Legos in washing machines make random art
A mathematician delves into the question of what happens when you put Legos into a washing machine.
Lots of people are obsessed with Legos, but one man in particular is obsessed with Legos in washing machines and the shapes they form when tumbling: Ingo Althöfer is a professor of applied mathematics at Friedrich-Schiller University in Germany.
Althöfer decided to see what would happen when you take an old Miele washing machine, add Lego bricks, and let it run. One method involves setting a Lego base plate and a selection of miscellaneous bricks into a sock and sending it through for a cleaning.
What emerges on the other side are some unusual random shapes that look like what you would make if you were blindfolded and could only use one hand to build a Lego structure. The professor even has a digital image download of one of his machine's creation available on Etsy.
Althöfer published a workshop report on his experiments. One round involved placing a bucket of Lego bricks into the machine and running them for 70 minutes at 104 degrees Farenheit with no washing powder.
"During the washing many 'stable' complexes arose: most of them consisting of two bricks, but also others with up to six pieces in it," Althöfer writes. He sees the project as an analog for random mathematical simulations, as well as a system for visualizing entropy, decay, and spontaneous self-organization.
The artistic side of Legos isn't lost on the mathematician. He describes the potential for the combination of Legos and washers as "a tool in a new branch of machine-assisted modern art." It's the kind of art most people can do at home. Bonus: Your Legos will be clean.