Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Colorful Conundrum

For some people, solving a Rubik’s Cube takes no time at all. But for many, cracking the puzzle presents a real test. Getting all the colored squares to line up in the right order, let alone doing it quickly, is a head-scratching, mind-bending challenge.

The cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian sculptor and architect. Some of the characteristics of 3-D objects troubled Rubik: he wanted to visualize how their parts could move independently, while keeping the larger object intact.

As a way to play with this property, Rubik invented the cube as a learning tool rather than a puzzle. Realizing the model’s potential after scrambling it and finding himself stumped, Rubik first patented the game in 1975 as the Buvuos Kocka, or “Magic Cube.” In 1980, the toy hit the international scene when it appeared at fairs in London, Paris and New York. By 2009, the Rubik’s Cube had become the world’s top-selling puzzle game with 350 million sold worldwide.

The original version of the Rubik’s Cube has six faces with nine tiny squares on each. Each square is either white, red, blue, orange, green or yellow. The goal is to take a cube with mixed-up colors and solve it, turning each of the six sides into a solid wall of only one shade.

The invisible center of a Rubik’s cube is actually not made up of tinier cubes, as you might imagine. Instead, it’s a core piece made of three axels. The springs and screws inside each cube keep it compact, but easy to manipulate.

The world record speed for solving a standard Rubik’s Cube is 6 minutes and 65 seconds, set by Feliks Zemdegs in 2011. Think you can beat it? Or think you’d like to start by learning more about the basics?

On May 5, you can sharpen your own Rubik’s Cube skills with the help of computer science engineers at “ITA Software's Rubik Cube Challenge.” The event will showcase some of the math behind the puzzle, talk about the simple side of permutations and algorithms, and teach some tips and tricks.

The event is appropriate for ages 10 and up, and requires an RSVP to in advance. Come to rub elbows with expert puzzle solvers, enjoy refreshments and compete for prizes. The event runs from 2:00-5:00pm at the ITA Offices at 141 Portland Street.

1 comment:

  1. sorry to be a bubble buster but the actual record was 5.66 seconds....not 7 minutes. and the record was broken last weekend and its now 5.55 seconds....