Andrew Masterson wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald how Lego moves from the toybox to serious science.
Recent studies have deployed Lego bricks in fields as diverse as biology, surgery, oceanography, computer science, climate change, business modelling, vehicle safety, and brainwave technology for the disabled.
Many a boozy post-prandial dinner party conversation has explored the vexing question of identifying the single most useful product ever invented. Conclusions usually come to rest on the ball-pen hammer, with which anything may be dismantled, or gaffer tape, with which all things may be repaired.
A much stronger contender, at least to judge by the academic literature, has to be the Lego brick. To children, Lego is a jolly toy. To parents it is a painful discovery lurking in the carpet. To boffins, however, it is a multi-faceted tool without equal.
In the past two years alone peer-review journals across a wide range of disciplines have been fair stuffed with papers citing Lego as a key component of experimental research.
The Lego brick, it seems, is more popular than even the ubiquitous Petri dish in laboratories. Recent studies have deployed the brightly coloured little bits of plastic in fields as diverse as biology, surgery, oceanography, computer science, climate change, business modelling, vehicle safety, and brain-wave technology for the disabled.
Most of these experiments, of course, use Lego with deliberate forethought. In the area of oceanography, however, its value is the result of pure chance. Or, to put it another way, catastrophic accident.