3D Puzzle Series 3, Ladder Cube

Every time I try to get out, they just pull me right back in…
I was up at the Amu Plaza department store, looking at the banks of capsule ball dispensers. I’ve been having poor luck in getting things from the machines recently because I wait too long and when I’m finally ready to buy something, the machine disappears. So, when Amu Plaza set out twice the number of machines than normal, I took the time to look them all over, and then bought one of everything that caught my eye. That meant getting 5 toys all at once, for a total of 1,100 yen ($10 USD). One of the machines contained a new series of wooden puzzles, but it doesn’t seem to be an extension of the two earlier series, in that doesn’t say “series 3” on the advertising. On the other hand, 4 of the 6 puzzles are repeats. We get Cross, Neo Cross, Orb, Ladder Cube, Plain Cross and Double Rhombus Cube. 200 yen each.

Only Cross and Ladder Cube are new here. I got Ladder Cube on the first try, and then walked away. Cross looks nice, and I would like to get it if possible, but I don’t want to spend the money just to end up with more duplicates of the other puzzles. I’m not that desperate of a collector.

Ladder Cube probably ranks at 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 for difficulty. It consists of 9 pieces: 3 pegs, 3 legs with 3 holes, two legs with two holes and 1 peg each, and one leg with one hole and 2 pegs. The legs that are similar aren’t identical; the holes aren’t centered, so you have to be a bit careful in matching 2 of the 3-hole pieces to be opposite each other to get the holes aligned right. The remaining 3-hole leg gets matched up with the leg with 2 pegs. Then it’s just a matter of threading the pegs through the holes of the different legs to get the finished assembly. I got it right on the first try in less than a minute, but that’s because I’d just gotten lucky. The second time, the legs were aligned wrong and the cube leaned badly to one side. I disassembled the puzzle, identified the matching pieces, and was able to put it together again in a couple of minutes. Once you know what to look for, you can probably take it apart and put it back together again in under a minute. Not challenging, but it looks nice. About 2″ to a side.

Where do we go from here…

One of the problems in maintaining this particular blog is that it was originally intended for reviewing the Gakken Otona no Kagaku (Adult Science) kits, and it then kind of morphed into a Java/synthesizer/math and science hybrid. But, the number of Gakken kits have dropped from 3-4 per year to maybe 1 a year, and I’ve kind of run out of steam for writing about everything else. I’d like to keep focusing on synthesizers, but it’s not practical to buy new gear just to have something to write about, especially since I’m doing this blog for free. Bottom line is that I’m not sure there’s a point in trying to find new stuff to write about just in order to keep things moving here until the next kit comes out (which may or may not ever happen).

I’ve got two choices. One is to mothball this site and let it go into hibernation, or just kill it off entirely. The other is to completely change focus once more, and start a weekly review of webcomics that I like. I’ve been talking to a few artists, and I’d like to try something along a web interview series, or at least a “spotlight on…” kind of thing.

I’m still thinking right now. In the meantime, I’d like to thank everyone reading this for hanging around with me as long as you have.

Table salt and dish soap

Here’s a little practical chemistry experiment to try when you’re really bored…

A few days ago, I had a small dish of plain white fine-powdered table sea salt, maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons worth. It had been sitting out for a while and had clumped up, so I figured I’d just toss it out, wash the dish and start over. Being lazy, though, I just splashed some water from the faucet into the bowl to soften up the salt and make it easier to remove. Then, I added several squirts of dish soap to a sponge, and rubbed the sponge to build up a good lather.

However, as soon as I started cleaning the dish of salt water with the sponge, the sudsing action of the soap just disappeared. The sponge stopped feeling slippery, and it was like all the soap had just been rinsed out of the sponge. The soap simply died on me. This has never happened before, and I can’t find anything talking about this on the net, doing a quick search. Salt water kills dish soap.


Puzzle Collection Neo, Glittery Cube

I visit the Amu Plaza department store at least once a week, because it’s close to my apartment (10-15 minute walk) and I can get free sample coffee from the import store in the basement food court. There’s a bank of capsule ball dispensers on the 6th floor, between the cineplex and the crane arm machines arcade. I’ll check the dispensers when I’m there to look for anime-related figures, and I’ll get one or two as examples of the art if they’re not too expensive ($2 to $3 USD, apiece). This time, I decided to take a few close up photos of the display case, showing Cup no Fuchiko (Office Lady Fuchiko who likes to play with office supplies), Doraemon and super-deformed Star Wars figures.

The machines had yet another puzzle series, this time variants on the Rubik’s Cube. These are cheap pirate knock-offs for 200 yen each – 2 cubes (one with plain stickers, and the other with glittery faces), 3 snakes (blue, orange and yellow-green) and 1 “column”. I was hoping for the column, or maybe one of the snakes, but I ended up getting the glitter cube.

I’ve never been that interested in solving the Rubik’s Cube, and I recognize that I have no skill for it. This one is cheap plastic that is hard to turn, but is only 3x3x3, so it should be a bit easier to figure out. It’s small, at only 1.5″ to a side. I don’t intend try again in order to get the column; I just wanted one sample trinket for the blog here.

Metal Puzzle 8 – Trefoil

Ok, now I’m almost ready to give up. This is the fourth of the new puzzles I’d gotten all at one time, and I just have no idea how to start it. I tried searching the net for solutions, and there didn’t seem to be anything posted yet, so I got ready to show the last of the puzzles to my students, and then I’d put them into storage to clean my desk off. I don’t feel like getting the last two puzzles from the set – Mill or Heart – partly because I’d probably have to get too many duplicates along the way. Besides, Mill looks like a variant of Star, and Heart seems a reworking of Bird. I don’t want them so badly as to spend the money needed to get them. In any case, it’s time for me to get back to all the other stuff I need to do.

I said “almost”. In trying to locate the website of the maker of these puzzles, which specifically states that they’re not providing solutions because part of their charm is that you may NEVER solve them, I stumbled on the IP4 information page, and solutions videos for all 10 puzzles. So, yeah, I know the answer now. And, I still stand by my original proclamation – I’m not good at these kinds of things. Even with the video, it took me 10 minutes to figure this one out, and another hour to be able to assemble and disassemble it consistently. It didn’t help that the person giving the solution in the video was pretty clumsy at it, too. Right now, I’m at the point where the total time to solve and reassemble Trefoil is about 5 minutes. Oof.

Liquid Magnets

(Image from Amazon. Used here for review purposes only.)

I’ve been reading For the Love of Physics, the book co-written by MIT professor Walter Lewin and Warren Goldstein. It’s pretty good, mixing Lewin’s autobiography with examples of his experiments from his undergraduate physics courses. The chapters are divided up into optics and rainbows, astrophysics, magnetism and electricity, gravity, etc. There’s no hard math or theoretical discussions, just plain-language descriptions for how stuff works, and why he demonstrates the experiments that he does. It’s a decent introduction to prism effects, DC motors and halo rainbows.

One of the more interesting topics is about liquid magnets. The book gives a link for how to make your own, with a kind of messy process including printed circuit board etchant, iron filings and lots of heat, but the Household Hacker group has a much simpler video on youtube demonstrating a method using printer toner and vegetable oil.

How-to video direct link

The art demo videos are also really cool. Basically, the liquid has very fine iron particles in a suspension (oil or kerosene), and they align with whatever magnetic field lines that are present in metal objects via rare earth magnets, or electric coils. This is the kind of stuff you should have panels on at SF conventions, if you don’t already.

Art demo direct link