Friday, October 29, 2010

Isolated Marble, a work-in-progress

Some time ago I tried to develop a variation of Bram Cohen's Trapped Marble puzzle, which is now being sold by Hanayama Ltd as Cast Marble. I tried to modify the cuts as radically as possible, but the puzzle as a whole behaved just like Cohen's original. It apparently lacked novelty, so I stopped working on it.

The challenge in Bram Cohen's original puzzle was to assemble all four pieces; there was no challenge assembling the two-piece marble without the rest of the puzzle. But in the following months, many people have been confounded by the central 'marble' from my prototype. It just doesn't go together as people expect.

The secret to assembling the marble by itself is to withdraw the parts farther than you might intuitively expect, until they elegantly nest and join together. My four piece prototype had been designed to be assembled from a widely-separated orientation, but I hadn't anticipated the two central 'marble' pieces would retain this behavior without the other two pieces. It turns out to be a satisfying puzzle all by itself!

So I've begun exploring designs for a two-piece marble puzzle. To help distinguish each batch of prototypes I briefly installed red PVC for several layers in the middle of the build, which gave these parts a red stripe. For subsequent prototypes I will try swapping-in small amounts of other colors, again to uniquely identify each build.

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