Hypercube!

by Chris Silver Smith

Oskar van Deventer's hypercubeOkay, I really want one of these — it’s a 17 x 17 x 17 Rubic’s Cube style puzzle:

The puzzle is by Oskar van Deventer, and it can be found here.

I’ll risk exposing how geeky I am by explaining that the original Rubic’s Cube became a super-popular pop culture icon back when I was in middle school and high school. And, in high school, a small handful of us used to compete to see who was the fastest at solving messed-up Rubik’s Cubes. I think I came in second place in my school, at something like 42 seconds flat. 

Adam, the upperclassman who beat me, used a different “algorithm” to solve the cube, which he claimed was much more efficient than mine. That may or may not be true. However, Adam would actually OIL his Rubik’s Cube with vegetable oil in order to be able to turn the sides much faster — and I contend to this day that it was the oil that gave him an edge over me.

I was far too respectful of the pristine purity of my Rubik’s Cube to defile it with the application of vegetable oil. Doing that would make it slimey, and it would cause the little colored stickers’ adhesive to unstick and they’d detach and fall off.

Anyway, Rubik’s Cube style puzzles continue to fascinate me to this day, making me think of mathematics, game theory, ordered sets, group theory, complexity, etc. As a further mystery, it seemed like every different person who calculated the numbers of possible combinations on Rubik’s Cubes would cite different numbers in the millions. I’m not sure that any of them calculated properly, since there are finite sets of combinations of the middle pieces, corners and side pieces, and only some combinations of each could realistically occur with others — you may need to take these limits into account as rules when calculating the total combos.

I have a collection of Rubik’s Cube offshoots in my home, which I know makes me look juvenile, but I just can’t resist them! I have pyramids, stars, orbs, dodecahedrons, as well as 4 x 4 x 4 cubes and 5 x 5 x 5 cubes (which are a real beast to solve). Yet, at over $2,000 for van Deventer’s 173 puzzle, I’ll likely forgo adding his variation to my collection. For now.

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