Deep Six Podcast: The NeoCube

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Matt O&#39;Donnell shows us how the NeoCube came in the package.</span></div>
August 7, 2009 7:08:32 AM PDT
The NeoCube - the Rubik's Cube of the future...perhaps.That is not what this "toy" is being billed as, but that might be the easiest way to get into how to describe it.

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This thing showed up at 6abc in a box, earlier this summer. It is a bunch of little magnetic balls, about 216 of them. They are really small, and they are really magentic. I decided to play around with them for a while. And I became fascinated, but I couldn't figure out why. So I called the guy who invented the NeoCube.

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TheNeoCube website

Video on how to "solve" the NeoCube

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His name is Christopher Reda, and he is from Monongahela in Western Pennsylvania.

Christopher says he was a guy who couldn't really find a job he really liked. He was living in his dad's basement, and working in sales. He could never find a pen - because he kept losing them. And you know what they say: a pen is to a salesman as a hammer is to a carpenter.

So, Christopher decided he was going to invent the magnetic pen holder. It was simple - a magnetic strip, plus a pen that had the opposite polarity so it would stick. You could put it on your shirt, or in your pants, whatever.

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As it turned out, the magnetic pen holder idea went nowhere. But Christopher continued to play with magnets. He got more and more of them, and would use them to make common shapes, and then more advanced objects. It was a big waste of time, he admits. It was also a great stress reliever, and loads of fun.

Christopher decided he would develop a puzzle with the magnets, which would be little metal balls. That became the NeoCube. But he had a problem - he needed to use a magnet that was strong enough to hold the little balls together.

That type would be the neodymium magnet - which is made of iron and boron. It is a rare earth magnet, and therefore very expensive to buy. They are mostly used for generators, computer hard drivers, and other industrial applications.

Christopher scoped a few places out in the United States, and found that to purchase enough neodymium to make his NeoCube, he would have to spend 300 dollars per item. And no one is going to spend that much money for a novelty such as this.

Christopher called around across the world and - sorry to those who insist on everything they buy being American made - he found a Chinese neodymium producer who would bring his cost down to 24 dollars and 95 cents.

The NeoCube was officially born, brought into production, and sold for the first time in the summer of 2008. To the date of this recording, Christopher says he has sold more than 30 thousand of them across the world, in just about every country you could imagine. He and his girlfriend do all of the work - marketing, shipping, accounting. The NeoCube may be the puzzle of the future, but its backing business is rather primitive. Christopher hopes that will change - we shall see. He has a patent pending with the United States, in the hopes that others who are producing a similar "toy" will be shut down.

Anyway, back to the NeoCube. The goal is to make the magnets form a three-dimensional shape, like a cube. I tried many times, and could not. Instead, I became preoccupied with simply playing around with the collection of magnets, forming all sorts of unusual shapes, enjoying their magnetic attraction and detraction - I must admit, it is hard to put down.

I gave up, and decided to look for external help. Christopher has posted several how-to videos on his website and YouTube, and yes, there is one to teach you how to make a cube. Believe it or not, it is extremely easy.

Christopher says he keeps his NeoCube in his pocket and uses it to help him think, or just pass the time. He says it is a good left brain, right brain exercise - where you use your logic, and your creativity at the same time.

One warning, though - if you put these rare-Earth magnets down near your cell phone, tv set, or computer, you could mess up those electronic devices. Powerful magnets such as these can mess up such equipment.

Bottom line - don't turn the NeoCube into the NeoDestructor.

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