SOMA Crystal
SOMA News 15 Jnly 2016 & 20 july 2017

The SOMA Timeline

Note: This is a new version of the timeline previously found at Newsletter 2010.04.04 The SOMA Timeline by Thorleif Bundgaard.

We are all wondering about the creation history for the SOMA puzzle. Intertwined as it is with science at the highest level. Lending its creativeness to puzzlers of all ages. Used privately as in schools, in miniature and at immense sizes larger than a human.

According to "the official" history Mr. Piet Hein had his idea for the SOMA puzzle in 1936, while attending a lecture about quantum physics, given by Mr. Werner Heisenberg.
We may raise questions to this "birth" and on my web pages about SOMA I seek to gather as much relevant information about SOMA as possible.

It is indeed a fascinating subject, combining the modern thoughts of space divided in (almost) infinitely small quantized steps, combined with the simple puzzle of SOMA.

The references and articles gathered, do support the notion that Mr. Piet Hein heard the easter 1930 text, and thus giving him ample time to envision his toy and apply for patent in 1933.

It is, I believe, not probable that he envisioned the 7 puzzle pieces during the lecture itself, but rather more likely that he came to the cubical space and the idea of a puzzle afterwards, while thinking back upon the intentions of Mr. Heisenberg's text.
At least this is how I find myself to be thinking.
Hearing a presentation makes an imprint, and then later upon summing up the entirety of the presentation, new ideas tend to present them selves.

Below, you will find a timeline of the SOMA puzzle, as I have been able to establish it.
Should you know any more dates then please write me an eMail.
(Like when did Parker Brothers release their first SOMA. When did the Skjøde compagny stop producing SOMA, etc. etc.)

The SOMA Timeline
If you have any changes or addition, then mail it to me, together with explanation and references to the changes.
 Year  Event  Image  Relation
  1905.12.16 It all started with Mr. Piet Hein Foto.
  1930.02.26 Werner Heisenberg first reported about his idea in a letter to Bohr
  1930.03.~12 The key document for understanding Werner Heisenberg's early lattice world The date is approximate - "2 weeks later than 02.26" is stated in some documents.
  1930.--.-- Werner Heisenberg wrote a letter to Bohr (translated in an article) and talked about it at a conference in Copenhagen, Easter 1930 (mentioned in the article)
"Gernot Münster once told Andreas Kronfeld that this idea might be connected to Soma."
Newsletter 2012.12.19 Heisenbergs lattice world 1930 [See page 597]
  1930 Fall In a paper Werner Heisenberg deals with the self energy of the electron, and an initial quantified space "Lattice world" “Heisenberg’s lattice world: The 1930 theory sketch” Was released in the Fall 1930 - Possibly allowing Piet Hein to find his idea.
  1932.--.-- Mr. Heisenberg had received the Nobel Prize in Physics
  1933.12.02 Application for patent, the idea is now protected Image.
  1933.12.11 Heisenberg gives his Nobel Lecture on "The development of quantum mechanics"
  1934.03.20 Applied for a patent in UK
  1934.11.29 The patent was issued in UK.
Original SOMA puzzles, based on the initial idea is released. Among these the manufacturer Erik Willumsen release his wooden version.
  1936.09.12 Requested patent in Denmark
  1936.09.28 The patent was issued in Denmark
  1961.--.-- Martin Gardner writes of SOMA in a "issue 2" SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN book of Mathematical Puzzles & Diversions
  1967.--.-- Piet Hein starts a cooperation with Theodor Skjøde, and market a very pretty Rosewood somacube on a wooden base. Foto. Theodor Skjøde sitting on a large SOMA in his garden.
  Foto. The pretty Rosewood somacube on a wooden base.
This is generally the version that most people consider the "original" SOMA.
  1967.--.-- Skjøde starts to market a version of the Rosewood cube, on an aluminium base. Foto.
  1967.--.-- The original Danish SOMA booklet from SKJØDE (c) Piet Hein 1967 [The version I had acces to] Foto.
  1969.summer Marketing rights for the USA market, is given to Parker Brothers Inc. and they start producing a red and a blue version in solid plastic.
When did Parker Brothers Inc. Salem. Mass. actually start making SOMA ??
  1969.Info On 2017-04-29 David W. Schultz wrote to me.
I still have my SOMA red plastic cube but alas not the instructions.
The loss of those instructions provides a date since I slipped the instructions through the mail slot of my friends apartment but he didn't get them and they vanished.
I was living at Wright Patterson AFB [Air Force Base] (Dayton Ohio) at the time and my dad was transferred to another base sometime after the end of the 67/68 school year.
I suspect the cube was a gift, either at Christmas 1967 or more likely my birthday in April 1968. It could have been earlier but not later.
This might lead to the conclusion that Parker Brothers Inc. produced the SOMA somewhere in the timespan 1967-12 to 1968-04.
This also supports the newest findings we have in the Booklets collection. Newsletter 2016.08.17
We know that the Danish compagny "Skjoede" produced SOMA in 1967
And we know that the English "Parker" produced a booklet in 1969
We also have a booklet that we assume to be 19xx when looking at the design, and the textual layout. This booklet is similar to the Danish booklet. Indicating that "Parker" made SOMA before 1969 using this booklet, and then wrote their own newer version that started to appear in 1969. So with David's story, It is most likely that Parker started production in 1967.
  1970.--.-- Parker Brothers Inc. Salem. Mass. started issuing "SOMA Addict Magazine".
Only 4 issues are known. (1970)Vol1.No1 - (1970)Vol1.No2 - (1971)Vol2.No1 - (1972)Vol2.No2
Scan. A total of 4 'Addicts' were issued.
  -.-.- Hereafter several years pass, and various "skunk works" emerges. Without production permission from the P.Hein. organization. Foto. Block by block
  -.-.- It is among these we find a large number of fine wood versions, in cardboard boxes or in wooden boxes. Foto.
  1985.-.- We start to see software solvers. Screen. The SOLVER program in DOS/BASIC
  1998.11.22 Thorleif's SOMA web pages appear.
  1999.09.16 In addition to these we also see SOMA versions made in, paper origami, rubber foam, glued dice, cardboard boxes, etc. Foto. SOMA from 27 dice
  2000.11.28 And we start to see software game versions, first for the PC-DOS, then for Windows, then linux, and finally for mobile phones. Foto.
  2006.08.08 Finally we see giant versions made in large cardboard or from wood plates the size of about 1meter=3feet Foto.
  2006.11.02 The Piet Hein Corp. release a SOMA for kindergardens, measuring 1 meter on its sides. Foto.
  2012.09.27 Andreas S. Kronfeld write about "Lattice Gauge Theory and the Origin of Mass" referring to Werner Heisenberg’s Gitterwelt and Piet Hein’s Soma The document is Archived 2012.09.27 and dated 2012.09.28
Newsletter 2012.12.19 Heisenbergs lattice world 1930
Werner Heisenberg hoped for more from the lattice than mere mathematical rigor.
  ----.--.-- -- Foto. --

