Friday, May 23, 2014

Fourty Years of Rubik's Cube

Believe it or not, this week marks the fourtieth anniversary of the invention of  Erno Rubik's famous puzzle cube, originally known as the Magic Cube, that has vexed millions of people to the brink of insanity.

I should know: I've been trying unsuccessfully to solve it for thirty-four years.  I received my Rubik's Cube (shown below) as a gift back in 1980, just when the cube was becoming popular, and it has been a constant fixture on my desktop ever since.  The very same cube sits beside my keyboard today and I still pick it up and fiddle with it every day.  The most common reaction that I get when people discover that I'm still working on the thing is why I don't just look up the solution.  Cheat books were very popular in the '80's and I'm sure that nowadays the solution is just a Google search away.  But solving the puzzle isn't really the point of the cube - not to me, anyway.

The cube is not just a puzzle, it's an aid to concentration that I play with whenever I'm stuck on a problem, and as I twist and turn the rows and columns on the cube to line up the colours, the tumblers in my brain click into place.  This same cube has gotten me through high school, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and a Ph.D.  It has seen me through algebra homework, English essays, term papers, and study sessions.  I've played with it while working out taxonomic conundrums, plot twists, and character development.  Whenever I'm stuck and in need of mental distraction my cube is ready at hand to provide it - my trusty weapon in the never-ending war against writer's block.  A magic cube, indeed.

I have a feeling that if I ever did solve the cube, it would no longer have the power to amuse and distract me. My talisman would just be another puzzle solved then forgotten, tossed aside and never played with again.  And that would be a shame.

"This is my Rubik's Cube.  There are many like it, but this one is mine."


Lisa Buckley said...

According to my parents, I solved a Rubik's cube in my preschool years. That must have been where I peaked in terms of problem solving because I have never been able to solve one since. This makes me doubt my parents' story.

I received a 5X5 Rubik's Cube last year for the holidays, and it has provided almost too much distraction - I'm sure it made by the Lament Configuration Toy Company.

Sean Robson said...

Good lord, a 5x5 cube?!! I can't even begin to wrap my head around how complex the solution to that must be.