10B e Michigan Daily - Wee# d, etC. Mag3aZlifl -. Thurs . ,Noember 30, 2000
The Michigan Dail} - Weekend, etc. Ma
Legos: Children's bulding blocks or bombs?
Flashback: Converter revolutionizes '80s
This~ summier I saw something amaz-
' ain YAW Schwartz: Star Wars Lecos.
Those crafty folks from Denmark final-
k' combined the twvo ultimate tots from
m:. touth 10 years after I (or rather m\.
parents) had stopped buying plat things.
Yet becoming iariations of orig inal "Star
Wars" stuff like the Millennium Falcon.
an X-Winsg Fighter and a Tie-Fiehter
w.'ere w.hat caught my attention at the tot
store "I would have killed for these:' I
mumbled obhikiouslv under my breath.
This fall. upon my request. I recei'.ed
t e L o Mil n i m F l o se fo m-birthday. It cam e in a bit, box that %\'as
labeled for children age 6-12. That I
w.ould still play with tots intended for my
dc'. en-t ear-old brother indicates the spe-
cial allure of Legos. Indeed, in the last
tear. Fortune Mlacazine and the British
Association of Tov Retailers anointed the
Lego brick as the toy of the century.
The Lego people x«ould hav.e you
believ.e that their toys are special because
they promote hands-on creati'.e learning
and imauination. In my opinion. to
understand just %.'hy the Lego compam>
has flourished for more than 60 y.ears it
is necessarx to appreciate some of the
brick has under-
gone. The original
Lego patent was
pretty much just a
baick:. A rectancu-
larl% shaped piece
of plastic. In the
sixties there was a
Lego w.heel and in
1978. thev dev.el-
f12uures w.'ith mov-
able arms and
legs. This mobility
te\as an important
step for Lego in
the direction of
the gadgetr % that has been essential to all
to'.s of our generation.
In this light. I see three Lego elements
as mnost indicaui'.e of how a building
block set stayed filashy enoug h to com-
pete in the age of computer games.
I) The spinning thing. This is a flat
square piece %'ith four round bumps on
top. But a special tv.'o-part construction
allo'. s for those four bumps to spin
around in a circular motion.
Z) The bend'. thing. This one looks
like one of the small rectangular bricks
% ith t\%'o bumps on top. But another t'.'o-
part design allo'.\s those bumps. and thus
any pieces connected to them. to rotate
90 degrees.,\With an adequate supple of
this and the spinning thine. a craft% Leto
architect could build %.irtuall'. any.thin«:
Trap doors: sec ret passages: Doloreans.
3 T1he gun. The nLun as a flat rectanau-
lar piece tic.ith t'.'.o bump> or? top and t'.'.
r " i +
, _ 1 1
_.. a 1
b , r 3t ®
N . ;i
solid pipe-shaped attachment> proiectnno
from both its sides. The nun '.'.vas almost
never portrated as a gun in the inlstruc-
tions. let exer\- kid knee' it '.'as a nun
and used it that w'ay ."hen buildin<_ their
There is no doubt that Lenos ha'.c
achiev.ed much of their success b\.
enablinU children to reenact scenes of
\iolence and \lar. Thee are no different
from G.1. Joe or Star Wears. That's \.\1hv
the recent Star Wtars-Leco affiliation te'as
so natural. In fact. its likely fthat thle
introduction of the space Leuo sets in
19-9 xwas anl effolrt to capitalize off the
market for space-oriented toes initiated
by the unprecedented success of the first
..Star Wears" mc' ie and its line of to' .
Mioreov er. all cf the histor-ical I' suc-
cessful lines of Lew sets are inherently.
\. iolent. After the space 'series came the
castle series in 19',4. featuiin- km divs in
armor w'.ith sw.'ords. Inl1 989. The pirate
seises. \.'hch depicted colon i.,m and
iuancle 1pn~onNs. became the most poplar
line until the sta''ar W ,: Merles. '\'. ich
ha> become the 1hi lct-Nc> it n nex'.
