“It was wonderful to see how, after only a few turns, the colors became mixed, apparently in random fashion. It was tremendously satisfying to watch this color parade. Like after a nice walk when you have seen many lovely sights you decide to go home, after a while I decided it was time to go home, let us put the cubes back in order. And it was at that moment that I came face to face with the Big Challenge: What is the way home?” – Erno Rubik
Invented in 1974 and originally called the “Magic Cube”, the puzzle was licensed by Rubik to be sold by Ideal Toys in 1980 and won the German Game of the Year special award for Best Puzzle that year. As of January 2009, 350 million cubes have sold worldwide making it the world’s top-selling puzzle game It is widely considered to be the world’s best-selling toy. In a classic Rubik’s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by 9 stickers, among six solid colors (traditionally white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow). A pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently, thus mixing up the colors. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be a solid color. Similar puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of stickers, not all of them by Rubik. The original 3×3×3 version celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2005.In March 1970, Larry Nichols invented a 2×2×2 “Puzzle with Pieces Rotatable in Groups” and filed a Canadian patent application for it. Nichols’s cube was held together with magnets. Nichols was granted U.S. Patent 3,655,201 on April 11, 1972, two years before Rubik invented his Cube.
On April 9, 1970, Frank Fox applied to patent his “Spherical 3×3×3”. He received his UK patent (1344259) on January 16, 1974. In the mid-1970s, Ernő Rubik worked at the Department of Interior Design at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest. He sought to find a teaching tool to help his students understand 3D objects. Rubik invented his “Magic Cube” in 1974 and obtained Hungarian patent HU170062 for the Magic Cube in 1975 but did not take out international patents. The first test batches of the product were produced in late 1977 and released to Budapest toy shops. Magic Cube was held together with interlocking plastic pieces that prevented the puzzle being easily pulled apart, unlike the magnets in Nichols’s design. In September 1979, a deal was signed with Ideal Toys to bring the Magic Cube to the Western world, and the puzzle made its international debut at the toy fairs of London, Paris, Nuremberg and New York in January and February 1980. After its international debut, the progress of the Cube towards the toy shop shelves of the West was briefly halted so that it could be manufactured to Western safety and packaging specifications. A lighter Cube was produced, and Ideal Toys decided to rename it.
“The Gordian Knot” and “Inca Gold” were considered, but the company finally decided on “Rubik’s Cube”, and the first batch was exported from Hungary in May 1980. Taking advantage of an initial shortage of Cubes, many cheap imitations appeared. Nichols assigned his patent to his employer Moleculon Research Corp. which sued Ideal Toy Company in 1982. In 1984, Ideal lost the patent infringement suit and appealed. In 1986, the appeals court affirmed the judgment that Rubik’s 2×2×2 Pocket Cube infringed Nichols’s patent, but overturned the judgment on Rubik’s 3×3×3 Cube. Even while Rubik’s patent application was being processed, Terutoshi Ishigi, a self-taught engineer and ironworks owner near Tokyo, filed for a Japanese patent for a nearly identical mechanism, which was granted in 1976 (Japanese patent publication JP55-008192). Until 1999, when an amended Japanese patent law was enforced, Japan’s patent office granted Japanese patents for non-disclosed technology within Japan without requiring worldwide novelty.
Hence, Ishigi’s patent is generally accepted as an independent reinvention at that time. Rubik applied for another Hungarian patent on October 28, 1980, and applied for other patents. In the United States, Rubik was granted U.S. Patent 4,378,116 on March 29, 1983, for the Cube. Greek inventor Panagiotis Verdes patented a method of creating cubes beyond the 5×5×5, up to 11×11×11, in 2003 although he claims he originally thought of the idea around 1985. As of June 19, 2008, the 5×5×5, 6×6×6, and 7×7×7 models are in production. The Cube celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2005, when a special edition was released, featuring a sticker in the centre of the reflective face (which replaced the white face) with a “Rubik’s Cube 1980- 2005” logo, and different packaging.
Politechnica tried to print the colors instead of using stickers but the orange paint disolved the black cube and turned purple. There are only a few of these. A standard Rubik’s cube measures 5.7 cm (approximately 2¼ inches) on each side. The puzzle consists of twenty-six unique miniature cubes, also called “cubies” or “cubelets”. However, the centre cube of each of the six faces is merely a single square façade; all six are affixed to the core mechanisms. These provide structure for the other pieces to fit into and rotate around. So there are twenty-one pieces: a single core piece consisting of three intersecting axes holding the six centre squares in place but letting them rotate, and twenty smaller plastic pieces which fit into it to form the assembled puzzle. The Cube can be taken apart without much difficulty, typically by rotating the top layer by 45° and then prying one of its edge cubes away from the other two layers. Consequently it is a simple process to “solve” a Cube by taking it apart and reassembling it in a solved state. There are twelve edge pieces which show two colored sides each, and eight corner pieces which show three colors. Each piece shows a unique color combination, but not all combinations are present (for example, if red and orange are on opposite sides of the solved Cube, there is no edge piece with both red and orange sides).
