Well folks, I’ve got something to confess to you. You might have seen this coming if you’ve been reading the site for a while, but I figured it was high time my fellow bloggers and I came clean and fessed up about this: We’re obsessed with blocks.
How else can you explain the lengths the Movoto blog has gone to in order to figure out how how to build houses out of LEGO bricks and Tetris pieces? We have a problem, and we just can’t stop. The blocks invade our dreams and haunt our waking hours. All we can do is keep going in hope of finding a cure.
Then I found that there are others who share our obsession. They use Rubik’s Cubes—the iconic ‘80s toy—to build things and create art. There’s actually a term for the latter: Rubik’s Cubism. In fact, the world’s largest Rubik’s Cube mosaic was just crowned in Macau, China by the Guinness Book of World Records. It depicts the Macau skyline in wonderful, pixel art style detail using a whopping 85,794 cubes.
These industrious blockheads inspired us to tackle a new puzzle: How many Rubik’s Cubes you would need to build a house (and how long it would take to solve them all).
You could construct an average-sized 2,169 square foot, two-story home using 458,241 cubes, it turns out. But you have to remember that these aren’t just any old cubes—they’re puzzles. They’re meant to be solved, and so I also calculated how long it would take for the world record holding speedcuber (a competitive Rubik’s Cube solver) to unscramble every cube before putting them in place. That’d require 29 days, four hours, five minutes, and 25 seconds to solve (with no breaks to eat, sleep, or… pee).
I’ll walk you through how I figured this out, but first a little history of our multicolored plastic building supplies is in order.
Rubik’s Magic CubeThe Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Ernő Rubik, a Hungarian architecture professor and sculptor. It was originally called the Magic Cube and went on sale in 1977. Rubik sold his invention to Ideal Toy Corp in 1980, which renamed it the Rubik’s Cube and released it worldwide in 1980.
What many people don’t know is that Rubik didn’t originally intend for his cube to be a toy. He actually designed it as a way to help his design students conceptualize 3D objects, and it was only after he scrambled it for the first time that he realized it could work as a puzzle game. Talk about a happy accident.
In fact, more than 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold, making it the best-selling puzzle of all time.
How I Did It
Before I could start building, I needed to know a couple of things:
- Which version of the Rubik’s Cube I was going to use
- How big one is
- What the world record for solving one is
I’ll take those in order.
Which Cube to Use?
There are actually quite a few types of official Rubik’s Cubes, ranging from the 2x2x2 Pocket Cube all the way up to the 4x4x4 Rubik’s Revenge. Unofficial versions include the 5x5x5 Professor’s Cube, the 7x7x7 V-Cube 7, and the ridiculously expensive (not to mention huge and wonky) 17x17x17 Over the Top cube. A fitting name if I’ve ever heard one.
For this project, I decided to go with the classic 3x3x3 original Rubik’s Cube. It happens to be 2.25 inches on each side. Simple enough.
Next up, I went searching for one fast cuber.
Speedcubers: The Masters of Rubik’s Cubes
Competitive Rubik’s Cube solvers are known as speedcubers, or “cubers” for short. The competitive sport of solving Rubik’s Cubes is called speedcubing. You’re not going to believe what I found when I looked up the world record for speedcubing.
5.55 seconds—that’s all the time it takes for Mats Valk, a native of the Netherlands, to solve a Rubik’s Cube (the video is mind-blowing). He set that record just last month, in March 2013. I can barely solve a cube in five days, let alone five seconds. Most people can supposedly solve one in around a minute once they get proficient at it, which is still about 11 times longer than Valk’s record.
With Valk’s mind numbing record on file, I could figure the rest out.
Solving the PuzzleBefore I could start building, I just had to decide one last factor: the depth of the walls. Since a standard brick wall is 8 inches deep, I decided to stick as close to that as possible. This meant that each wall would be calculated in width based on the square footage and height based on the standard of 10 feet for one story. The depth of the walls would be four cubes or 9 inches.
After crunching the numbers, my average-sized 2,169 square foot, two-story house ended up requiring 458,241 cubes to build, including a flat roof and allowing cutouts for two windows and one door.
Based on the world record holder’s best time, those cubes would require a total time of 29 days, four hours, five minutes, and 25 seconds to solve and put in place. If you’re a normal human and can solve a cube in about a minute after some practice, that same feat would require 318 days, five hours, 20 minutes, and 59 seconds.
How long would it take to Rubik’s Cube your house? Use the calculator we built (above) to find out and share the results with your friends so they look like squares for not doing it first.
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