Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I call it the Rubik's Cube for masochists.

Between job applications, one-off gigs, and freelance writing/design assignments, I have a stupid amount of free time, which allows me to pursue other interests.

I had a Rubik's Cube when I was a wee lad, but with my attention span being the way it was, my idea of solving it involved re-arranging the stickers. By extention, given the shortness of my attention span at the time, only on rare occasions would I be able to arrange the stickers in the proper colour configuration.

While the Rubik's Cube was long-lost to moving and transitions from childhood to adolescence (either that, or I just left it somewhere and forgot where I put it), I eventually discovered something called a Square-1, a variation on the Rubik's Cube. While it is constructed in three layers (similar to the Rubik's Cube), the vertical layer is offset at an angle. As a result, the configuration will not always be in a cube shape. With my attention span still shredded (and then attending film school, which left me no spare time whatsoever), my idea of solving it didn't involve rearranging the stickers (it would be pointless, given the variable shape of the puzzle), but entering the data into a computer program, after which it would give instructions on how to solve it.

A few years later, I rekindled my interest in cube puzzles and then purchased a whole whack of them from and Many of them sat on the shelf and collected dust until the past few weeks, where I downloaded all of the necessary guides from the internet and actually learned how to solve them.

The Pyraminx (manufactured by Mefferts) is one of the first 3D puzzles made. As it only has four sides (hence, "Pyraminx"), This can be solved in about 12 or so moves. I remember bringing it to an interpersonal communications class on the last day of classes, as our assignment was to do an oral presentation on interpersonal communications and to bring along a metaphor. I solved the Pyraminx in under 10 seconds, while I held up a Rubik's Cube, unable to solve it. My rationale for the metaphor was that solving a puzzle such as the Pyramix will often leave one side happy ("solved") while the other side dissatisfied ("unsolved"). But, with proper technique and practice, one can maintain balance between sides and have a positive outcome.

In the class held the hour before, one of my classmates mixed up the Rubik's Cube, thinking I knew how to solve it. I didn't at the time. Another classmate mused, "You mixed up his metaphor!"

The Rubik's Cube is the one everyone knows and loves (or hates). The solving record is under 15 seconds. It took me about a week to memorize all of the steps one needs to solve it (start with top edges, then corners, then middle edges, then bottom corners, then edges) and it takes me around 2 minutes to solve it.

The Megaminx is particularly challenging, considering that it has 12 sides. As the version I got had stickers that were already falling off, I elected to custom paint it instead, which eliminates the ability to re-arrange the stickers. Unfortunately, given the panels, if the faces aren't perfectly aligned when turning, pieces tend to pop off. I can't solve the puzzle without it falling apart in my hands, so it stays on the shelf.

The Professor's Cube (pictured) is considered a harder variant, although it's not so much as more difficult as it simply takes more time to solve. Since it has 5 layers (as opposed to Rubik's 3 layers), it requires many more steps. However, once one figures it out, you do not actually need to memorize specific steps to arrange the pieces (at least in the earlier steps). The current official record is under 2 minutes. It takes me about half an hour. Because the version I have utilizes permanently glued-on plastic tiles, one does not have the option of re-arranging the stickers. What makes this puzzle harder is the mechanics. Two versions are manufactured, one by Mefferts/East Sheen and the other by Rubik's. The Rubik's version is notoriously fragile (they actually sell replacement parts on their website), while the Mefferts/East Sheen version uses a superior mechanism, which is more durable, but tends to jam up.

Apparently, Rubik's is in the process of designing and manufacturing a 6-layered cube. Given the fact that it would be 6 layers by 6 layers by 6 layers, I suppose that would quite figuratively make it the Rubik's Cube from hell.

I seriously need a girlfriend.

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