Saturday, May 4, 2013

Oh, patents! Rubik's® cube

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann  

Rubik’s® cube is an eponym and a patent, originally filed in 1975! Ernö Rubik,a Hungarian professor of Architecture, is the inventor whose name eponymizes the three-dimensional puzzle, also dubbed by CNN: the cube that changed the world! It turns out that Rubik’s name also saved the cube, as it was trademarked. This gave the inventor and manufacturer team plenty of time for prototyping, which took six years, and plenty of time for filing in various countries.

Rubik’s® cube is a puzzle all about space, and geometry. There is one solution for aligning all the colors on each of the four faces of the cube in 43 quintillion possible combinations that can be arrived at in as many ways!... This keeps the puzzle fascinating, explains why it was the fastest selling puzzle ever invented, why 40 years later there are 350 million copies sold, with speedcubing events (solving the puzzle against the clock) driving sales every year!
Here is what Rubik thinks of his cube:
I believe probably the most characteristic part of the cube is the contradiction between simplicity and complexity. I love the simplicity of the cube because it's a very clear geometrical shape, and I love geometry because it's the study of how the whole universe is structured. I think probably that's part of the key to the success of the cube -- you are able to have a connection with this order and chaos. [CNN Interview - Oct.11, 2012]
And here is a glimpse, extracted from the patent Abstract, of the puzzle within the puzzle, that is, the inventor’s solution to connecting cubes that are still free to move and rotate, or to “releasably holding any one of the game pieces to any one of the at least four lateral faces” (yes, "releasably holding" ...!):

The invention provides a three-dimensional puzzle which consists of a box-like casing and a number of flat plate-like game pieces that are freely movable relative to each other within a closed system defined by the casing. The game pieces are, distinguishable from each other by markings such as symbols or color. The casing is a substantially closed, shape-rententive hollow body of the shape of a geometric solid bound by lateral faces. At least four such lateral faces are identical to each other in size and shape. The interior of the casing serves as a game space for the enclosed game pieces. The game pieces are of a shape that is substantially identical to that of the at least four lateral faces of the casing and are laid out in size so that they are permitted free movement within the game space. A retaining means for releasably holding any one of the game pieces to any one of the at least four lateral faces of the casing is provided for at least one of each of the at least four lateral faces of the casing and/or the game pieces. By performing a sequence of rearranging steps, the game pieces can be moved into many possible positions within the game space. The goal of the puzzle lies in rearranging the game pieces so that they show at least one pre-determined characteristic pattern. [Abstract US5184822] 

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