Happy 40th Anniversary to Erno Rubik and His Cube

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In 1974, Ernő Rubik was working as a professor of architecture and design in Budapest. He wanted to teach his students about the fluidity of geometry, so he went to the school's workshop and built a cube made of smaller wooden cubes that were connected to each other via elastic bands. Six years of tinkering later, Rubik had crafted the finished version of what would eventually become the most popular toy in the world: the Rubik's Cube.

Don't feel bad if you've never been able to solve the perplexing puzzle. According to an interview with CNN, Rubik himself wasn't a natural. "It took more than a month of research, facing the problem, trying to understand it, building up theories, testing them," he said, before he was able to produce six matching sides.

There are 43 quintillion possible combinations on the Rubik's Cube, but only one solution. "It's not something like a jigsaw puzzle where you start to work on it, spend some time on it, and in the end it's solved, it's finished," Rubik said. "If you find a solution with the cube, it doesn't mean you find everything. It's only a starting point."

Over 350 million Rubik's Cubes have been sold since its release. The puzzle has become a full-fledged phenomenon with annual "speed cubing" tournaments held to find the fastest solvers in the world. Rubik himself isn't especially rapid with the cube, though. "My best time when I was practicing was about a minute," he told CNN. "People say if you can create a piano, you must be a good piano player, but it is not true. They are different type of human activities and need different capabilities."

See Also: Robot Solves Rubik's Cube in 3.253 Seconds and 11 Variations on the Rubik's Cube