Over thirty years ago, I was astonished to learn of Roger Wheeler's 8-piece dissection of a 3-cube, a 4-cube, and a 5-cube to a 6-cube. I remember being entranced by the possibility that one could actually own such a remarkable model.
At the same time, I marveled that anyone had been able to discover such a solution. It must have been painful to juggle so many (216) small cubes and come up with so few pieces. There couldn't be that many solutions, could there?
Well, there are millions of different solutions, as Edo Timmermans discovered by a succession of computer searches. And as I discuss in my Chapter 21 updates, some of them make extremely fine puzzles, in which some pieces must be rotated relative to each other as you assemble the cubes.
And my dream of owning a working model became a reality, as Edo decided to craft a nifty model of one of his discoveries out of beechwood. I purchased "Ganesha's Obstacle" from him, and took delivery of it in February 2005. You can see the 3-cube, 4-cube, and 5-cube in the picture above. Below are the eight pieces, with the 3-cube in the middle. Sitting beneath the 3-cube are the two pieces that form the 4-cube. The remaining five pieces form the 5-cube. The name "Ganesha's Obstacle" derives from the shape of the piece in the upper right corner, which resembles a figure with an elephant's head. Almost the same elephant's head can be found in the piece lower left from the 3-cube, though the trunk is a 1x1x1-cube shorter. Edo wrote:Ganesha is the Hindu Lord of wisdom, the remover of obstacles, depicted as a human figure with an elephant head. The meaning of Ganesha relates well to the unusual problem in the 5x5x5-cube.
This model is just wonderful. As I wrote to Edo, after receiving it in the mail:The craftsmanship is superb -- the pieces fit together smoothly and with the closest of tolerances. It's a real joy to slide them together. And the level of challenge in this puzzle is perfect. It took me maybe 5 minutes to assemble the 5-cube and the same for the 6-cube. Just right to have a moderate challenge and still enjoy the aesthetics of the pieces. And the twist that one needs for the 5-cube is, well, the perfect twist to that puzzle.
Since the puzzle was handmade by Edo and took him 16 hours, it was not cheap -- requiring a rather big stack of those bills that you see in the top figure! But as you can see, the puzzle is really lovely, and for me, it was worth it. Edo lives in Loon op Zand, the Netherlands. His full name is Eduard Alexander Timmermans, which explains the name of his enterprise, EATWOOD. If you want to get in touch with him, his email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos are used with the permission of Edo Timmermans.
All else is copyright 2005, Greg N. Frederickson.
Permission is granted to any purchaser of Dissections: Plane & Fancy to print out a copy of this page for his or her own personal use.
Last updated March 5, 2005.