out one of their vice presidents' name was Odd Johnny?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And we're like this is the most punk rock telecommunications firm we've ever -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: No, Odd is actually a very common name in Norwegian countries.

Chuck Bryant: News to us.

Josh Clark: Wait. Wait. Let me just double-check my facts. Is Denmark a Norwegian country?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, we got that wrong with The Netherlands and we heard about it.

Josh Clark: Yeah, we did.

Chuck Bryant: That's an in podcast correction. We don't usually do that.

Josh Clark: So Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, from Denmark.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: From Billund, Denmark.

Josh Clark: Which is where the corporate headquarters still are?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they still reside there.

Josh Clark: And the first LEGOLAND is still there.

Chuck Bryant: That's right. He at first, Josh, made things out of wood - wooden toys and little ladders, things like that. And he did so until 1960 when the warehouse burned and was destroyed in the fire. And I thought it was then that he said - it would've been a much better story if he would've said, "Oh, I need to work with plastic now."

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: But that's not true.

Josh Clark: Because is plastic isn't flammable.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Because he started working with plastic long before that! In 1947 he started working with plastic.

Josh Clark: Actually, not coincidentally, that's the year that his son took over.

Chuck Bryant: Oh. They have it.

Josh Clark: Yeah, his son started saying, "We need to -

Chuck Bryant: He's a modern dude.

Josh Clark: - look into plastics. It's the wave of the future."

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And they started tinkering around with LEGOS, right?

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah. The first thing they made in 1949 was the automated binding brick. And that was kind of like the first modern LEGO brick. But it didn't have the tu bes. We'll get to the construction in a minute, but it didn't have the tubes - the little interior tubes - so things weren't as stable. So it was sort of like the Beta version.

Josh Clark: Right. But what was it, 1958?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: That's when they came up with the current design. It's called stud and tube coupling system - which, like you said, we'll describe in a second. But the cool thing about it is, it hasn't changed since then.

Chuck Bryant: Isn't that awesome?

Josh Clark: So if you have a brick that was made in 1958, and you go buy a set today, they'll work together.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. That is, I think, one of the cooler facts of this whole thing.

Josh Clark: I got one for you.

Chuck Bryant: What's that?

Josh Clark: The term LEGO is actually an abbreviation of two Danish words, right?

Chuck Bryant: That's right.

Josh Clark: Leg and godt, which put together means play well. So he combined the two into LEGO. What Ole Kirk Christiansen didn't know was that lego in Latin actually means, "I put together."

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: He had no idea.

Chuck Bryant: Huh. And I bet people think that's why he named it that.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Not true.

Josh Clark: But it's not true.

Chuck Bryant: Look at you, Josh.

Josh Clark: Thank you.

Chuck Bryant: Look at you. So like you said, 1958, was when they finished the design of the modern brick. And the rest is history. In the '60s and '70s they started introducing other facets to the LEGOS besides just the brick. For instance, the LEGO TECHNIC - not technique. It's really technic. You know what I'm saying?

Josh Clark: You know what I'm saying?

Chuck Bryant: It's not spelled technique.

Josh Clark: I'm reading between the lines.

Chuck Bryant: It hit the market in '77 and MINDSTORMS robots made their debut in '98. And that was actually a collaboration with MIT, the technology media lab there.

Josh Clark: In the '80s, right? '84 or something?

Chuck Bryant: No, late '90s.

Josh Clark: I think they got together with MIT starting in '84 and then -

Chuck Bryant: Well, maybe it took that long.

Josh Clark: Yeah. I could see that.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And also, you would think that all their designers have art school backgrounds or some sort of engineering design backgrounds.

Chuck Bryant: I would think that.

Josh Clark: Not necessarily true, my friend. While most of their designers do have that, the company says that all designers are hired based on their hands-on work and a face-to-face interview!

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: And you don't necessarily have to have an art background if you are a natural LEGO play set designer - that's what you are.

