Forever Fad: Rubik Says His Cube 'Reminds Us Why We Have Hands'

It's what hands are for: Inventor Erno Rubik gets to grip with his famous cube - AFP
It's what hands are for: Inventor Erno Rubik gets to grip with his famous cube - AFP
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Forever Fad: Rubik Says His Cube 'Reminds Us Why We Have Hands'

It's what hands are for: Inventor Erno Rubik gets to grip with his famous cube - AFP
It's what hands are for: Inventor Erno Rubik gets to grip with his famous cube - AFP

The naysayers said the maddening multicoloured cube that Erno Rubik invented 50 years ago would not survive the 1980s.

Yet millennials and Generation Z are as nuts about Rubik's Cube as their parents were, much to the amusement of its 79-year-old creator, who talked to AFP in a rare interview.

In a digital world "we are slowly forgetting that we have hands", Rubik said.

But playing with the cube helps us tap back into something deeply primal about doing things with our hands, he said -- "our first tools", as he calls them.

"Speed cubing" and Rubik's Cube hacks are huge on social media, with youngsters regularly going viral while dancing, rapping and even playing the piano while solving the 3D puzzle.

Rubik said the "connection between the mind and hands" that the cube helps foster has been "a very important" factor in human development.

"I think probably the cube reminds us we have hands... You are not just thinking, you are doing something.

"It's a piece of art you are emotionally involved with," Rubik added.

The unassuming Hungarian architecture professor never thought the prototype he devised would conquer the world -- and set him up for life.

More than 500 million copies of the cult object have been sold -- not counting the myriad of counterfeits.

Rubik's Cube has remained one of the world's top-selling puzzle games, with more than 43 quintillion -- a quintillion being a billion trillion -- ways of solving it.

Even after "hundreds or thousands of years", you would still be finding ways to crack it, Rubik enthused.

Despite the omnipresence of screens, "new generations have developed the same strong relationship with the cube," Rubik told AFP at Budapest's Aquincum Institute of Technology, where he sometimes gives lectures.

It was in the spring of 1974 that he created the first working prototype of a movable cube made of small wooden blocks and held together by a unique mechanism.

The five decades since have been "unbelievable", he said, comparing his relationship with the cube to having a "wunderkind" in the family.

"You need to take a step back because of your 'child' and its fame.... (which) can be very tiring," he said.

In his book "Cubed", published in 2020, Rubik revealed that he had never intended to leave a mark on the world -- he was just driven by a love for building geometric models.

It took Rubik several prototypes and weeks of tinkering to figure out the ideal mechanism -- and a way to solve his puzzle -- before he could file a patent application in 1975.

The colourful "Magic Cube" first sold domestically in 1977 before hitting international shelves three years later.

Rubik recalled his first fairytale-like trip from communist Hungary to the West, on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Despite being publicity-shy, the inventor has amassed a collection of some 1,500 magazine covers featuring his cube over the years, which has become "a symbol of complexity" to illustrate anything from geopolitical problems to elections.

You either "like or hate it", he said, but you cannot ignore it, AFP reported.

Rubik's Cube legacy lives on strongly in pop culture, having been featured in numerous TV series and Hollywood blockbusters.

It has also remained the centrepiece of puzzle-solving competitions.

Masters of the cube frequently gather across the world, battling with their hands and feet -- sometimes while blindfolded, parachuting or doing headstands -- Rubik said.

The cube has a place in the permanent exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art, and it has also inspired artists, including renowned French street artist Invader.

An educational tool used everywhere from nursery schools to universities, the cube is also popular in retirement homes and helps people living with autism, including American speed-cubing star Max Park, who holds the world record of solving it in 3.13 seconds.

Rubik said the emotional rewards the cube has brought him have been even better than the "retirement money" it has earned him.



NASA Calls Off Astronauts' ISS Spacewalk Over 'Spacesuit Discomfort'

FILE PHOTO: The NASA logo is seen at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the NASA/SpaceX launch of a commercial crew mission to the International Space Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The NASA logo is seen at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the NASA/SpaceX launch of a commercial crew mission to the International Space Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo
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NASA Calls Off Astronauts' ISS Spacewalk Over 'Spacesuit Discomfort'

FILE PHOTO: The NASA logo is seen at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the NASA/SpaceX launch of a commercial crew mission to the International Space Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The NASA logo is seen at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the NASA/SpaceX launch of a commercial crew mission to the International Space Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

NASA said a "spacesuit discomfort issue" forced the cancellation of a planned spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) by two US astronauts on Thursday, roughly an hour before their repair mission was poised to begin.
NASA astronauts Tracy C. Dyson and Matt Dominick, two of the orbiting laboratory's six US astronauts, donned their spacesuits early on Thursday morning in preparation for a roughly six-hour trek outside the ISS for routine repairs and a science mission, as shown on a NASA live stream.
As other US crewmembers prepped the two astronauts inside the station's Quest airlock - the exit module separating the station's interior from the vacuum of space - NASA astronaut Mike Barratt asked flight controllers in Houston for a private communications line to discuss a medical issue.
Minutes later a NASA spokeswoman speaking on the live stream said "today's spacewalk will not be proceeding as planned."
"The spacewalk today, June 13, at the International Space Station did not proceed as scheduled due to a spacesuit discomfort issue," NASA later said on its website.
The spacewalk mission was poised to be NASA's 90th in the space station's 23-year history, and the second this year. It would have been the fourth spacewalk for Dixon, who first flew to space in 2007, and the first for Dominick.
It was not clear what caused the spacesuit discomfort or whether an independent astronaut medical issue was a factor, Reuters reported.
Past spacewalks have been called off over issues with the station's spacesuits, which were designed nearly half a century ago with only minor redesigns and refurbishments. NASA's inspector general has said they are ripe for an upgrade, which NASA is paying Raytheon's Collins Aerospace to do.
Before Thursday's spacewalk cancellation, NASA on Wednesday night accidentally broadcast on its live YouTube feed a simulated emergency of astronauts being treated for decompression sickness on the ISS, raising public alarm about the health of US crewmembers.
NASA said there was no real emergency and that "audio was inadvertently misrouted from an ongoing simulation where crew members and ground teams train for various scenarios in space and is not related to a real emergency."