What is a Soma Cube?

The Story of the Soma Cube

The Soma Cube is a 3x3x3 dissection puzzle, which has been split into 7 entirely unique pieces, made of 27 cubes. The object of the puzzle is to organize these pieces into a solid cube. The number of cubes in each piece can’t exceed 4, and each piece has to be irregular, with a nook or turn. 

There are a total of 240 possible distinct solutions excluding rotations. The pieces can also be manipulated into a multitude of other shapes including a castle, a serpent and a chair. If you are looking for a Soma Cube solution video click here.

The Soma Cube, a precursor the Rubik cube, is famous for its use in psychological and intellectual experiments. A University of Rochester Psychologist, Dr Deci, used the Soma Cube to show dedication of volunteer workers versus paid workers in a given task. You can read about this interesting psychological experiment here.

Ability in completing Soma Cube puzzles in tests gives remarkably accurate insight into ones intelligence. The speed and accuracy at which one can complete a Soma Cube correlates greatly with ones IQ. However, it has been found that intellectual outliers and black swans with MENSA level IQ,  tended to struggle – a pinch of imagination and a dollop spatial awareness is required to complete the Soma Cube.

Piet Hein, the creator of the puzzle, took the name from Aldous Huxley’s seminal work “A Brave New World” – where Soma is an addictive drug taken by the inhabitants of the “the establishment”, when they are neither working nor busy. Today the Soma Cube is known as an addictive puzzle used as distractions when someone should be working or busy.

Hein, came up with the idea for the puzzle, while preparing for a lecture. Indeed, he imagined the puzzle up in its 7 parts and wondered if it would make a cube; instead of starting with a cube and cutting it up.

“It is a beautiful humor of the nature, that the 7 simplest irregular combinations of cubes, can be recombined to the cube again. The multitudes of unity is again producing the unity. This is the world’s smallest philosophic system, and that surely must be an advantage.” – Piet Hein

Although Piet Hein invented the Soma, it only become a commercial success after being distributed by the Parker Bros, in 1969. The puzzle was sold with a booklet inside, which displayed 36 standard figures and solutions to be made – however only 33 were actually possible. The famous “W-Wall” is sadly – completely and entirely impossible – although we recommend you give it a try. The complete list of possible solutions is available here.

If you are looking to purchase one of SiamMandalays Soma cubes, please click on the images below.

Sean Allan
November 14, 2014 by Sean Allan
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Sivy Farhi

Sivy Farhi said:

I enjoyed looking at your site on the Soma Cube.
I first introduced the Soma cube to students while teaching at a high school in New Zealand.
Shortly afterwoods, I started to sell Soma Cubes, Pentominoes and Pentacubes.
Much of the contents of the sturctures shown in the instruction booklets were the work of my students!
At present, I am an retired engineer and teacher, but I keep active by trying to improve the teaching of mathematics in schools, thus I am trying to get schools to use puzzles and games to make the STEM classes more effective and enjoyable. Learning should be enjoyable and not considered hard work.

You can help by mentioning me and my present hobby.

Incedently, Donald Knuth is presently writing his 4th volume on the art of computer programming and is mentioning my work on the Soma cube.

Send me your mailing address, and I will mail you a copy of me new edition of the Soma Cube Instruction Bookllet.

Best wishes, Sivy

Mary Rerisi

Mary Rerisi said:

Hello Sivy!

I would love to have a copy of instruction booklet!

I discovered pentominoes, 3D pentominoes, and pentacubes in the 1980s when I taught middle school math. I have held onto them all of these years but have lost the solution manuals.

Now I am teaching math to prospective elementary school teachers. I’ve shown them how I had my students generate their own 2D pentominoes in the past.

I have brought out my plastic pentacube set for two students to use in a video about them. They are trying to make a cube or rectangular prism.

I cannot find the solutions online and we cannot figure them out!

Any help would be appreciated!

Best, Mary

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