The man who wrote 10,000 Grooks
October 28, 2002 2:16 PM   Subscribe

The man who wrote 10,000 Grooks (grooks, grooks, grooks), Piet Hein, was also the inventor of Hex and the creator of the Soma Cube. In the design world, he is most famous for the SuperEllipse, a figure that rivals Buckminster Fuller's geodesics in ingenuity, an aesthetic balance between a circle and a square, and a mathematical figure which has been used to design a square in Stockholm. From the SuperEllipse, you can get the SuperEgg, a strange solid which will unexpectedly balance on one end and has been mistaken for an alien artifact.
posted by Winterfell (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite Grook:

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
And you're hampered by not having any,
The simplest way to solve the dilemma you'll find,
Is simply by flipping a penny.

No, not so that chance shall decide the affair,
As you're passively standing there moping.
But as soon as the penny is up in the air,
You'll suddenly know what you are hoping.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:34 PM on October 28, 2002 [5 favorites]

I believe there's a font based on superellipses. Ah yes, here it is.
posted by kindall at 2:41 PM on October 28, 2002

Two of my favourites are these:

Den som kun ta'r spøg for spøg,
og alvor kun alvorligt,
han og hun har faktisk fattet
begge dele dårligt!

In English:

Taking fun as simply fun
and earnestness in earnest
shows how thoroughly thou none
of the two discernest.


Husk at elske
mens du tør det.
Husk at leve
mens du gør det.

In English:

Love while you've got
love to give.
Live while you've got
life to live.

I know the grooks (gruk) in Danish, and it's a bit strange to see the translations, even though they seem very very good. Poetry is hard to translate, but the translations are of impressive quality.

Still, a more direct translation of the latter grook is

Remember to love
while you still dare to.
Remember to live life
while you still do so.

It is of course completely devoid of the rhythm and rhyme of the original, but I love the message: Live and love. Love and live.
posted by cx at 3:04 PM on October 28, 2002

While the SuperEllipses
makes folks flips;
a copyrighted shape
makes me reach for the cab sauvignon grape.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2002

When I look at those ellipses, I see a potentially really nice typeface. Darn my lack of typographical skill!!
posted by oissubke at 3:26 PM on October 28, 2002

What a wonderful post! I was interested to learn about the Soma Cube, as my family has a large wooden one that infatuates each generation of kids.
This was my favorite grook:

We ought to live
each day as though
it were our last day
here below.

But if I did, alas,
I know
it would have killed me
long ago.

(Cheers, DenOfSizer!)
posted by hippugeek at 3:26 PM on October 28, 2002

Reputedly, there exist over a million possible combinations of these pieces which result in the formation of the larger cube.

I've had that Soma Cube since I was a kid. Never found more than... three? ...ways to solve it.

Cool post! I look forward to perusing the links further.
posted by Shane at 3:27 PM on October 28, 2002

Posts like this one that first drew me to MetaFilter.

Thank you, Winterfell.
posted by jaronson at 3:59 PM on October 28, 2002

A Danish Ashleigh Brilliant.

OK, maybe more than Ashleigh Brilliant. But I find truisms so annoying, because they are, damnit.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:11 PM on October 28, 2002

The JREF link is a lot of fun. Thanks!
posted by Songdog at 6:14 AM on October 29, 2002

The drawings in the grook links remind me a bit of St. Exupery's style, so whimsical and simple and imperfect.

The litmus test for a great post for me is : Does it pop into my head at random moments and have I learned anything from it? These grooks, they are haunting me. But in a good way. Thanks, Winterfell.
posted by iconomy at 2:08 PM on October 29, 2002

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