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English 202C October 23, 2012
Audience and Purpose
The purpose of this technical document is to inform its audience about a Rubik’s Cube. The document will focus specifically on the original three-by-three Rubik’s Cube. (There are Rubik's Cubes with other sizes, such as the four-by-four “Rubik’s Revenge Cube” and the five-by-five “Rubik’s Professor’s Cube.”) After reading this document, the audience will know the history of the Rubik’s Cube, will be able to visualize the parts of the Rubik’s Cube, and will understand how the Rubik’s Cube works. The document is intended for an audience that includes people who are interested in puzzles and who have a basic understanding of high-school geometry. The document could appear in a magazine, on an educational website, or even in a book about famous puzzles or toys.
A Rubik’s Cube is a three-dimensional puzzle cube. Each of the six faces of the cube is divided into nine separated sections in a three-by-three grid. These sections are colored, typically with stickers, and each of the faces of the cube is a different color. The traditionally used colors are white, yellow, red, orange, green, and blue. A swivel mechanism enables each section of the cube to rotate and thus mix up the colors on the different faces. As shown in Figure 1, the puzzle is “solved” when all nine sections on each face are the same color.
Figure 1: Rubik's Cube
Background and History of the Rubik’s Cube
The inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, Ernö Rubik, was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1944. Rubik invented the Rubik’s Cube (Figure 2) in 1974 when he was a professor of architecture at the Academy of Applied Arts and Design in Budapest. When he invented the Rubik's Cube, he did not have the intention creating a puzzle. His main purpose was academic, that is, to investigate the structural concept of independently moving parts in a mechanism
Figure 2: The first working prototype of the Rubik’s Cube
that stayed fully intact. He himself did not realize the potential of the Cube being a puzzle until he had difficulty storing his model to its original status after he had scrambled the arrangement by moving the parts. The Cube was patented in Hungary 1975 as the “Magic Cube,” and it was sold successfully in Hungary. In 1980, the Magic Cube was renamed to the Rubik’s Cube, and it was sold internationally to become one of the most successful toys ever produced. More than 350 million Rubik's Cubes have been sold. Figure 3 shows the Rubik’s Cube and its packaging as it was first sold in the United States.
Figure 3: Packaging of the Rubik's Cube (1980)
The popularity of the Rubik's Cube is partially derived from its reputation for difficulty. The Cube presents a nearly impossible challenge to people who attempt to solve it with random movements. The ability to solve a Rubik's Cube became a symbol of intelligence that borders on genius. Recently, in the 2006 movie, The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith, the main character gains access to a prospective employer by solving the Rubik’s Cube.
Specifications and Functionality
Although the concept of the Rubik’s Cube may seem very simple, the design of the Cube is actually quite complex. The original three-by-three design of the Rubik’s Cube features six central pieces (with one exposed face), eight corners (with three exposed faces) and twelve side-edge pieces (with two exposed faces).
Figure 4 (left) shows all of the components of the Rubik’s Cube.
1. Twelve side-edge pieces 2. Eight corner pieces 3. Core three-dimensional cross piece on which the centers of the faces rotate
Figure 4: The twenty one pieces of a Rubik's Cube
There are eight-factorial ways to arrange the corners and three ways to orient each corner. There are twelve-factorial ways to arrange the side pieces. The number of possible arrangements the Rubik's Cube is in the quintillions: 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. Another way of describing these possibilities is there is only one correct or solved arrangement, and there are 43,252,003,274,489,855,999 incorrect arrangements. Because of the scale of these numbers, random solutions are virtually nonexistent, and a person who is able to deduce helpful algorithms to solve the Cube acquires the mystique of genius. Figure 5 (left) shows that the Rubik’s Cube has dimensions of 5.7 centimeters on each side. The Rubik’s Cube consists of a total of twenty-one parts. There are eight corner pieces, twelve side-edge pieces, and the core swivel mechanism. The core swivel mechanism is the most complex piece. Most of the materials used in the production of the Rubik’s Cube are thermoplastics. The typical production of a Rubik’s Cube is a step-by-step process that involves injection molding of the individual pieces, assembly of all the pieces, and labeling the faces with their respective colors (Figure 6, below).
Figure 5: Dimensions of the Rubik's Cube
The surface of the Rubik's Cube has the form or surface appearance of a cube, but the actual components used to assemble the Rubik's Cube reveal a very sophisticated conception. In function as well, the apparent simplicity of the task of solving the puzzle contrasts with the extremely large number of permutations of the possible arrangements. This combination if simplicity and complexity is part of the appeal of the Rubik's Cube.
Figure 6: Assembling the pieces of a Rubik's Cube
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