Lazo set exer'
Nc.m. I Ill not 111,11c ~t
are an Inapp?1ropiiate ttoo r oc? ilselr
F Im :till in the pros 's of hu di n4, Ils
N lii ennlium Falcon).ijut that their >c
cc s sa'. >sometl' n« abouI t our 11hcr-ent
desire to pretend to k i] ne another
-t ; .IrA 'tIHat ! ll! .tan, "i /? d
man'. fa'. orable
han no'. In thle
aulto indu trx%. the
~0> ''.ere a
decade in '.'.hich
and Con'. e-
takina hold in all
pal '.er briakes
often came a>
itL ndaid Ceqwp-
Ient and La icer
The pef-decadent decade of pleather.
part'. Inc and The Police left the w.'orld
relies besides those
emlphasi> ' '.as placed On emissions
reduction and quality control. The result
of these ch1anue7S '.'as a decade in w.hich
the industry. sa'.' a mini-r'e'.olution -
raisinLe the level of attention paid tow.ards
comlplete customler satisfaction.
But talk: of the '80s rarel'.hiuhlizhts
one of the 2ereatest v.estiges from1 that era1:
Cataly.tic con'. enters. Often ox ershad-
o'.'.ed by heax > industrial pollutant>.
reduced topic eiission Ilevels in lamLe
cities across Noirth _Amnci~a \were pilnci-
pally caused b\ the univ ersal adoption of
these conv.erter> In all automlobilesbv. the
mlid-80s. jatal\rtic cow er ters'reduce sex -
eral exhaust pollutants by mor01e than 95
percenit compared to cars Wxithout thlese
''emissionl-eaters. John Moonev. the
holder of se'. cral patents onl catalytic cn
'.~on eferro the '0s. estimates that hlis
in'. entions hla'. e reduced moire than 500
million tons; of carbon monoxide and
more than 50 illihonl tons of itrocenl
oxides and hy drocarbons each. Although
there's no defilniti\ e data to support those
figures. it is safe to say that the catalytic
con'.erter is the single mloss rewolutionlar-
emilssion-reduci lnin'.ention to date.
So xx at exacti'.is this macical
dev ice" Located under the car some-
\x here bet'.'een the enine alnd muffler.
the catal'. tic co n'.eter Is- essentially a
stainless steel box. The chemicals Inside
it react wxith the pollutants in the exhaust.
changing the pollutants from harmful
Oases to harnmle ones before thle'. are
silenced inI the m1uffler and let into the
en' ironmlent. It i; a cataly.st b\ definition
as It acts \\ Ith a sulbstanlce that causes a
reaction betw'een other chemicals vv ithl-
Out beinai affected itself
Ho.' does it do it? The coi
lined xx ith chemicals (like a
oxide. platinum and paliadii
cause the hlarmful carbon mono
h'. drocarbons to change into wa'.
and carbon dioxide.
Before 1980. most cars h
emission-red tic ing technolog-
lead xxas often added to g~a:
lubricate the encine. But leas
many of the chemicals in the
COIN eters. thuls piexenting the
reacting «xith toxic pllutants. F
catalxtic conxerters became act
all cars throughout the einghtic!
The catalytic COnM. erter's SLIc
lies in the tact that it ignited otht
sy stem improx ements like fuel
An all-American boy is overwhelmed by unacceptable sexu-
al impulses. To compound the problem, he's starting his
first day at the University of Michigan! But-those damned
perverse urges! What's he to do?'
U SP e akab IVAkU r o4
an illustrated novel byMoss li 14
A comic, literary novel about a U-M student strugglingI +
with his sexual identity, set on the Ann Arbor campus,
written by U-M graduate Moises Pulido
Order from major bookstores incl. Borders, Bames&Noble, or online at wwwbn corn
HAND[c Overture to Occasional Oratorio
J.S. EACH Orchestral Suite No. 4
Brandenburg Concerto No. 1
CORILLI Concerto GrossaoUp. 6, No. 8
0LzEAR _ ,prelets
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