A Chiral Solution to the Zome Cryptocube Puzzle

This is my second solution to the Zome Cryptocube puzzle. In this puzzle, you start with a black cube, build a white, symmetrical, aethetically-pleasing geometrical structure which incorporates it, and then, finally, remove the cube. In addition, I added a rule of my own, this time around: I wanted a solution which is chiral; that is, it exists in left- and right-handed forms.

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It took a long time, but I finally found such a chiral solution, one with tetrahedral symmetry. Above, it appears with the original black cube; below, you can see what it looks like without the black cube’s edges.

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My First Solution to the Zome Cryptocube Puzzle, with Special Guest Appearances by Jynx the Kitten

Last month, in a special Christmas promotion, the Zometool company (www.zometool.com) briefly sold a new kit (which will return later) — a fascinating game, or puzzle, called the “Cryptocube.” Zome usually comes in a variety of colors, with each color having mathematical significance, but the Cryptocube is produced in black and white, which actually (in my opinion) makes it a better puzzle. Here’s how the Crypocube challenge works:  you use the black parts to make a simple cube, and then use the smaller white parts to invent a structure which incorporates the cube, is symmetrical, is attractive, and can survive having the twelve black cube-edges removed, leaving only the cube’s eight black vertices in place. I had a lot of fun making my first Cryptocube, and photographed it from several angles.

imageIf this was built using standard Zome colors, the round white figure inside the cube, a rhombic triacontahedron, would be red, and the pieces outside the cube, as well as those joining the rhombic triacontahedron to the cube (from inside the cube), would be yellow.

It isn’t only humans who like Zome, by the way. Jynx the Kitten had to get in on this!

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Jynx quickly became distracted from the Cryptocube by another puzzle, though: he wanted to figure out how to pull down the red sheet I had attached to the wall, as a photographic backdrop for the Cryptocube. Jynx takes his feline duties as an agent of entropy quite seriously.

image (2)As usually happens, Jynx won (in his never-ending struggle to interfere with whatever I’m doing, in this case by pulling the sheet down) and it took me quite a while to get the red sheet back up, in order to take kitten-free pictures of my Cryptocube solution, after removal of the black cube’s edges.

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Here’s the view from another angle.

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The Cryptocube will be back, available on the Zometool website, later in 2015. In the meantime, I have advice for anyone not yet familiar with Zome, but who wants to try the Cryptocube when it returns: go ahead and get some Zome now, at the link above, in the standard colors (red, blue, and yellow, plus green in advanced kits), and have fun building things with it over the next few months. The reason to do this, before attempting to solve the Crypocube, is simple: the colors help you learn how the Zome system works, which is important before trying to solve a Zome puzzle without these colors visible. After gaining some familiarity with the differing shapes of the red, blue, yellow, and green pieces, working with them in white becomes much easier.

On a related note, Zome was recommended by Time magazine, using the words “Zometool will make your kids smarter,” as one of the 14 best toys of 2013. I give Zome my own strong, personal recommendation as well, and, as a teacher who uses my own Zome collection in class, for instructional purposes, I can attest that Time‘s 2013 statement about Zome is absolutely correct. Zome is definitely a winner!

A Special Type of Compound, Built with Zome, of the Great and Small Stellated Dodecahedra

For years, I have used Zometools (sold here:  http://www.zometool.com) to teach geometry. The constructions for the icosahedron and dodecahedron are easy to teach and learn, due to the use of short reds (R1s) and medium yellows (Y2s) for radii for the two of them, as shown below, with short blue (B1) struts as edges for both polyhedra.


Unexpectedly, a student (name withheld for ethical and legal reasons) combined the two models, making this:

1401165_10204218146948742_4605456240300721240_oI saw it, and wondered if the two combined Platonic solids could be expanded along the edges, to stellate both polyhedra, with medium blues (B2s), to form the great and small stellated dodecahedron. By trying it, I found out that this would require intersecting blue struts — so a Zomeball needed to be there, at the intersection. Trying, however, only told me that no available combination would fit. After several more attempts, I doubled each edge length, and added some stabilizing tiny reds (R0s), and found a combination that would work, to form a compound of the great and small stellated dodecahedron in which both edge lengths would be equal. In the standard (non-stellated) compound of the icosahedron and dodecahedron, in which the edges are perpendicular, they are unequal in length, and in the golden ratio, which is how that compound differs from the figure shown directly above.

Here’s the stabilized icosahedral core, after the doubling of the edge length:

10865862_10204218180989593_3871605705756535601_oThis enabled stellation of each shape by edge-extension. Each edge had a length twice as long as a B2 added to each side — and it turns out, I discovered, that 2B2 in Zome equals B3 + B0, giving the golden ratio as one of three solutions solution to x² + 1/x = 2x (the others are one, and the golden ratio’s reciprocal). After edge-stellation to each component of the icosahedron/dodecahedron quasi-compound, this is what the end product looked like. This required assembling the model below at home, where all these pictures were taken, for one simple reason: this thing is too wide to fit through the door of my classroom, or into my car.


Here’s a close-up of the central region, as well.


A Virtual Zomeball


For physical modeling of polyhedra, I often use Zometools (available at http://www.zometool.com), which use Zomeballs as nodes for a ball-and-stick modeling system. To make virtual models such as the one above, though, I use Stella 4d: Polyhedron Navigator (available at http://www.software3d.com/Stella.php).

It occurred to me to try to make a virtual model of a Zomeball, which is one of two equally-symmetrical versions of a rhombicosidodecahedron, with its squares replaced by golden rectangles. If you visit the Zometools page, you can see the way they picture Zomeballs, and then let me know how good a simulation I created, above.