Silly.. but we all do it

by Eszter Hargittai on July 1, 2004

My first reaction after reading about a Singaporean student who set a new world record for speedy text messaging was that it’s a really silly thing to bother competing over. [Thanks to LiL for the link.] But then I realized that we probably all have taken part in similarly silly games when we were young (or possibly even when we got older). My most memorable such “competition” (in quotes because it was always informal) was in middle school during breaks between classes. We used to race against each other to see who could solve Rubik’s Magic puzzle first (no, not the cube, that would have taken most of us too long to bother with during breaks). The “Magic puzzle” is much easier than the Rubik’s cube. In fact, once you know how it goes, you’ve pretty much solved it for good. Nonetheless, we just loved doing it over and over and over and over again. Last time I was at my parents’ I picked up a bunch of these logic toys I used to have and brought them with me back to the States. My place is now littered with Rubik puzzles and other similar brain teasers I can no longer solve. Maybe I just used to have more patience (and more time?) back then. I’m still working on getting the Magic puzzle right again…

Inspired to play, but don’t have a Rubik’s cube on hand? Check out this site that lets you play with the cube.. and then solves it for you in case you get stuck.

PS. Ernõ Rubik is another one in the relatively long list of Hungarian math wonders.

PPS. Yes, my blogging has picked up in the past couple of days. Let’s just say a blogger sick at home can be dangerous indeed. Maybe it’s time to go work on those puzzles…



Backword Dave 07.02.04 at 12:04 am

But the cube wasn’t that hard. I had a flatmate once who could do it inside 30 seconds every time; and once you realise the ‘rules’ (is this one of the few proper uses of ‘algorithms’?) it becomes almost reflexive.

Of course, I also knew someone who wasn’t so bright, but was very competitive, and who ‘solved’ the cube by peeling off all the stickers and then placing 9 of a colour on each face. The cube’s owner was surprised to find that yellow used to be opposite red (or whatever it was) and not any more …

Of course, I’d never have got there myself without help.


Tom 07.02.04 at 1:17 am

Is that the one with the rings printed on linked square panels.

My younger brother tested himself on the cube against tunes of varied lengths… got below two minutes if I recall…


wink 07.02.04 at 4:44 am

In junior high, my friends and I also had a Rubix Magic competition going. We spent about half an hour every morning every schoolday for maybe a month or two trying to outdo each other. We all knew how to do it, and after the third week, we had all found the most efficient way to do it.

After we were all able to do it in under two seconds, we got kinda bored with it.


Kieran Healy 07.02.04 at 5:55 am

I’ve only just discovered that fans of the Rubik’s Cube are known as Cubic Rubes.

(Attention linguistics bloggers! _The_ Rubik’s Cube or just Rubik’s Cube?)


eszter 07.02.04 at 6:05 am

Yeah, I just saw that as well when reading some of the sites while looking for pages to link to. And yes, I asked myself the question about the “the” as well and would be curious to hear what people think.


Backword Dave 07.02.04 at 11:33 am

No “The.” I mean The Eiffel Tower or The Pentagon make sense, but cubes were mass-produced objects. Besides I never heard it called “The” Rubik’s Cube.

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