OK, I'm sorry that this blog has been woefully ignored in the last few weeks. I do have an excellent excuse though (aside from the usual madness of writing and raising two tiny humans) as our family is currently going through the turmoil of moving house.
This is a new experience for me - not moving house - but moving as a family instead of loading the car with my tiny number of possessions and driving to my next home. The sheer amount of stuff that our family has accumulated in the last seven years is impressive and I thought I had done a grand job last week when I finally sorted through the boys' toys.
But there is always one solitary toy that seems to escape the cardboard boxes.
I was barefoot when I stood on that Lego brick. The culprit? A lonely red brick which had bedded down for the night, concealed from view amongst the red, oversized tassels of the rug that sprawls across my lounge floor. My scream (which awakened both boys) was a result of creeping around in the dark, having continued a copywriting project just a slither over to the wrong side of midnight. Work-life balance karma indeed.
But why does it hurt so much to step on a Lego brick? This is one of the questions I've asked the most since becoming a parent, so it’s high time I answered it. As anyone who’s done it knows, stepping on a Lego block is something akin to being shot in the foot by a barbed bullet soaked in wasp venom. This is the inherent danger of allowing a child (let alone two and an overly Lego-enthusiastic husband) to exist in your home.
I might never know who the first person to step on a Lego block was but why does stepping on one of the little buggers hurt so much more when compared to other common household items?
The answer partially lies in how insanely sensitive to pressure, pain and practically everything else our feet actually are.
The soles of the feet are one of the more sensitive areas of the human body, right up there with things like the hands, lips and eyes in terms of how sensitive to pain and touch stimuli they are. Our leg-hands in particular need to be sensitive as they are constantly working to keep us balanced as we totter about and the information from the nerves contained in them allow the brain to adjust accordingly to keep us from tumbling over.
So why does Lego cause so much pain when compared with other items? Sure, stepping on anything that's pointy and sharp is going to cause pain, but why are Lego bricks so often mentioned?
Well, according to Lego, there is enough Lego out there to give every human on Earth around 80 bricks each. So, in terms of probability, you are bound to come into contact with one and, unlike other sharp objects, people are not so careful about keeping them off the floor. Also, a single standard Lego brick can be subjected to more than 4,000 Newtons of force before it deforms.
This means a single, lowly Lego brick can support weights in excess of 400kg before it reaches it starts to compress. Now, I've eaten a lot of chocolate eggs this Easter, but that little brick isn't going to offer me any give if I tread on it.
Throw into the mix that the bricks have little knobbles, sharp corners, and the soles of the feet are subjected to impact forces that can be equal to around nine times our own body weight while moving; this means that even if you're walking slowly this tiny brick can produce impact forces equal to double your body weight.
For example, a standard 2×2 Lego brick has a surface area of roughly 2.25 centimetre squared (let's ignore the studs on the top for the sake of simplicity) and let's assume a person weighing around 75kg steps onto it.
Now for the science bit. The pressure of an object (P) is equal to the force applied (F) divided by the area over which it is spread (A). For those that love an equation, that's simply P = F/A.
Putting in the figures for our 75kg person and the 2.25 centimetre squared brick (and assuming you just stand on the brick instead of accelerating your foot downwards as you would when walking) this gives us a pressure of more than three million Pascals. So what I hear you cry?! These figures mean nothing to me! For reference, that is roughly 32 times standard atmospheric pressure, all forcing its way into the sensitive soul of your foot.
Of course, part of your foot will support some of your weight on the floor to relieve a bit of pressure, but we've not taken into account the downward force of treading on the knobbly brick. It's just a rough calculation, but it does demonstrate how stepping on a Lego brick can result in some relatively huge forces impacting on your poor little foot.
To answer the question as to why it hurts SO much when you tread on an escaped Lego brick, it's a combination of how sensitive the nerves in our feet are, the fact that Lego bricks are extremely rigid, jagged and small, and the force our feet hit the ground with as we walk that causes a midnight scream as contact is made with this tiny, seemingly insignificant child's play thing.
So, beware the innocent Lego brick and maybe invest in some sturdy slippers. And may God have mercy on your soul if you have tiled, instead of carpeted, floors and a child who doesn't tidy away his Lego.
Hello. I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology
And I explain science with Lego in Sunday Science.
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