Chuck Bryant: Cool.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's means you and I could go and try to do that.

Josh Clark: Let's give it a shot, man.

Chuck Bryant: We may have to. You never know.

Josh Clark: So, Chuck, over the years - you just spanned a few decades.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: LEGOS were named Toy of the 20th Century by Fortune magazine in 2000?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I saw that.

Josh Clark: I did, too.

Chuck Bryant: Good for them. Did you have LEGOS?

Josh Clark: Yeah, of course.

Chuck Bryant: I didn't.

Josh Clark: What?!

Chuck Bryant: I know.

Josh Clark: You know what's funny, is I noticed they're only sold in 130 countries. I did a little background check, Chuck. It's not unequal access to sanitary drinking water that keeps underdeveloped countries underdeveloped, turns out its lack of access to LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: Is that what it is?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Well, they teach you how to build and construct things and play together.

Josh Clark: That's why you're all thumbs today, isn't it?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I was into Lincoln Logs - because I was born in the 1930s when log cabins were how we had to do things.

Josh Clark: Right. Back in your day.

Chuck Bryant: Back in my day. And then I had an erector set, which was pretty awesome.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I never got into erector sets.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that was fun. I was kind of into that.

Josh Clark: I was like, "Look at those gears and pulleys. What is this?"

Chuck Bryant: And Hot Wheels.

Josh Clark: I just wanted to snap blocks together.

Chuck Bryant: Hot Wheels, model cars - I was way into model cars.

Josh Clark: Did you? I'll bet you were.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I would get them and I would then destroy them at some point later on with firecrackers and stuff.

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: We're not recommending that you do that.

Josh Clark: No, we're not.

Chuck Bryant: That's very dangerous.

Josh Clark: So I was saying, you spanned several decades when you gave the stats. And in the meantime, people have come up with some pretty cool uses of LEGOS; have done some pretty cool things with them. If you go on to YouTube, there is Thriller done in LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: All 14 minutes shot-for-shot. And it was clearly done in an old 16 mm camera, and it hasn't made the jump to digital all that well. But still, it's pretty impressive.

Chuck Bryant: Yep. There's some Star Wars stuff on there, I've seen.

Josh Clark: Definitely.

Chuck Bryant: Scenes recreated.

Josh Clark: Definitely. Did you know there's a Boba Fett LEGO character?

Chuck Bryant: I didn't know that, but it doesn't surprise me.

Josh Clark: Pretty sweet, dude. And Chewbacca!

Chuck Bryant: Well, there should be. They're icons.

Josh Clark: Yeah. In I think 2008; LEGO and Kellogg's combined shared the Blindingly Obvious Danger award from Consumers International -

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: - for producing the LEGO fun snacks, which are gummy fruit chews that look exactly like LEGO blocks.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's like the bag of glass from the old Saturday Night Live.

Josh Clark: Right. Or the Super Happy Fun Ball!

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And so of course, those were discontinued in 2008.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's not a very good idea.

Josh Clark: And there was a guy out there who's actually in the article - and there's a cool picture of it in the article - who created a life-size replica of Han Solo frozen in carbonate.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I got info on that guy.

Josh Clark: Do you really?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, he's a real artist.

Josh Clark: Yeah, he is. You can tell.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. We'll get to him later, too, though.

Josh Clark: Okay. And then lastly, Chuck, M.C. Escher? Relativity?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: You know the steps going different -

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: - the staircases going -

Chuck Bryant: Who doesn't?

Josh Clark: Somebody did it in LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: It is amazing.

Chuck Bryant: Now, see? That's impressive to me.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: M.C. Escher - eh.

Josh Clark: What?!

Chuck Bryant: Oh, come on, handstrong hands. Please.

Josh Clark: You disappoint me today, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Sorry.

Josh Clark: That's all right.

Chuck Bryant: I'm just over it. How many times can I see that stair thing, you know?

Josh Clark: What?!

Chuck Bryant: Each time you gaze upon it; you're still riveted, aren't you?

