We’ve been taking a very close look at a puzzling phenomenon, known, in this particular instantiation, as Buckyballs – a puzzle made of 216 (count ’em) extremely attractive (read “magnetic”) balls.
Attractive indeed. Attracting curiosity, creativity, dexterity, ingenuity. Visually and hapticly engaging. They are executive wonder toys. Moderately expensive investments, that payoff in hours of meditative, and sometimes intensely aggravating play.
Buckyballs are made of Neodymium magnets – the strongest, longest lasting of rare earth magnets. These magnets really, really want to stick together. Assembling them into any of the amazingly attractive configurations shown on the web or featured in their documentation sometimes requires very strong fingers and deep, abiding dedication. Assembling the 6x6x6 cube (a challenge so fundamental that it has become a magnetic-ball-puzzle industry standard to include at least 216 – or 6-cubed balls) can get profoundly frustrating, not because it is conceptually difficult, but rather because the balls can offer surprisingly strong resistance to being pulled apart or forced together in any way other than that which seems to appeal to them at the moment.
Buckyballs comes with ample warnings about the dangers of swallowing, heating, or handling these magnets should their coatings be compromised. Noting quite clearly that the minimum recommended age is 13.
The spectacular variety of sculptural puzzles that these magnetic balls lend themselves to can be found everywhere on the web. On flickr you can find image after image of Buckyballs. On Youtube you can watch a minor myriad of people making mini-metal-marble magnetic magic with Buckyballs. As you watch, it is clear that making these extremely attractive configurations is as much a performance art as it is an act of conceptual mastery.
Until this review, the story of these amazing magnet balls has been uniformly focused on the many marvelous puzzle-like activities available to the magnet-ball-empowered few. Our explorations have revealed equally marvelous toy-potential. Here is a very simple example – showing what happens when you roll one ball at another, with appropriate speed and something like aim, on a plate. Turn up your sound to appreciate the fullness of the inherent glee.
With this very preliminary foray into the “toyetic” qualities of it all, we hereby invite your contributions of similarly jolly, playworthy discoveries. This first is but a taste. (Actually, more of a hint than a taste as the frame speed of the video doesn’t show the full spinning glories we experienced. But a tasty hint, nonetheless.)