Lego mathematics and growing complexity in networks

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags: ,  |  Nathan Yau

Legos are the best toys ever invented. That’s indisputable fact. So it’s no surprise that Mark Changizi et al. at Duke University used the toys in their study of growing complexity of systems and networks. They looked at 389 Lego sets and compared the number of pieces in the set to the number of piece types, as shown above.

This curve demonstrates that as the number of pieces in a set grows, so do the number of piece types. However, the number of piece types grows sublinearly: while a larger set uses more piece types, as sets becomes larger, they use progressively fewer additional piece types (so larger sets actually use fewer types per piece). This is similar to other sublinear curves, where larger animals use less energy per cell for metabolism or larger cities actually need fewer gas stations per capita. Essentially, larger sets become more efficient, using the same pieces that smaller sets do, but in a more complex and diverse way.

Now to more important matters… look at this cool thing I made with the Legos my wife got me for Christmas. It’s a spaceship airplane race car. Despite leaps in technology from now to the Lego man’s current time, he still has to talk into a walkie talkie that is bigger than his head.

This just in: While the number of Lego piece types increases with larger sets, the maturity of the Lego users exponentially decreases.

[Wired via @ajturner]

3 Comments

Favorites

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.

Pizza Place Geography

Most of the major pizza chains are within a 5-mile radius of where I live, so I have my pick, …

A Day in the Life of Americans

I wanted to see how daily patterns emerge at the individual level and how a person’s entire day plays out. So I simulated 1,000 of them.

Causes of Death

There are many ways to die. Cancer. Infection. Mental. External. This is how different groups of people died over the past 10 years, visualized by age.