Josh Clark: Do you know the incredibly disordered, or highly ordered, brain structure it requires to see things in that kind of perspective?

Chuck Bryant: I'm not saying -

Josh Clark: It's nuts.

Chuck Bryant: I'm not saying he was a dummy. I'm just tired of looking at it.

Josh Clark: Okay. I think we should talk about how LEGO bricks are made.

Chuck Bryant: That's a good idea. Josh, they start out as plastic granules - as little plastic -

Josh Clark: Yeah. What kind of plastic?

Chuck Bryant: It is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.

Josh Clark: Or ABS.

Chuck Bryant: We'll call it ABS. And ABS comes to the factory - well, we'll call it a factory; it's a manufacturing facility - in droves. They have 14 silos. These things are vacuumed into these silos. And all in all a factor has close to a million pounds of this granulated plastic.

Josh Clark: Right. And all the plastic is already dyed. So they have 52 different colors. Did you know that?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they don't need to worry about all of that. You wouldn't want to have to color it there, too.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: I wonder where that's made initially? Interesting.

Josh Clark: I don't know, but I did a little background check and ABS is actually a very safe plastic. It doesn't contain phthalates or bisphenols.

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah. Because kids, despite everything you tell them, are probably going to put a LEGO in their mouth at one point or another.

Josh Clark: Whether it's a LEGO or a LEGO fruit chew.

Chuck Bryant: Right. I could see that meeting, through. I sort see it. Like, "Well, it's really unsafe to eat these, but they want to eat them. So let's just give them one they can eat."

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And then afterward, they were like, "Oh, maybe not such a good idea."

Josh Clark: Can Jerry put in like a sound effect of somebody slapping their own forehead?

Chuck Bryant: So, what happens from here, buddy, is they take these granules and they use a process called injection molding. All of this is machinery, pretty much, of course. And they melt the stuff down, 450 degrees - yeah, they're not made by hand. Is that a surprise?

Josh Clark: At 450 degrees?

Chuck Bryant: Right. At 450 degrees it melts the plastic. It injects into the molds and applies between 25-150 tons of pressure.

Josh Clark: Right. And the cool thing is is the injection molds that they use, the machining process is so precise, the most it's off is 0.002 mm.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Which is relatively insignificant for the kind of coupling system that LEGOS use!

Chuck Bryant: Are you -

Josh Clark: But first let's talk about robots.

Chuck Bryant: I thought you were about to drop the knowledge there on that.

Josh Clark: Okay, let's do it.

Chuck Bryant: Are you talking about the interference fit?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's what it's called, Josh. The stud sticks into the tube, but it's slightly bigger - which is key - because that means it presses it apart and allows it to stay together using friction.

Josh Clark: Right. And the key to this, Chuck, is you don't need any kind of fastener. It's all friction. It's all resistance.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And that was that change in design that they achieved in 1958. Before, it lacked the tubes, I think. So the things would fall apart pretty easy.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Now it's like, once a LEGOS stuck, brother, it's stuck.

Chuck Bryant: Well, until you take it apart.

Josh Clark: Exactly. But think of how many pounds of pressure you have to use to overcome that friction fit.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's true.

Josh Clark: It's a lot. Like at least two.

Chuck Bryant: That's true. So where were we? They apply all that pressure, makes it into the little mold, takes only seven seconds. Then they spit it out, cool it, goes onto a conveyor into a bin, goes from a bin into the packaging. We could get specific there, but it's not the most interesting thing in the world.

Josh Clark: I think the cool thing is they have robots that weight the packages.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that is kind of cool.

Josh Clark: When you get a LEGO set, you get different bags, right? Because these designers have said, "We need X number of these blocks and X number of these blocks." And they put them in different bags so that you can just throw this prescribed assortment of bags in a box and there's your play set, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: And then they have robots that weigh the bags before packaging to make sure they weight the precise amount.

Chuck Bryant: Pretty cool.

