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Scientists discover maximum height of a Lego tower

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The world's tallest Lego Tower in Prague (Getty Images)

Building the biggest Lego tower has been an obsession for fans of the timeless toy for generations, but how high could you build it before the brick at the bottom collapses under the strain?

BBC Radio's statistics show More or Less asked Britain's Open University's Engineering Department. Armed with a hydraulic press, the department's staff set about finding out.

"It's an exciting thing to do because it's an entirely new question and new questions are always interesting," Dr Ian Johnston said to the BBC. We're guessing they're even more interesting when you get to fool aournd with industrial-strength heavy machinery and Lego bricks, but we certainly can't fault his spirit of scientific endeavor.

Johnston's team discovered that Lego bricks don't snap or shatter under extreme pressure -- instead, they smush into a plastic puddle like a brightly-colored piece of overripe cheese. And before they do that, on average they can withstand a force of 4,240 newtons, the equivalent to supporting almost a thousand pounds of weight. In Lego terms, that translates to 375,000 2x2 Lego blocks stacked one on top of another.

That wouldn't just make it the tallest Lego tower ever made. It'd also make it the tallest building in the world, by quite some margin. In fact, at over 2 miles high, it'd be taller than a fair number of perfectly good mountains.

Don't try it at home, however. Open University's scientists and Lego experts all agreed that actually building a tower anywhere near this height would be impossible.

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

And humanity has quite some distance to go before the structural integrity of Lego bricks limits its upward potential. Currently, the world record for the tallest Lego tower belongs to a team from the Czech city of Prague, who built a 106-foot tower back in September.

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