The location of these cubes relative to one another can be altered by twisting an outer third of the Cube 90°, 180° or 270°, but the location of the colored sides relative to one another in the completed state of the puzzle cannot be altered: it is fixed by the relative positions of the centre squares and the distribution of color. However, Cubes with alternative color arrangements also exist; for example, they might have the yellow face opposite the green, and the blue face opposite the white (with red and orange opposite faces remaining unchanged). Douglas R. Hofstadter, in the July 1982 issue of Scientific American, pointed out that Cubes could be colored in such a way as to emphasis the corners or edges, rather than the faces as the standard coloring does; but neither of these alternative colorings has ever become popular.The original (3×3×3) Rubik’s Cube has eight corners and twelve edges. There are 8! (40,320) ways to arrange the corner cubes. Seven can be oriented independently, and the orientation of the eighth depends on the preceding seven, giving 37 (2,187) possibilities. There are 12!/2 (239,500,800) ways to arrange the edges, since an odd permutation of the corners implies an odd permutation of the edges as well.
Eleven edges can be flipped independently, with the flip of the twelfth depending on the preceding ones, giving 211 (2,048) possibilities. There are exactly 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations, which is approximately forty-three quintillion. The puzzle is often advertised as having only “billions” of positions, as the larger numbers could be regarded as incomprehensible to many. To put this into perspective, if every permutation of a 57-millimeter Rubik’s Cube were lined up end to end, it would stretch out approximately 261 light years. Alternatively, if laid out on the ground, this is enough to cover the earth with 273 layers of cubes, recognizing the fact that the radius of the earth sphere increases by 57 mm with each layer of cubes. The preceding figure is limited to permutations that can be reached solely by turning the sides of the cube. If one considers permutations reached through disassembly of the cube, the number becomes twelve times as large: The full number is 519,024,039,293,878,272,000 or 519 quintillion possible arrangements of the pieces that make up the Cube, but only one in twelve of these are actually solvable. This is because there is no sequence of moves that will swap a single pair of pieces or rotate a single corner or edge cube.
Thus there are twelve possible sets of reachable configurations, sometimes called “universes” or “orbits”, into which the Cube can be placed by dismantling and reassembling it. The original Rubik’s Cube had no orientation markings on the centre faces, although some carried the words “Rubik’s Cube” on the centre square of the white face, and therefore solving it does not require any attention to orienting those faces correctly. However, if one has a marker pen, one could, for example, mark the central squares of an unscrambled Cube with four colored marks on each edge, each corresponding to the color of the adjacent face. Some Cubes have also been produced commercially with markings on all of the squares, such as the Lo Shu magic square or playing card suits. Thus one can nominally solve a Cube yet have the markings on the centers rotated; it then becomes an additional test to solve the centers as well. Marking the Rubik’s Cube increases its difficulty because this expands its set of distinguishable possible configurations. When the Cube is unscrambled apart from the orientations of the central squares, there will always be an even number of squares requiring a quarter turn.
Thus there are 46/2 = 2,048 possible configurations of the centre squares in the otherwise unscrambled position, increasing the total number of possible Cube permutations from 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 (4.3×1019) to 88,580,102,706,155,225,088,000 (8.9×1022). In Rubik’s cubists’ parlance, a memorized sequence of moves that has a desired effect on the cube is called an algorithm. This terminology is derived from the mathematical use of algorithm, meaning a list of well-defined instructions for performing a task from a given initial state, through well-defined successive states, to a desired end-state. Each method of solving the Rubik’s cube employs its own set of algorithms, together with descriptions of what the effect of the algorithm is, and when it can be used to bring the cube closer to being solved. Most algorithms are designed to transform only a small part of the cube without scrambling other parts that have already been solved, so that they can be applied repeatedly to different parts of the cube until the whole is solved. For example, there are well-known algorithms for cycling three corners without changing the rest of the puzzle, or flipping the orientation of a pair of edges while leaving the others intact. Some algorithms have a certain desired effect on the cube (for example, swapping two corners) but may also have the side-effect of changing other parts of the cube (such as permuting some edges).