Josh Clark: And if they don't, that's when humans come in.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, humans come in and do a little QA, along with machines. Machines perform the drop torque tension compression bite and impact test. And humans -

Josh Clark: The byte test is my favorite.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, humans use a little beaker, I guess, the size of a child's epiglottis, maybe, to make sure that the piece can't choke a kid to death.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Because that's a really important step in this whole process.

Josh Clark: Definitely. And the bite test.

Chuck Bryant: And one of my favorite stats, Josh, is out of every million LEGO pieces made, only about 18 fail these tests.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That is .0002.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: It's .0002.

Chuck Bryant: I see four zeros.

Josh Clark: Yeah, you said three.

Chuck Bryant: No, I said four.

Josh Clark: No, you said three.

Chuck Bryant: .00002.

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: And the castle walls are counterclockwise. And this, like you said, Josh, takes place in Billund, Denmark. But they moved a lot of their manufacturing to the Czech Republic because they were losing money there and laying people off after the mid-'90s. So they had to make it a little cheaper. And I guess labor is cheaper over there.

Josh Clark: In Czech Republic?

Chuck Bryant: Must be.

Josh Clark: I guess so.

Chuck Bryant: So that's why it's there now.

Josh Clark: So, Chuck, they're making 37,000 LEGO sets every hour.

Chuck Bryant: Sets.

Josh Clark: Sets.

Chuck Bryant: Not bricks.

Josh Clark: Right. And I believe I saw a statistic that every seven seconds another LEGO set is sold.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, we have some of those fun stats we'll say at the end if we have time.

Josh Clark: Oh, sorry for jumping ahead.

Chuck Bryant: No, that's okay. So, Josh, let's say you wanted to build a LEGO project, but not a little tiny thing to put in your pocket, a pocket model. Let's say you want to build something big and cool.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: The first thing you need to do is - well, it depends on what kind of guy you are. I'm the kind of guy that just dives in and starts building. But that's why I'm not an architect or a builder. What you should do is plan it out a little bit and decide how large you want it. Because that will tell you how many bricks you need, how long it's going to take, and that determines your scale. And from there, you can just kind of move on and be creative. You can sketch it out, if you want - if you're into that. Or, you could computer software.

Josh Clark: You can. It's pretty awesome actually. There's three different types of software as far as know. There's LEGO Digital Designer - and that's actually available for use for free on the website.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Pretty cool.

Josh Clark: You either download it or, I believe you can go to LEGO.com and use it.

Chuck Bryant: Yep.

Josh Clark: There's also LDraw, which is basically a type of CAD, computer aided design software.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And then there is Bricksmith.

Chuck Bryant: That's it on Bricksmith?

Josh Clark: That's it, man. And people use these to do things like - oh, I don't know - create the Statue of Liberty with a light saber.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's a good one.

Josh Clark: Or a scale replica of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Or, you know -

Chuck Bryant: Or Yankees Stadium?

Josh Clark: Create - yes. LEGOLAND.

Chuck Bryant: I have pictures of that, actually, I'll show you.

Josh Clark: Awesome.

Chuck Bryant: The thing I thought was cool was when some of the - Tracy, for this article, interviewed the one guy that you're talking about, Nathan Sawaya. And it's sort of like real architecture and real building techniques. You should stagger your bricks for a wall because it's sturdier. And for hollow things, you can put interior columns. And it sort of follows the same rules of standard architecture, which I thought was kind of neat.

Josh Clark: Right. And this isn't lost on LEGOS. They've recently released the LEGO Architecture series. Did you check these out?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Dude. They have a couple so far. They have the Guggenheim. My favorite, they have Falling Water.

Chuck Bryant: Ah, very nice. Frank Lloyd Wright?

Josh Clark: Yeah. It's pretty sweet. And they have some iconic landmarks. I think the Space Needle's one of them.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: But it looks pretty slick.

Chuck Bryant: What if I was like Frank Lloyd Wright? Pfft.

