You can build virtually anything using LEGO. From dollhouses and spaceships, functioning programmable robots and drivable cars, even buildings and huge towers, the possibilities are endless. In their short 80-year history the small LEGO blocks have become one of the most recognizable and loved toys on our planet. It all started in the 1930s, during the Great Depression in Denmark. Ole Kirk Christiansen was the owner of a failing woodworking shop, so he started using the leftover wood to make small toys. The business gradually grew but production was slow and very labor intensive, as all of the toys were hand made.
In 1949 while looking at a plastic mold injection machine as a possible investment, Christiansen was introduced to a sample of two interlocking bricks, created by Hilary Fisher Page in England. Inspired by their design and not knowing they were already patented, he created his own improved version, called Automatic Building Bricks. In 1958, now with tubes on the inside for stability, the well known 2x4 block was patented and to this day every single piece is done by the same dimensions.
The plastic molds are actually so accurate, that pieces vary at most by 0.004 mm and in spite of this strict quality control, only around 18 pieces from a million are rejected. This means that if we take a piece built today and one from way back in 1958, they will still fit perfectly together. 400 billion bricks are produced every year and incredibly around 320 million of them are the car tires used in their sets. This makes them the biggest tire manufacturer in the world, beating Goodyear, Bridgestone or Michelin by a wide margin.
People around the world use the pieces for all sorts of different projects, constructing some incredible creations. For example, the current Guinness World Record for the highest LEGO building is a tower made in 2015 in Milano, Italy, using 550,000 bricks and soars to the staggering 35.05 meters. Despite this, the pieces are not even close to breaking. Each one can withstand 4,240 Newtons of pressure, or around 430 kilograms. This would equal 375,000 bricks or a 3.5-kilometer tower on top of it. In 2009 James May, one of the hosts of Top Gear, together with the BBC built a complete house out of LEGO bricks. It contained 3.3 million individual blocks and hat a functioning toilet, shower and a bed. It was eventually destroyed just a few days after its completion and the pieces were given off to charity.