LEGO Fundamentals: 2 Books Reviewed

Geek Culture

This Week’s Word is “Bricks.”

LEGO – the stuff of life?

That’s how one of the books in this week’s Word Wednesday video considers these ubiquitous building blocks. In his brilliantly conceived book Particle Physics Brick by Brick, Dr. Ben Still takes us through this history of the universe and constructs the chemical elements using a box of fundamental plastic particles.

But first, we look at more recent history with DK’s LEGO: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know. 

What is LEGO: Everything You Need to Know?

In short: A Brief History of LEGO

LEGO:EYNTK begins at LEGO’s inception as a maker of wooden toys, moving quickly to the advent of the “LEGO System.” and the creation of important LEGO elements. It takes readers on a journey through the evolution of LEGO’s bricks, sets, and their ever-expanding empire of robotics, games, books, and films. It goes right up to date with the inclusion of The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the new flagship store in London’s West End, and the new LEGO House in Billund.

The LEGO Spaceman - The best minifigure?
The LEGO Spaceman – The best minifigure?

Why will I like LEGO: Everything You Need to Know?

Because everything in the book is awesome!

As usual for a DK book, the layout is supreme with strong photos and great text. The book is stuffed full of LEGO facts, with “Fact Stacks”, “TOP 5s”, and buckets of brick statistics. There’s “Look Closer” sections, that show you the tiny details you might have missed in your sets, such as a parking ticket with the signature of a LEGO designer.

There’s also “Brick Challenges,” small projects and ideas for you and your kids to try out with their LEGO bricks, such as seeing how many ways there are of combining 2 2X4 bricks.

With Brick History sections, the book is steeped in the history, tradition, and ethos of the company that has become a global giant. From the first page to last, the book is a love letter to LEGO. Whether it be the manufacturing process, the different LEGO worlds, or the mighty minifigure, it’s discussed in this book, in glorious technicolor detail.

Anybody who loves LEGO from about 8+ will love this book too. It’s an engaging history of the world’s favorite toy. (If not the world’s, then certainly mine.)

You can buy LEGO: Everything You Need to Know here, in the US and here, in the UK

What is Particle Physics Brick by Brick?

In short: A Brief History of Time, using LEGO.

Dr. Ben Still is a genius. Not because he’s Honorary Fellow at the University of London and knows supermassive amounts about particle physics but because he had the idea of describing fundamental particles with the fundamental building blocks of life. No, not proteins, LEGO.

Starting with an introduction to the Standard Model of Particle Physics and assigning each particle a LEGO block, Dr. Still explains the evolution of matter from the big bang onwards. The book describes the commonly accepted model for how the universe works, and later in the book, cutting-edge thinking, and issues with the Standard Model. He does all this with LEGO.

The Big Bang or How my house came to be covered in LEGO


Why will I like Particle Physics Brick by Brick?

To enjoy the book in full, you need to have a desire to understand some complicated physics, but even if you have only a vague idea of how an atom works, the book leads you gently through the subatomic forest. If you want to know more about the composition of the universe, Particle Physics Brick by Brick is an excellent place to start (Spoiler Alert: It’s not made of plastic.)

There’s no need to read the book from cover to cover. It’s fun to dip in and out of, building your knowledge as you go. That said, there is a definitely a progression of information as you proceed through the book. The opening chapter explains the basic composition of matter and how elements were formed after the Big Bang and on into star formation. This is the bit I seriously geeked out on. You can even make your own LEGO elements from 2X2 quarks!

As well as being stuffed full of physics, great thought has been considered to the layout of the book. There are some complex terms and concepts in the book but the cover has handy flaps, with a glossary on them, that you can fold out and refer to, no matter what page you’re on. This is a small thing, but it helps make the book just that little bit more special.

After the formation of the elements, the book also covers symmetries, QED (quantum electrodynamics) Feynman diagrams, and radioactivity. If that wasn’t enough, there are concepts in the book that make your brain wish it only had to deal with the pain of treading on the LEGO you’ve used as a baryon. These include the eightfold way, antiquarks, quantum chromodynamics, and, of course, the Higgs Boson. And that’s just a random selection.

Particle Physics Brick by Brick is 176 pages of informative thought-provoking explanations. It’s going to take me a little while to work my way through the entire book, but I love what I’ve read so far. Much like the universe, Particle Physics Brick by Brick is filled with elegance and wonder. It’s an excellent idea, brilliantly executed.

You can buy Particle Physics Brick by Brick, here in the US, and here, in the UK NOTE: The book is not officially endorsed by LEGO.

For my other Word Wednesday Posts – Click here.

Disclaimer: GeekDad was sent copies of both books for review. 


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