Such algorithms are often simpler than the ones without side-effects, and are employed early on in the solution when most of the puzzle has not yet been solved and the side-effects are not important. Towards the end of the solution, the more specific (and usually more complicated) algorithms are used instead, to prevent scrambling parts of the puzzle that have already been solved. Although there are a significant number of possible permutations for the Rubik’s Cube, there have been a number of solutions developed which allow for the cube to be solved in well under 100 moves. Many general solutions for the Rubik’s Cube have been discovered independently. The most popular method was developed by David Singmaster and published in the book Notes on Rubik’s “Magic Cube” in 1981. This solution involves solving the Cube layer by layer, in which one layer (designated the top) is solved first, followed by the middle layer, and then the final and bottom layer. After practice, solving the Cube layer by layer can be done in under one minute. Other general solutions include “corners first” methods or combinations of several other methods. In 1982, David Singmaster and Alexander Frey hypothesized that the number of moves needed to solve the Rubik’s Cube, given an ideal algorithm, might be in “the low twenties”.
In 2007, Daniel Kunkle and Gene Cooperman used computer search methods to demonstrate that any 3×3×3 Rubik’s Cube configuration can be solved in a maximum of 26 moves. In 2008, Tomas Rokicki lowered the maximum to 22 moves. A solution commonly used by speed cubers was developed by Jessica Fridrich. It is similar to the layer-by-layer method but employs the use of a large number of algorithms, especially for orienting and permuting the last layer. The cross is done first followed by first-layer corners and second layer edges simultaneously, with each corner paired up with a second-layer edge piece. This is then followed by orienting the last layer then permuting the last layer (OLL and PLL respectively). Fridrich’s solution requires learning roughly 120 algorithms but allows the Cube to be solved in only 55 moves on average.
Philip Marshall’s The Ultimate Solution to Rubik’s Cube is a modified version of Fridrich’s method, averaging only 65 twists yet requiring the memorization of only two algorithms’ now well-known method was developed by Lars Petrus. In this method, a 2×2×2 section is solved first, followed by a 2×2×3, and then the incorrect edges are solved using a three-move algorithm, which eliminates the need for a possible 32-move algorithm later. The principal behind this is that in layer by layer you must constantly break and fix the first layer; the 2×2×2 and 2×2×3 sections allow three or two layers to be turned with out ruining progress. One of the advantages of Rubik’s Cube this method is that it tends to give solutions in fewer moves. In 1997, Denny Dedmore published a solution described using diagrammatic icons representing the moves to be made, instead of the usual notation.
“Speedcubing” is the practice of trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the shortest time possible. There are a number of speedcubing competitions that take place around the world.The first world championship organized by the Guinness Book of World Records was held in Munich on March 13, 1981. All Cubes were moved 40 times and lubricated with petroleum jelly. The official winner, with a record of 38 seconds, was Jury Froeschl, born in Munich. The first international world championship was held in Budapest on June 5, 1982, and was won by Minh Thai, a Vietnamese student from Los Angeles, with a time of 22.95 seconds. Since 2003, competitions are decided by the best average (middle three of five attempts); but the single best time of all tries is also recorded. The World Cube Association maintains a history of world records. In 2004, the WCA made it mandatory to use a special timing device called a Stackmat timer. In addition to official competitions, informal alternative competitions have been held which invite participants to solve the Cube in unusual situations. Some such situations include:Blindfolded solving; Solving the Cube with one person blindfolded and the other person saying what moves to do, known as “Team Blindfold”; Solving the Cube underwater in a single breath; Solving the Cube using a single hand or with one’s feet.
Of these informal competitions, the World Cube Association only sanctions blindfolded, one-handed, and feet solving as official competition events. In blindfolded solving, the contestant first studies the scrambled cube (i.e., looking at it normally with no blindfold), and is then blindfolded before beginning to turn the cube’s faces. Their recorded time for this event includes both the time spent examining the cube and the time spent manipulating it. The current world record for single time on a 3×3×3 Rubik’s Cube was set by Erik Akkersdijk in 2008, who had a best time of 7.08 seconds at the Czech Open 2008. The world record average solve is currently held by Tomasz Zolnowski; which is 10.63 seconds at the Warsaw Open 2009. On December 20, 2008, 96 people in Santa Ana, CA broke the Guinness World Record for most people solving a Rubik’s cube at once.The previous record was 75 people by a group in Atlanta, GA.
