The joy of any good jigsaw puzzle isn’t finishing it, it’s the satisfaction of linking pieces, one fit at a time. With the Infinite Galaxy Puzzle, which you can assemble in any direction and in countless shapes, that sensation need never end. Granted, that lack of resolution may make you crazy. But it makes the Infinite Galaxy Puzzle from Nervous System a unique contribution to the cannon.
You’d expect nothing less from its creators, who have spent “five or six” years making jigsaw puzzles. Founders Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz use custom software to create their designs and a laser cutter to bring them to life. “It harkens back to when puzzles were hand-cut and had a lot more individual style,” Louis-Rosenberg says.
Nervous Systems isn’t a retro outfit, though. The two puzzlemakers are pushing the craft forward. “One of the things that we’re really interested in is what can we do with our techniques and new technology and computational design that you couldn’t do before, these new avenues of explorations,” says Louis-Rosenberg. “The neat thing about working with a computer is we’re growing a puzzle in a normal space, and changing it to a space that wraps around itself.”
That experimentation led to the first Infinity Puzzle, a roughly six-inch version that has no fixed shape, no starting point, and thousands of configurations. It took months to develop, with most of that time spent coding. From there, though, it took only a day or two of extra effort to create the Infinite Galaxy Puzzle.
So how’s it work? The short answer is math. The long answer gets complicated. The medium answer goes something like this: The Infinite Galaxy Puzzle is based on what’s known as a Klein bottle , which you can think of as kissing cousin to the better-known Möbius strip . Where traveling along a Möbius strip sends you inside-out, though, traversing a Klein bottle flips you upside down before landing you back where you started.
Nervous System That’s hard to visualize, but how it translates to the Infinite Galaxy Puzzle is pretty straightforward. The puzzle pieces are printed front and back. Take a piece from one end, flip it around, and it’ll fit on the opposite end. Which means, if you extrapolate that out across the entire puzzle, you could keep shuffling pieces until your fingertips fall off. You could theoretically assemble it every possible way, but you’re never truly finished.
Once you’ve got the topology down, the actual image part is almost incidental. Louis-Rosenberg says he and Rosenkrantz chose the galaxy shot not because it was particularly conducive to the puzzle type, but because it complemented the endless void they created in puzzle form. “I thought that a galaxy image would be perfect for this. It’s very evocative of the infinite,” says Louis-Rosenberg. It helped, too, that so many Hubble telescope images are publicly available.
Unfortunately, supplies of the $100 Infinite Galaxy Puzzle are decidedly finite. Nervous Labs sold out of its first run, and you’ll wait four to six weeks for the next batch to ship. But what’s a month of waiting for a puzzle you can play forever?