Josh Clark: I would come across this table at you.

Chuck Bryant: Square houses, please.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and we've been trying to figure out how to do a Frank Lloyd Wright podcast and we got pretty far into the research process to do it -

Chuck Bryant: Way far.

Josh Clark: - and we figured out we can't do this. It's just too visual.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, us sitting around describing Falling Water is just like - somebody should slap us in the face.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it would basically just be like, "It's so awesome. No, really. It's awesome. And there's a river that runs underneath it. It's awesome."

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: I'm done now. Go ahead.

Josh Clark: Well one guy who was interviewed for the article, who did Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as part of his whole town he was building.

Chuck Bryant: I think that was Sawaya.

Josh Clark: No, it wasn't.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, it was another guy?

Josh Clark: I think it was Chris Doyle. Yeah, Chris Doyle! He said he just starts. He has a rough idea of what he wants to do, but he just goes to town, basically.

Chuck Bryant: See, that's what I would do. But mine -

Josh Clark: It can be done.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, but mine probably wouldn't succeed.

Josh Clark: And then if you are into robotics, electronics, that kind of stuff - you can use LEGOS, too.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they have new robot versions with microprocessors, motors, and gears.

Josh Clark: There's a guy who used LEGOS to create and automatic book scanner.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: I know. Especially if you love books and then you love LEGOS, then boo yah. There's also a CD launcher that somebody made using LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: I saw that.

Josh Clark: That was pretty awesome, too, right?

Chuck Bryant: It was. Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: And then one of the other cool things I saw combines LEGOS with Dominos. It's an automated Domino stacker made of LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: Built out of LEGOS.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I left out the important part.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I was trying to picture that. I've got it now.

Josh Clark: Really? I'm like, "No. No. It's a playmobile."

Chuck Bryant: But it has water running underneath it.

Josh Clark: It's so awesome.

Chuck Bryant: So I mentioned Nathan Sawaya. He is one of the preeminent LEGO artists out of New York, of course. And he has a traveling exhibit called The Art of the Brick, and a website, too. And he tours to real museums. And the dude has got some serious talent. Look at that. He did Starry Starry Night, the m osaic.

Josh Clark: Wow. He did the Iow Jima statue.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, the -

Josh Clark: Oh, he did this one. That one's the favorite one I ran across. We should probably describe it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it is a yellow man looking upward and he's tearing apart his chest. And inside his chest he's full of LEGOS that are spilling out.

Josh Clark: And he's made of LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah.

Josh Clark: We keep leaving that part off.

Chuck Bryant: All of this is made of LEGOS. We should point that out.

Josh Clark: Oh, okay. All right.

Chuck Bryant: And there's this other dude, Sean Kenney - and he is New York based, too. And I get the feeling that they battle a little bit for -

Josh Clark: Supreme dominance?

Chuck Bryant: Well, New York LEGO supremacy at least.

Josh Clark: Gotcha.

Chuck Bryant: Because both of their websites say, "Our studio has more than 1.5 million LEGOS." Both of them have 1.5 million LEGOS.

Josh Clark: But, I mean, I could have 1.5 million LEGOS and do nothing with them and slap a website together. It's what you do with the LEGOS, not how many you own.

Chuck Bryant: Well, let me show what Sean's done. He's done work for companies like Google and Nintendo and JP Morgan.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah?

Chuck Bryant: And Samsung - and he's been featured on everything. You name it, he's been featured.

Josh Clark: Has he been featured on Jimmy Kimmel?

Chuck Bryant: Ah, no! But look at this. He did a Yankee Stadium. Check that out.

Josh Clark: Wow.

Chuck Bryant: And I hate the Yankees. But that's pretty cool.

Josh Clark: I was going to say, if I liked the Yankees, I would be really impressed.

Chuck Bryant: And he's a pretty talented guy, too. And he is a member of what are called the certified professionals - and I think there's 11 of them now. LEGO has actually certified these people as professional artists or whatever.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I got the impression that he became better and better he stopped paying for LEGOS along the way and was just like - ring, ring, - "I need more LEGOS now."

