Enro Rubik’s Amazing Cube – Math Gone Wild

At first glance, the cube looked simple: six movable faces, each able to rotate on its center with a simple twist, each face split into nine small cubes.  But with almost unlimited possibilities, the cube was the ultimate challenge.

In the early 1970s Enro Rubik, a professor at the Academy of Applied Arts in Budapest, Hungary, noticed the difficulty his students had understanding complicated ideas in mathematics. He figured that if his students could twist a solid shape into new combinations of color and design, they would learn mathematics more easily.

Rubik’s challenge
OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

In his spare time, Rubik designed a six-colored cube. At first glance it looked simple: six movable faces, each able to rotate on its center with a simple twist, each face split into nine small cubes. But it was the combination of color and movement that made Rubik’s invention a challenge. Each corner cube could be turned in three possible directions, and because each cube had three colors on its sides, a single twist produced a different arrangement of colors.

It took only a few twists to scramble the colors. Once scrambled, however, could the original pattern be restored? That was the challenge of Rubik’s Cube. When people got their hands on the cube they couldn’t put it down. They were hooked, and that’s what gave Rubik the idea that his invention might be more than just a tool for mathematics.

A worldwide craze

In 1977 a Hungarian company began selling Rubik’s Cube. Then in 1980 the Ideal Toy Corporation bought the rights. Soon the cube craze spread around the globe.

The label on Rubik’s Cube says, “There are three billion positions, but only one solution.” In fact, there are 43,252,003,274, 489,856,000 positions. That’s about 43 quintillion!

ElisaRiva / Pixabay

To solve Rubik’s Cube, the user must think like a computer programmer: first breaking the solution into small sequences, then breaking those into even smaller sequences.

Many people take days to solve the puzzle. Rubik himself could do it in about two minutes.

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