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Rubik’s Magic and Memory

September 6, 2015

Here is a picture of a birthday present I got recently:

Rubiks magic 1

It’s a puzzle called the Rubik’s Magic and, as you’ve probably guessed is part of the Rubik’s family of puzzles of which the cube is the most famous. It is made of 8 plastic squares with a square lattice on both sides. They are connected by a piece of plastic string (for want of a better word) that is woven around them all and allows it to move and flex in certain ways but not others. The two puzzles are to create the above situation of three zeroes or the below situation where they have linked together*:

Rubiks magic 2

It’s fun and I think I’d say it is easier than the Rubik’s cube.

Now, why am I telling you all this? Well, I used to have one of these when I was little. I can’t really pin down how old I was, but I think I was probably around 14 and I learnt the moves to change the first arrangement into the second. I seem to remember that after a while (perhaps a year or so) it broke. If the plastic string snaps, it’s not really repairable. So that was that.

I hadn’t touched one since then and I’m now 37. After a bit of playing with it again and getting into some horribly stuck positions which are hard to describe unless you’ve tried it yourself, I managed to get it back to its original position of three zeroes. I put it down and did something else. A bit later, as I was heading up to bed, I picked it up and whilst walking upstairs, I got it into the second position! What I found really incredible was that I didn’t try, it just happened. My hands just knew what to do and I could perform the moves to go from position 1 to 2. Weirdly, when I tried it again, I couldn’t actually do it straight away, I had to concentrate less to get it to work. With a bit of work, I can now do it and could describe/show it to someone step-by-step but the main message here is about the power of memory.

So, if you practise something enough, it can lie dormant in your memory and then can pop up again when you need** it to.

I guess you could say that I’m now much more of a believer in the saying “It’s like riding a bike”. Now, I wonder how this applies to something like times tables…

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*they haven’t linked really. It’s the pieces on the other side in a different arrangement.

**perhaps ‘need’ is a little strong in this case.

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One Comment
  1. I remember these – and solved a few over the last ten years. Cant beat my record of under 2 seconds though 🙂

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