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I would think so. "I need green!"

Josh Clark: And Ole Kirk Christiansen is like, "Okay. All right."

Chuck Bryant: Ole Kirk. Should we go over some of these fun facts?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: LEGO fun facts?

Josh Clark: Aren't all facts associated with LEGOS fun?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I think so.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: I like this whole Around the World stuff, though. Because everybody has one of these!

Josh Clark: Wait, first - have you been on lego.com recently? Did you go on for this?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: It was pretty awesome, wasn't it?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's a cool site.

Josh Clark: Like all the little movies associated with each one?

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I haven't been to LEGOLAND, though. You ever been there?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: One of their theme parks - they actually sold.

Josh Clark: Yeah, to Merlin Entertainment or something like that. Chuck Bryant:

To Merlin OlsenJosh Clark: Yeah. His ghost made a deal with Ole Kirk Christiansen's ghost.

Chuck Bryant: That's right. He just passed away recently, didn't he?

Josh Clark: Yes, he did.

Chuck Bryant: Very sad. Yeah, they sold those because they became unprofitable. So they kind of restructured and moved some things around. Now they're in the red?

Josh Clark: In the black.

Chuck Bryant: In the black. Fun facts, Josh. Here we go. More than 400 million children and adults will play with LEGOS this year.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: And I don't know what year they said that was, but it's probably every year.

Josh Clark: I saw their 2009 Investor Catalogue, or perspectives, I guess. And it same that stat.

Chuck Bryant: Are you going to put all your money in LEGOS?

Josh Clark: I'm going to put a substantial amount of it.

Chuck Bryant: They're actually privately owned, so I don't think that's possible. If you built a column, Josh, of 40 billion LEGO bricks, it would reach the moon. 40 billion? I had to count those zeros.

Josh Clark: I've got one.

Chuck Bryant: Go ahead.

Josh Clark: LEGO is the largest tire manufacturer in the world.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, little teeny tires.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: Pretty cool stat.

Josh Clark: How many do they make in a year?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, I don't know. Do you have that stat?

Josh Clark: Yeah, I do.

Chuck Bryant: 306 million?

Josh Clark: That's what I got, too.

Chuck Bryant: All right.

Josh Clark: Somebody else was in the 2009 Investor Perspective.

Chuck Bryant: On average, Josh - this is my favorite one. There are 62 LEGO bricks for every single person on earth.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I like that one, too. 5 billion hours - that's how much people will spend playing with LEGOS in a year, on average.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Not one person, not per person - but I mean, combined.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: Everybody playing with LEGOS.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: You out of fun facts?

Chuck Bryant: I'm out of fun facts. I mean, there were more, but -

Josh Clark : I've got one for you.

Chuck Bryant: Let's hear it.

Josh Clark: Remember, we talked about - I'm fascinated with the mini figures.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, the mini figs as they call them?

Josh Clark: If you're in the know, if you're one of the 11 certified artists. We talked about how they were originally gender neutral, race neutral. They were also emotion neutral, too. And it wasn't until 1989 when LEGO started releasing their pirate set, they realized, "Hey, man. We might need some facial expressions on these people." And they came up with a good figure and a bad figure - and an eye-patched figure.

Chuck Bryant: What was the diff? Do you know?

Josh Clark: I think scowl and smile.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: To differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: From that point on, they started having facial expressions.

Chuck Bryant: Wow. Well, good for them.

Josh Clark: And I think I have one other.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I was Fisher Price. We should do a podcast on Fisher Price. That was my bag. I was way into that.

Josh Clark: Yeah. I liked PLAYMOBIL, but I did love LEGOS as well.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And then, Chuck, the mini figs. Four billion of them on the planet. There's only 6.5 billion people. Four billion on the planet technically makes them the largest population group in the world.

Chuck Bryant: Isn't that cute?

