My reign as a puzzle master ended the day my mom gave me the Rubik’s Cube. She saw it as a challenge for someone of my skill, while I saw it as an unsolvable, infuriating piece of plastic that I’d spend hours every day trying to master. I was intrigued, and annoyed, as I twisted and turned that cube without making an ounce of progress. I may have “accidentally” tossed it across the room once or twice from frustration (like so many puzzlers before me I’m sure!). My experience aside, any toy that has provided a mind-boggling challenge for millions of people since 1974 and sparked countless international competitions, is obviously worth the aggravation.
And, how did this phenomenon begin? Here is some history on the Rubik’s Cube from Wikipedia:
The infamous Rubik’s Cube, formerly known as the “Magic Cube,” was created in 1974 by Erno Rubik in Budapest, Hungary. Rubik, a sculptor and professor of architecture, designed the puzzle as a tool to help his students think about 3D objects in a new way. The first working prototype of the renowned Rubik’s Cube was crafted from wood and featured rounded corners – a far stretch from what we recognize today!
Though there are many imitators in the market today, the original Rubik’s Cube measures roughly 2.25 inches (5.7cm) on each side and consists of 26 miniature cubes, 6 of which are affixed to the cubes core mechanism. Unlike the center cubes, the perimeter pieces can be rotated at 90°, 180° or 270° intervals to assist in solving. Based on number and color permutations, there is only one way to correctly solve the Rubik’s Cube and approximately 43 quintillion ways to get to wrong!
The cube was introduced to Americans in 1980, prompting a wave of commercials in the unique 80s style (they don’t make them like this anymore):
The seemingly impossible cube caused such a craze at home and abroad that on March 13, 1981 the Guinness Book of World Records organized the first ever Rubik’s Cube world championship. Speed solving, the practice of solving a Rubik’s Cube in the shortest time possible, has become so popular that dozens of informal competitions have been held to solve the Cube in very unusual situations. Such situations include:
• Solving blindfolded
• Solving underwater in a single breath
• Solving the Cube using a single hand
• Solving the Cube with one’s feet
While I may not be able to solve the Rubik’s Cube using both hands on dry land (not for lack of trying), this mathematical mystery brings together the ultimate Cube enthusiasts, whose fast fingers and quick wit fight to be the best in the world. And the only feeling better than breaking a world record once, is doing it twice!
In this video, Erik Akkersdijk sets the world record for a single solve with a time of 9.77 seconds on October 3, 2007. Less than a year later, on July 15, 2008, Erik destroyed his previous record at the 2008 Czech Open with a time of 7.08 seconds – now that’s dedication to a classic puzzle!
“Rubik’s Cube.” Wikipedia. September 4, 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubiks%27_cube