October 27, 2010

Newton's Egg by Stephen Chin

This puzzle was Stephen Chin's exchange puzzle at IPP30 in Japan. I had seen photos of Stephen's work before, but this was the first that I have had the pleasure of trying.

The goal is to open the egg, and the hint is that it is based on Newton's three laws of motion. This particular copy is made out of Huon Pine, which gives it a nice aroma. I was intrigued by the hint and decided to buy a copy.

When I got it, it arrived it a plastic tube and was wrapped in a kid's sock. It also included a tippe top made out of colored pencils that had been glued together and turned on a lathe! This is one of Stephen's 'signature' techniques. It also included the captured ring stand you seen in the photo on the right. The ring can't come off the stand because the diameter is too small, so it is sort of an impossible object. Of course, he achieves this by carving both the stand and the ring out of a single piece of wood. Stephen is a master of the lathe!

It is quite nicely crafted, with a smooth finish. At first, it looks completely impenetrable. I had no luck just trying to take it apart, so I figured there must be a locking mechanism of some sort. I immediately noticed that there is a rather pronounced rattling when I shook it, so I thought it might have some kind of gravity mechanism.

When I actually figured it out about 10-15 minutes later, I was quite surprised at the simplicy and cleverness of the mechanism! It is simple enough that I would have thought it had been done before, but I'd never seen anything like it. Additionally, it could not have been possible if it weren't for Stephen's excellent craftsmanship. It is a fun one to open, I find myself going back to it now and then just for kicks. Once you know the trick, it isn't hard to do, but folks could struggle with this for a little while their first time.

Overall, this is a great puzzle and I'm glad that I got it. I look forward to seeing what Stephen will come up with next year!

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