A conversation about mathematics inspired by a Rubik’s Cube. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.

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A conversation about mathematics inspired by a Rubik’s Cube. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

Subscribe: Google Podcasts | RSS | List of episodes

Not content with already having five cubes named after him, internet maths phenomenon James Grime has now developed a new Rubik’s cube-style puzzle for internet maths joy merchants Maths Gear. I’ve been slightly involved in the development process, so I thought I’d share some of the interesting maths behind it.

Another name for a Rubik’s cube is ‘the Magic Cube’ – and Dr James Grime wondered if you could make a Magic Cube which incorporates its 2D friend, the Magic Square.

After all the excitement of the UK Rubik’s cube championships last weekend, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that after 10-year legal battle, the trademark on the shape of the Rubik’s cube is not valid.

The trademark was registered in 1999, but since the original design of the cube was never patented, it’s long been on shaky ground. The court has ruled that the shape of the cube alone is not enough to protect it from copying, and that a patent would be needed to do so. The implications are that licensed manufacturers of the game could now face more competition from cheaper overseas sellers.

Rubik’s Cube puzzled after losing EU trademark battle, at The Guardian

Rubik’s Cube shape not a trademark, rules top EU court, at BBC News

I just found this video of a very focused man showing off a teeny tiny Rubik’s cube. It’s 5.6mm on each side, which apparently makes it the smallest in the world, beating some relatively gigantesque efforts of 6mm and larger.

Watch this video; I’ll warn you now that the squee factor gives way to some very dry detail quite quickly.

The cube was made by Tony Fisher, by filing down a 3D-printed 6mm cube. I hadn’t heard of Tony before, which surprises me – his site is full of all sorts of incredible twisty puzzles.

That’s all.

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.

**Note: **If you’re looking for instructions on solving Rubik’s cube from any position, there’s a good page at Think Maths.

One day some years ago I was sat at my desk idly toying with the office Rubik’s cube. Not attempting to solve it, I was just doing the same moves again and again. Particularly I was rotating one face a quarter-turn then rotating the whole cube by an orthogonal quarter-turn like this:

Having started with a solved cube, I knew eventually if I kept doing the same thing the cube would solve itself. But this didn’t seem to be happening – and I’d been doing this for some time by now. This seemed worthy of proper investigation.