Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Rubik's’

OCD Mondrian Cube

The Rubik’s Cube was a Big Deal for a while when I was young. Nobody I knew understood how to solve it, but we liked trying, at least, until we got tired of failing. I think I managed to get the top layer solved, but never made much more progress, so I shelved the thing and moved on to more solvable puzzles like calculus.

Now that I’m older with children of my own, I figured I ought to learn how to solve the ‘Cube. I’m not talking about speed solving, here, either, learning those skills are far beyond what I want to spend time on. I settled for learning the simpler algorithms that other people have devised, and memorized how to solve the basic 3x3x3 standard cube, as well as the 2x2x2, the “Megaminx” dodecahedron variant and a pesky little version called the Ghost Cube.

I’ve since collected a couple dozen of different iterations of the Cube, as well as some other oddments like a barrel and flower, collectively called “Twisty Puzzles” in some corners of the internet. They are a fascinating fusion of function and fun, experiments with spatial and tactile troubleshooting with strong visual appeal. The mechanical engineering on display is almost as fascinating as the puzzles themselves.

Speaking of engineering, take a look at Oskar van Deventer‘s work. Some of his puzzles look amazing, and more impressively, function in weird and boggling ways. There’s a whole world of puzzles out there, and I’m slowly collecting some here and there to keep my brain and fingers nimble.

I’ve also recently taken a simple shape-shifter version of the ‘Cube and inflicted a bit of graffiti on it. I call it the OCD Mondrian Cube for now, though it’s more colorful than a proper Mondrian painting, almost more like a stained glass sort of thing, as my eldest noted. Proper Product Name Pending, and so on, etc.

It has two “solve states”, but it’s more precise to say that those two solved states are each “half-solved”. You can either make it into a nice, smooth cube (scrambling the colors), or you can group the colors in the six cardinal directions (scrambling the shape). You cannot solve for the shape and the colors at the same time. It will either drive your OCD mad or overload it and help you relax, maybe even allowing you to just play with the thing and find a completely unsolved state that you can find beauty in. I’m not sure how it would actually work with someone vexed with such a psychological condition, so it may be more trouble than it’s worth for some people, to be sure. Even so, I’m fond of the thing, and I’ve half a mind to see about getting it made more officially than this permanent-marker version I’ve prototyped.

Puzzles are good for the brain, I think. There’s value in learning methodical approaches to problem solving, and I see some extra value in this half-solvable mutant I’ve cobbled together. Sometimes life simply doesn’t have simple solutions. You can optimize for one thing, but you have to let something else go. I believe it’s a valuable life lesson to learn that sometimes solving things doesn’t mean they are then perfect. Sometimes “good enough” truly is enough, and while we’re commanded to “be perfect” in holy writ, that’s only something we can do with divine help. Sometimes all we can do is make life a little bit better, or simply find joy in the journey.

Read Full Post »