Astronomer's Rubik's Cube marathon to help war-torn Ukraine

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC Ukraine appeal. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

It has remained a popular toy for 40 years as well as puzzling millions of people.

And after getting hooked on tackling a Rubik's Cube in lockdown, science broadcaster and author, Mark Thompson put his new skills to the test in a 12-hour challenge at the Forum in the centre of Norwich on Saturday.

His mission was to complete 100 puzzles on a 3x3, 5x5 and 7x7 cube in aid of the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC Ukraine appeal. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Mr Thompson, 48, who lives in South Norfolk, broadcast the challenge on YouTube and aimed to crack each of the smallest puzzles in two minutes, the medium-sized cubes in 10 minutes and the larger challenges in 20 minutes.

He said: "When I was a child I didn't have the ability and enough patience to do them.

"I now find it quite cathartic. If you need to concentrate on something I find it relaxing and it gives you something focus on."

HIs first attempt to crack the 3x3 puzzle took him several days but he can now do it in a few minutes and believed it suited his analytical way of thinking.

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC Ukraine appeal. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

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He uses a technique which involves completing the centre patterns first but said if someone talks to him he can lose focus and has to start again.

Mr Thompson, who has a 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, said his children have not been taken with the hobby but added: "They like mixing it up for me."

Reflecting on the wide appeal of the Rubik's Cube, he said: "It is a vintage toy and has been around for decades. It is ease of being able to sit down on the sofa of an evening and having a go. It feels achievable to most people."

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC

Astronomer Mark Thompson doing a 12-hour Rubik's Cube challenge to complete 100 puzzles for the DEC Ukraine appeal. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

The astronomer, who puts on science-based theatre shows, hopes to raise £1,000 for Ukrainian appeal and had already raised over £700 before the event.

He said: "No-one should be experiencing the emotional and physical pain like the Ukrainians are in the 21st century. Aid agencies were asking for money and I cannot do any science to help."

People crossing the border from Ukraine into Siret, Romania

People crossing the border from Ukraine into Siret, Romania - Credit: Mark Robinson

To donate, search Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis - Rubik's Cub Challenge on www.justgiving.com 

Story behind the puzzle

The Rubik's Cube was the idea of a young Hungarian architect called Ernő Rubik.

In spring 1974 he became obsessed with finding a way to model three-dimensional movement to his students.

After spending several months playing with blocks of cubes — made from wood and paper, held by rubber bands, glue, and paper clips — he created something he called the “Bűvös kocka," or Magic Cube.

The puzzle was eventually licensed by Rubik to be sold by Ideal Toy Corp in 1980 via businessman Tibor Laczi and Seven Towns founder Tom Kremer.

That same year, the Rubik's Cube won the German Game of the Year special award for Best Puzzle.

As of January 2009, 350 million cubes had been sold worldwide making it the world's bestselling puzzle game and bestselling toy.