Sputnik Ball (Sputnik Kugel)

Posted on Nov 12, 2012 by Gabriel | 0 comments
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(Click to Enlarge)
My latest order of puzzles from PuzzleMaster arrived last week and with it came several more from Jean Claude Constantin - I just can't resist to his puzzles! One of these puzzles is the Sputnik Ball, originally called Sputnik Kugel. It's a very interesting design in which you need to take the wooden pieces apart in order to free the metal sphere. Once you've succeeded, you have to put it back together.

The Sputnik Ball consists of two sizes of intercepting rings that keep a metal sphere trapped in the middle. At first sight, releasing the sphere appears to be an impossible task, because the rings intercept at a 90º angle leaving no room to move the sphere. The inner rings rotate freely in any direction and so does the sphere, but no position seems to matter, as they all have physical constraints that block any attempt to take them apart.

(Click to Enlarge) - Inner Rings Rotated
The puzzle is deceptively rated at a difficulty level 5 out of 10, which lets one believe that it's going to be a walk in the park, when it's definitely not the case. I agree that the solution is very simple and easy to perform - quite elegant actually - but getting there is a whole different matter and counterintuitive for most people. You certainly need to think outside of the box with this one.

As mentioned above, any position you align the rings seems to result in a physical impossibility: you can't slide them up, because the sphere blocks any movement in that direction; you can't get the inner rings off  either, without taking the outer rings apart first, or vice versa. Therefore, that only leaves the option of taking them apart at the same time... So how do you go about accomplishing that? - That would be revealing the solution, and the beauty of it lies in figuring it out for yourself.

(Click to Enlarge)
When I was trying to solve it, I came to the solution almost by accident. I believe you'll eventually get to that point by constantly attempting other strategies, so it's not really a case of luck, more like a question of time. At first, I was afraid I was going to brake the puzzle, but as I proceeded the puzzle naturally adapted to that position. Applying gentle pressure was enough to free the sphere and then separating the rings was easy.

Edit: I received the information that Constantin didn't actually designed the Sputnik Ball. Leonard M. Lyon came up with the concept in 1891, and at the time the puzzle featured 3 sizes of rings. Constantin only adapted the design to make it simpler with only two sizes of rings. Click here to take a look at the patent documents.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

Solving the Sputnik Ball is more like leaning a secret trick - Once you know it the puzzle becomes just a collectible  or a decorating object, because you can no longer attempt to solve it a second time. You already know how to do it... It's fun to see others try though, so the puzzle gains a new purpose. Another great puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin.

Availability: You can find the Sputnik Ball at PuzzleMaster for $16 CAD.


Jean Claude Constantin - Official Website


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