There are different variations of Rubik’s Cubes with up to seven layers: the 2×2×2 (Pocket/Mini Cube), the standard 3×3×3 cube, the 4×4×4 (Rubik’s Revenge/Master Cube), and the 5×5×5 (Professor’s Cube), the 6×6×6 (V-Cube 6), and 7×7×7 (V-Cube 7). CESailor Tech’s E-cube is an electronic variant of the 3x3x3 cube, made with RGB LEDs and switches.There are two switches on each row and column. Pressing the switches indicates the direction of rotation, which causes the LED display to change colors, simulating real rotations. The product was demonstrated at the Taiwan government show of College designs on 30 October 2008.
Another electronic variation of the 3×3×3 Cube is the Rubik’s TouchCube. Sliding a finger across its faces causes its patterns of colored lights to rotate the same way they would on a mechanical cube. The Touch Cube was introduced at the American International Toy Fair in New York on February 15, 2009. The Cube has inspired an entire category of similar puzzles, commonly referred to as twisty puzzles, which includes the cubes of different sizes mentioned above as well as various other geometric shapes. Some such shapes include the tetrahedron (Pyraminx), the octahedron (Skewb Diamond), the dodecahedron (Megaminx), the icosahedron (Dogic). There are also puzzles that change shape such as Rubik’s Snake and the Square One.
One of the last Rubik cube variation that we saw, had textures as tease for the visually challenged; this current iteration uses only Braille. Colors embossed include green, blue, red, yellow, white & pink. One of the more sensible concepts in a long time that hopefully will delight the sighted folks too! Maybe we’ll learn Braille in this process! The color Rubik Cube for the blind is designed by Konstantin Datz.
RUBIK Ernő -architect, designer (13 July, 1944, Budapest)
1967: Technical University of Budapest, diploma in architecture; 1971: Applied Arts College of Budapest, Architecture Faculty; diploma in interior design. 1978: International-Fair Award of Budapest (for his magical cube), 1979: 1st award of the Game Tender of the Ministry of Light Industry and the KISZ Central Committee; the award of the Ministry of Culture (Magical Cube); 1980: Game of the Year Award in the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, France, and the USA. 1981: The Game of the Year Award in Finland, Sweden, Italy, and Great Britain (for the second time). 1982: the Golden Award for Work Honor; 1983: National Award; 1988: Juvenile Award; 1995: Dénes Gábor Award; 1996: the honorary doctor of the Technical University of Budapest; the honorary doctor of the College of Applied Arts, Budapest; Ányos Jedlik Award; 1997: Award for the Fame of Hungary; In 1969 he was a lecturer at the Drawing Faculty of the Technical University of Budapest, between 1971 and 1979 he was a professors’ assistant at the Architectural Faculty (later the Interior Design Faculty) of the College of Applied Arts in Budapest, where later, from 1979 to 1982, he was an adjunct then docent. Rubik was the director of the Master’s Training Institute from 1984 to 1986, and the editor in chief of the review entitled …és játék (… and game) from 1982-1983. In 1983 he founded and was the head (until 1990) of the Rubik Studió, which dealt with research, design, prototype and trial series production, and has been the managing director of Rubik Stúdió Kft. (Ltd.) since 1990. Between 1990 and 1996 he was the director of the Office of Hungarian Engineers, in 1992-1993 he was one of the founders of the Gyermekvilág Alapítvány (Child’s World Foundation), and the chairmen of its board of trustees. Between 1990 and 1998 he was the deputy chairman of the board of directors of A & D Studio architectural designing Rt., which he was the managing director of from 1998 onwards. From 1996 he was the president of the Androsoft Rt., and one of the founders of the Csodák Palotája (Palace of Wonders) in 1994. From 1999 onwards he was the managing director of the Trocadero Kft. (Ltd.). His most famous work is the logical game entitled Bűvös Kocka (Magical Cube), later called Rubik’s Cube (1975), the idea of which came to him during his work as a University lecturer. The idea came from imagining how one could force his imagination to picture the unseen side of a known object/form. The variations of his work are the Mini bűvös kocka (Mini Magical Cube), composed of eight units, a spatial logical game, in an octahedron form, Bűvös Domino (Magical Domino) and the Bűvös Sajt (Magical Cheese) (both in 1980). Further games developed by him are the sliding block logical game (1980), the wooden game composed of blocks (1981-1986), the Rubik’s Magic (Magical cubes, 1985), and its display-incorporated version (1986), the logical games called TRIAMID DICE, FIFTEEN PUZZLE, and TANGLE in 1989, then HAT and MAZE in 1993, and the NEW TANGLE in 1996. Rubik was a co-developer of the videogame named Android, and the building block game named LINKS in 1997.