The Magic Cube

In 1974, Hungarian architect Ernő Rubik wanted to find a way to model three-dimensional movement to his students. At first, he tinkered with blocks of cubes, made from wood and paper, and held by rubber bands, glue, and paper clips. Later he created what he called a Magic Cube.

The Magic Cube was eventually renamed the Rubik's Cube. It became the most popular puzzle toy in the world, inspiring numerous artworks and films, and starting a competitive sport called speedcubing.

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A Brief History of the Rubik’s Cube

smithsonianmag.com

At first glance, the cube seems relatively simple, with nine uniformed colored squares on each side. To solve the puzzle, you must twist the cubes so that eventually, each side returns to its original color.

To master the cube, you must learn a set of algorithms. The potential number of variations in a three-by-three-by-three cube is 43 quintillion moves. Some cubes have evolved to a four-by-four-by-four and five-by-five-by-five.

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In March 1981, the Scientific American put the Cube on the cover. Scientist Douglas Hofstadter was struck by the ability to use the Cube as a tool for teaching mathematical ideas.

The Cube can be used to teach group theory, or the symmetries of objects. Any twist of any face is a group element, and so are arbitrary sequences of such twists.

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After Rubik invented the Cube, he had to try and solve it. He had no idea if his Cube could be solved, let alone how fast. It took him one month to fix it.

Today, kids are mastering an analog tool using YouTube tutorials, articles, and creating online communities. The Cube's popularity may be because of the nearly limitless number of possible solutions.

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