Invented in 1974, the Rubik’s Cube is probably the most famous puzzle toy in history. For four decades now, it has been an instantly recognizable symbol of one’s puzzly ambition. Whether you’ve mastered it or you have it sitting on a corner of your desk mid-solve, it shouts to the heavens “a puzzler resides here.”
Originally known as the Magic Cube or the Hungarian Magic Cube, the Rubik’s Cube is tied up with some truly staggering numbers. Hundreds of millions of Rubik’s Cubes have been sold, and that’s just a drop in the bucket compared the number of possible patterns you can make with the cube. According to Rubiks.com, there are 43 quintillion ways to scramble a Rubik’s Cube. (That’s 34 with eighteen zeroes after it.)
And yet, some truly tiny numbers are also associated with the tiny, sometimes frustrating puzzle cube. For instance, 6. The top speed cubers — people who compete in speed cubing competitions, complete with special techniques, lubricating oils for their cubes, and cubes designed especially for speed solving — have solved a Rubik’s Cube in under 6 seconds!
(10 years ago, the World Record time for solving a Rubik’s Cube was more than three times that, at 20.00 seconds. And I haven’t even mentioned the people who somehow manage to solve them blindfolded.)
It’s become a universal part of the pop culture lexicon. (I’ve featured Rubik’s Cube Halloween costumes here in the past.) There is even Rubik’s Cube art. Images made from patterns formed with numerous Rubik’s Cubes.
It boggles the mind.
Now available in 2×2, 4×4, and 5×5 permutations in addition to the classic 3×3 cube, plus speed cubes, customizable cubes, and other variants, this twisty, beguiling puzzle shows no signs of slipping in popularity anytime soon. (I have an Australian friend who collects different kinds of Rubik’s Cubes, including ones with different pictures, different shapes, keychains, and so on.)
“Solve a Rubik’s Cube” is actually on my bucket list. If I ever manage it, you’ll be the first to know, fellow solvers.
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