Invented in 1974, patented in 1975 and released for sale in Hungary in 1977, Rubik’s Cube could certainly be considered to have reached its 40th birthday this year. To celebrate, inventor Ernő Rubik has helped put together a special exhibition at Liberty Science Centre, New Jersey, celebrating the history of the hexahedral enigma. The exhibition, called ‘Beyond Rubik’s Cube’, opens on 26th April for several months.
Initial prototypes of the cube, on display at the exhibition, were made of wood and held together with elastic bands. Since being made commercially available worldwide in 1979, over 350 million copies of the cube-shaped puzzle have been sold, and at least some of those have been solved – as Matt Parker hilariously jokes in a tweet, 40 years is not too far off the average time it takes people to solve one! Although realistically, the world record is like 5 seconds, so if you’re not under ten minutes yet, you’re clearly not trying.
Mathematicians find the cube particularly fascinating because of its intricate and numerous symmetries and its usefulness in explaining group theory and algorithms, as well as just because they’re nerds who are into that kind of thing.
Recently, the world record for a robot solving the six-faced object was smashed at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham in March 2014 – the world record now stands at 3.253 seconds, and is held by Cubestormer 3, a robot made from some Lego and a phone.