Did you hear about the blonde who was thrilled to solve a puzzle in six months? After all, it said “8 years and up” on the label!
Mechanical puzzles are those in which the solver must rearrange, take apart, or reassemble the physical pieces present.
Mechanical puzzles were known as far back as 300 BCE, when “Archimedes’s Box” (Ostomachion in Greek, from Ὀστομάχιον, whose meaning translates roughly to “bone-fight”) was a popular mathematical exercise. Archimedes’s Box could be used as a sort of tangram analogue, in which the pieces were rearranged to form silhouettes of various animals and other objects. It could also be used as a fill-the-box puzzle, in which the pieces must be reinserted into the frame so that they fill it exactly.
One rather newer form of mechanical puzzle is that known as a sequential movement puzzle. Perhaps the most famous of these so-called combination puzzles is the Rubik’s Cube, which has spawned an entire industry of namesake puzzles in different sizes, shapes, and levels of difficulty — everything from 2×2 to 7×7 cubes, hollowed cubes, and more.
A worthy successor to the Rubik’s Cube is the Marusenko Sphere. This is a twisty combination puzzle, like the Cube, constructed of coloured plastic. The sphere is cut into eight octants, and further cut with 6 circular faces. The Marusenko is available in five difficulty levels, the easiest of which has over 7 million possible combinations (the level 5, the most difficult, has more than 620 quintillion).
Like all such puzzles (thank goodness!) there is an algorithm to help the user solve the puzzle. As you can see from the photograph above, it hasn’t helped me much. I guess I have about 8 years of work ahead of me!
The Marusenko puzzles are manufactured in Spain of high-quality coloured plastic (no stickers to peel off!), and retail for CAD$24.99. In stock now.