Josh Clark: Because they're so tiny.

Chuck Bryant: That's so cute.

Josh Clark: And I think that's it, buddy.

Chuck Bryant: I think so. I mean, there's a lot more. We didn't cover all of it.

Josh Clark: Oh! No! There is something else.

Chuck Bryant: Hold the presses - stop the presses.

Josh Clark: You were talking about them selling LEGOLAND. They did this huge restructuring in, I think, 2004 because they peaked in 1998 with their Star Wars sets.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: And after that, they actually started losing money. And you said they were back in the black. Part of it is because they sold LEGOLAND and restructured the company. But probably the main reason why LEGOS took such a hit was because of -

Chuck Bryant: Mega Blocks?

Josh Clark: No. Electronics!

Chuck Bryant: Oh, well I thought you - their patent ran out, too. That had something to do with it.

Josh Clark: That was definitely part of it, but they think that LEGOS are having trouble competing with -

Chuck Bryant: Oh, sure.

Josh Clark: - mp3 players and video games and all that. So LEGO remains optimistic, buddy. I have a little tidbit of nice Danish optimism in broken English for you, courtesy of the LEGO Group. You ready?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: I quote, "But the LEGO Group is no doubt that the LEGO brick will continue in future to be relevant to children of all ages. A world of imagination and total absorption."

Chuck Bryant: That sounds like they literally said that in their native language and then just typed it into Babblefish.

Josh Clark: Babblefish, yeah. I think that's right, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I think that's translated. Well, my nephew Noah plays the PlayStation game. They have an Indiana Jones LEGO game.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So they're trying to get a piece of that market, too.

Josh Clark: I think they've got a good piece of it. They have a Star Wars game, too. I think they have more than the trilogy in LEGO.

Chuck Bryant: Smart.

Josh Clark: Yeah. They'll be around. They're fun.

Chuck Bryant: I think so.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So that's it, man. Really honestly, I know we say this every time, "Go read the article on the site." Sometimes we've covered the article, gone beyond the article. This is not one of those cases. If you want to see a series of super cool LEGO pictures, A Lego Brick Field Guide Complete with Precise Measurements.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And just a bunch of other information that we didn't even touch on, type "how LEGO bricks work." Because technically there isn't a word called LEGOS. It's LEGO bricks. But hey, we named ours How LEGOS Work.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Type "how LEGO bricks work" in the handy search bar at howstuffworks.com and it will yield that article, right?

Chuck Bryant: Indeed.

Josh Clark: Listener mail.

Chuck Bryant: Not quite.

Josh Clark: Oh, okay.

Chuck Bryant: I wanted to give a little shout out. I met a couple of fans this weekend, finally. That never happens.

Josh Clark: What about the Henry Clay people?

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah. Yeah, sure, you're right. I'm going to plug their album actually. It's coming out in June. They've got a new album coming out. But I'll wait on that plug for when it's - when I have the release date.

Josh Clark: Are you drumming up the interest?

Chuck Bryant: Jerry and I, over the weekend, went to a play of sorts.

Josh Clark: I think it's so cute you two are dating now.

Chuck Bryant: Live theater - we're not dating - called Looking Glass Alice, based on Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. And Doug and Lindsey are in the show - Lindsey's Alice. And actually there's only five people in the show, so literally one - whatever percentage of the cast that is, are fans of the show.

Josh Clark: Two-fifths?

Chuck Bryant: Two-fifths. So Jerry and I went with Emily, with my wife, and met up with them afterward in the green room - which was really green. And they were super cool. And we're going to take them out for barbeque while they're here. I just wanted to thank them.

Josh Clark: Oh, are they still here?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's like a six-week run.

Josh Clark: Where are you going for barbeque.

Chuck Bryant: Well, I was going to say like Daddy D's, but that's a -

Josh Clark: Oh, my friend.

Chuck Bryant: - little dingy.

Josh Clark: Let me - yeah, but it's really great barbeque.

