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Iconic Symbol of European Ingenuity Turns 40: Rubik’s Cube

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Rubik’s Cube inventor, Professor Ernő Rubik of Hungary, marked the 40th anniversary on March 28 of this often frustrating, ultimately rewarding device that embodies vast scientific complexity but links it with playfulness.

The inventor of the most famous cube in the world, Professor Ernő Rubik, meets European Commission President Barroso today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this colourful device. They will meet over lunch to discuss the importance of science outreach and education in order to attract young people to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There will be a photo opportunity with Professor Rubik and President Barroso to mark this occasion.

President Barroso said: “Today we are celebrating the 40th birthday of a timeless toy that has become an iconic symbol of European ingenuity worldwide. The Rubik’s Cube is the ultimate metaphor for bewildering complexity and triumphant intelligence, creativity and innovation. At a time when we need to mobilise all our capacities in innovation, research and development and promote more than ever our skills in science and engineering, the Rubik’s Cube is an encouragement and a reminder to all Europeans that we have the talents and skills boost the European economy and build sustainable growth and jobs. Let’s make use of them!”

Professor Rubik said: “Quite unexpectedly, the Cube has touched many, many lives all around the globe. After 40 years this anniversary is most of all a celebration of the intersection of learning and playfulness, challenge and emotion, engagement and reward. I am delighted to see the European Commission’s commitment to support innovation, creativity and scientific research by inspiring children and youth, fostering their curiosity and encouraging them to discover their own solutions. I am convinced that science outreach programmes and innovative learning platforms are the most important tools for building a more competitive Europe as well as fostering equality of opportunity in the European community.”

Finding the solution for chronic unemployment, in particular among the young, the mismatch of skills between degrees and the job market needs, or the poverty trap is like a Rubik’s Cube: looks like a daunting task, but perseverance, unwavering focus, and creativity eventually bring their rewards (43 quintillion possible positions, still the Cube can always be solved in no more than 20 moves!). The European Union supports Member States through the European Social Fund, various instruments like the EURES jobs mobility portal or the Youth Guarantee and programmes like Horizon 2020 or Erasmus+ to tackle this challenge together.


The Cube: Professor Ernő Rubik invented the Cube in 1974 as a teaching tool in Budapest in then Communist Hungary, behind the Iron Curtain and thirty years before his country joined the European Union. This 40th anniversary is most of all a celebration of the intersection of learning and playfulness. Intimately linked to mathematics, group theory, spatial transformation, geometry or pattern recognition, Rubik’s Cube embodies vast scientific complexity but links it with playfulness. It is a symbol of the path from chaos to order, and shows the way for European education which must focus on fostering curiosity and problem-solving skills in an increasingly cross-disciplinary environment, faced with changing priorities of the job market and shifts in career-path patterns.

The meeting and photo opportunity: To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the invention of the legendary multicolour cube, President Barroso invited its creator to a lunch held in his honour. The lunch will be attended by Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor and Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission Professor Anne Glover, as well as other participants from the science, business and policy communities. The meeting will end with a photo opportunity at around 14h10. Interested photo/film journalists can attend this photo opportunity upon registration with Mariana Correa:, +32(0)2 298 69 80 or +32(0)498 98 69 80.

The future: The exhibition “Beyond Rubik’s Cube” will open at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey (U.S.) on 26 April 2014, and will tour science centres, cultural institutions and alternative exhibit spaces around the world in the coming years. The exhibition explores the innovations and insights inspired by 40 years of playing with the popular puzzle.