Cube x 5

One of the things I bought myself with my birthday Amazon gift card was a Rubik’s Professor Cube.

I bought a Rubik’s Cube soon after reading Douglas Hofstadter’s March 1981 article in Scientific American. I’ve never been all that fast at unscrambling the cube, both because my fingers don’t move that fast and because I haven’t memorized lots of fast processes. However, unlike I think most people who consider themselves good at Rubik’s Cube, I actually figured it out for myself, rather than learning a system out of a book: to me the latter misses the point.  (Not that I haven’t subsequently learned things about the cube by reading.) Hofstadter’s article gave some valuable hints but no answers; aside from that I worked it out on my own. Later on I owned a number of cube-like puzzles including the 2x2x2 Mini Cube, the 4x4x4 Rubik’s Revenge, the tetrahedral Pyraminx and the dodecahedral Megaminx, Square1 (which unlike the others I’ve never fully figured out; the commutator-based approach I’ve used on the others doesn’t work on it), and others.

A few months ago I bought Kenny a Rubik’s Cube (he hasn’t done much with it yet) and a little later saw a Rubik’s Revenge in a store and bought it, my older one having broken and/or disappeared along the way. I’ve never owned a 5x5x5 cube before, though, and with gift card in hand I decided to go for it.

I can report that, unlike some of the Amazon reviewers, I didn’t break mine immediately. Or at all, so far. Clearly it is more fragile than its lower order brethren, but I’ve been careful with it and it’s still in one piece. Nor have the stickers started coming off.

The order 3 cube obviously has challenges not present on the order 2, and the order 4 cube poses problems the order 3 doesn’t. The order 5, though, doesn’t really present anything fundamentally new.  If we call the two types of edge cubie “center edge” and “outside edge” (I don’t know if there’s a standard terminology) and the three types of center cubie “dead center”, “oblique center”, and “diagonal center”, then the center edges behave like the order 3 cube edges, the outside edges behave like the order 4 cube edges, the corners behave like the corners on all orders.  The dead centers, like the order 3 cube centers, are fixed in relative position and have no distinguishable orientations, so don’t have to be manipulated.  The oblique and diagonal centers are more complicated than the order 4 cube’s centers, but positioning them is easy and their orientations don’t matter. So altogether, it’s basically more of the same stuff found in the order 3 and 4 cubes. I unscrambled it once — took the better part of an hour, partly because I messed up a couple times, but at any given time I knew what to do next. Anyway, a fun thing for cube aficionadoes, though familiar.

(The rest of the gift card, and a little more, went for the Collector’s Edition of The Nightmare Before Christmas and a copy of The Annotated Flatland.)


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