Unless you were asleep during the 1980s you should immediately recognize this six-sided, six-colored puzzle. Created by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik in 1974, his cube soon spread across the globe: entertaining – but more than likely frustrating -- over 350 million people.
Just to get the obvious out of the way, the current world record for solving one of Rubik's cubes is a fraction over 7 seconds (yes, you may gasp) which is held by Erik Akkersdijk. But there are also mind-boggling records for, of all things, blindfolded puzzle solving (Haiyan Zhuang: 30.94 seconds), solving with feet (Anssi Vanhala: 36.72 seconds), and even one-handed solutions (Piotr Alexandrowicz: 11.19 seconds).
The smallest, yet playable, cube is a 3x3 one – meaning it has only 9 faces on a side – measuring a painfully miniscule 12 millimeters. The wear and tear on your fingers may vary: here's a demonstration of working the world's smallest Rubik's cube - click for video
On the other ends of the scale, the largest playable cube was built by Daniel Urlings, and is big enough to contain 64 regular cubes. Daniel is a bit of a legend among cube fanciers as he also has created fully functional cubes out of cardboard and even matchsticks.
Others might be big but this cube is big and also playable! -
Still talking about records, the most expensive cube created is called the Masterpiece Cube, assembled by Diamond Cutters International back in 1995. Made of gold, amethyst, rubies, and emeralds this completely playable puzzle has been priced at around 1.5 million bucks – probably more if you can actually solve the thing:
Puzzlingly Pricy (Amethyst, rubies, emeralds, and more set in gold), the Cube was later named the "World's Most Expensive Toy".
And here, in a very charitable gesture, is a version of the puzzle designed for the sight-impaired: a Braille Cube. Because, after all, why should the sighted have all the 'fun' of being driven nearly mad by a Rubik's Cube? (on the right is the "Rubik's Cube" lamp by Eric Pautz, see more here):
But there's another puzzling quality to Professor Rubik's creation: that his mind-bending creation is also a source of astounding inspiration for artists, engineers and even chefs. Yes, you read that last one right. Skeptical? Well, take a look at this Rubik-inspired culinary creation: a cubic sandwich! Please refrain from jokes about 'square meals' until the end of the article.
Puzzling but delicious: a cube-inspired edible fantasy (goes well with a Star Trek sausage on the right) -
These cubes aren’t just the subject of art but can be just as a medium to create wonderfully pixilated masterpieces. This cute little dragon, for instance, was created by some anonymous Parisian artist out of cubes and stuck some ten feet off the ground:
Getting back to the biggest, but still talking about using the puzzle as the medium in incredible artistic creation, we come to the works of the aptly-named Cube Works Studio, who haven't just created cube-portraits of Marilyn, Warhol's famous tomato soup can, David Bowie, and Van Gogh's Starry Night, Chairman Mao, da Vinci's Last Supper, and many others but with their recreation of Michelangelo's Creation of Man they are now the Guinness Record holders for the largest artwork ever created using Rubik's Cubes.
What's not puzzling about their creation is its brilliance, though if to create it -- and all of their artwork – means that they had to configure each cube to make the right colors and patterns you have to wonder how long it takes them to solve a regular cube ... no doubt far faster, and more artistically, than any of us could.
Glass Cube - you can shatter it in frustration (left) and a "Ball Cube":
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