Chuck Bryant: It is.

Josh Clark: If Daddy D is listening, your barbeque rocks.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: I would recommend that or Fox Brothers.

Chuck Bryant: Well, Fox Brothers is a little more the kind of place you would want to take someone from out of town.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But they're kind of into Fat Matt's. They want to go to Fat Matt's.

Josh Clark: You know, that made an appearance in Up in the Air.

Chuck Bryant: Yes. Yes, indeed.

Josh Clark: Okay, well that's it for the Atlanta barbeque scene.

Chuck Bryant: Right. And I also wanted to shout out to - Emily had a craft show last weekend. And one of her fellow crafters - her name was Julie - or Julia - now I feel like a jerk.

Josh Clark: Just say both. It's either Julie or Julia.

Chuck Bryant: It's Julie or Julia. She was really nice. And what she does, she has bought some - and I've seen other people that do this, now and I'm mentioning because it's just so cool. Those old printing presses from the 1800s!

Josh Clark: Yeah, I have several.

Chuck Bryant: No, you don't. She has resurrected these things - and they're huge. And she does real printing on cards. There's no computers involved.

Josh Clark: Those dagnabit computers, huh?

Chuck Bryant: I know, but they showed pictures of her in front of this huge machine. And you crank it with your foot and it turns all these gears and -

Josh Clark: Cool. It's very steam punk.

Chuck Bryant: - she was - yeah, it is very steam punk. But she has a website called redbirdink.com. I don't know. I think you should support people that resurrect - she said the machines hadn't been used in 70 years when she got hold of them.

Josh Clark: Wow. People used to have to walk uphill both ways in the snow to use those machines.

Chuck Bryant: To print. All right, Josh, this is listener mail in honor of Mother's Day. This should come out sometime near Mother's Day.

Josh Clark: Well, hold on. We haven't even laid a part where we can do the music. Chuck, is it time now for listener mail?

Chuck Bryant: Yes, Josh. Setting Jerry up. So like I said, hopefully this will come out sometime around Mother's Day because this is signed, "Nora, a mama from Missouri."

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: "Hello, fellas. While driving my oldest son to start his freshman year of college this fall, I was trying to be 'cool' and ignore all the mommy emotions bubbling up." So she was getting sad.

Josh Clark: Oh. Thank you for translating.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. "For the hour and a half drive, my son brought out his radio iPod gizmo and entertained his brother and me with your podcast, starting with the one on a Ponce schemes."

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: You know how to say it, clearly. "We were totally involved, thought provoked, and sparked a great conversation or two. After handling the separation without too much embarrassment and upon arriving home, I decided to go for a run to help shake off my mommy blues. The inspiration came to look up the podcast and load some on the iPod" gizmo thingy! "While running and listening, I was struck by the whole circle of my baby teaching me a trick or two as he heads off into the world. Now I get warm fuzzies each time I head out for a run and choose my topic."

Josh Clark: That is so cute.

Chuck Bryant: Isn't it? "And I look forward to running more than I have for awhile. So extra bonus - now my youngest son looks for podcasts he wants to listen to with us on car trips." She's really excited about this.

Josh Clark: Yeah, we're bringing the intergenerational gap together.

Chuck Bryant: She says, "Hooray for more family time with the teenagers. Who knew? Every time you encourage emails at the end of podcasts, I think about sharing our little story. The kids would roll their eyes if they knew I wrote in. But they love what you do, too, and we hope you keep up the good work." And Nora, mommy from Missouri, I hope your kid's in college rolling his eyes at you right now.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's what we hope.

Josh Clark: But there's a tear coming down from his eye as well.

Chuck Bryant: Well, touching.

Josh Clark: If he wasn't homesick before, he is now.

Chuck Bryant: Seriously.

Josh Clark: Believe me. Well, if you work out or run or do any physical exertion while you listen to Chuck and me, we want a sample of your sweat. Put it in an email and send it to stuffpodcast@howstuffworks.com.

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