Obs: This timeline is in a "WERY slow" progress.
Among others, the Newsletter 2012.12.19 Heisenbergs lattice world 1930
in the document "Lattice Gauge Theory and the Origin of Mass.pdf"
have these crossreferences which I still have to find and investigate.

In a 1930 letter to Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberd argued that a universe with a fundamental length,
such as a spatial lattice spacing, would not suffer from many problems (then) facing
quantum field theory and nuclear and atomic physics.
For a translation of the letter and reconstruction of Heisenberg’s ideas, see Carazza and Kragh.152

    152. B. Carazza and H. Kragh, Heisenberg’s lattice world: The 1930 theory sketch, Am.
    J. Phys. 63, 595–605, (1995). doi: 10.1119/1.17848.

    153. W. Heisenberg, Die Selbstenergie des Elektrons, Z. Phys. 65, 4–13, (1930). doi:

    154. H. Kragh, Arthur March, Werner Heisenberg, and the search for a smallest length,
    Revue d’Histoire des Sciences. 48(4), 401–434, (1995). doi: 10.3406/rhs.1995.1239.

    155. C. T. Hill. private communication.

    156. O. P. Pedersen and T. Bundgaard. The birth of SOMA? URL http://www. (Retrieved August 2012).

    157. M. Gardner, The Second Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.
    (University of Chicago, Chicago, 1987).

[Quote from page 19:]
Bohr responded disapprovingly to the idea. Heisenberg did not publish a paper on his
“Gitterwelt” (“lattice world”), as it came to be known, although he did make a
technical remark that the lattice tames the ultraviolet divergence in the electron’s
self energy.153 Nevertheless, Heisenberg’s Gitterwelt developed a philosophical and
scientific following, which was met with some disdain.152,154 I’ve been told155 that
when Wilson presented his lattice gauge theory in a seminar at Caltech, he deflected
an aggressive line of questioning from Richard Feynman with, “I am not a kook; this
is not a kook’s lattice!” This give-and-take seems to reflect a lingering apprehension
against a lattice as fundamental, while underappreciating its mathematical utility.
A lasting outgrowth of Heisenberg’s lattice world lies not in theoretical physics
but in a geometric puzzle called Soma, which was created by the Danish inventor and
poet Piet Hein.156,157 Sometime in the early 1930s, Hein—among other avocations
a physics groupie—attended a lecture by Heisenberg in Copenhagen. Whether the
lecture was on the quantization of QED or on the lattice world, no one seems to
know. Bored, Hein sketched .........etc.etc.[End quote]

Below are two personal notes for reference:

On 23 maj 2012 Early.
Andreas Kronfeld of "Theoretical Physics Department" at Fermilab
Wrote to: Thorleif Bundgaard (The SOMA sites)
With a CC: to: Prof. Dr. Gernot Muenster of "Institut fuer Theoretische Physik", Westfaelische Wilhelms-Universitaet. Muenster. Germany.
Subject: SOMA & Heisenberg

I am writing an article on a physics subject called "lattice gauge theory" and was looking into an old story about Heisenberg and Piet Hein's puzzle.
I googled a bit and found the web site,
Thorleif note: See the Newsletter 2003-03-10 here at N030310.HTM

As it turns out, Heisenberg worked briefly on an approach to quantum electrodynamics with a fundamental shortest length.
The idea was to define the electric and magnetic fields (and another field for the electron) only on the sides of a 3d lattice (pictured).
Lattice crystal
My friend Gernot Münster once told me that this idea might be connected to Soma.
Heisenberg wrote a letter to Bohr
(Found in: Heisenbergs lattice world 1930.pdf on page 597)
and talked about it at a conference in Copenhagen, Easter 1930 (mentioned in the article).
Heisenberg then abandoned the idea.
But perhaps it was this work, not the uncertainty principle, that inspired Hein, and the timing certainly predates the patent.

On 23 maj 2012 Later.
Prof. Dr. Gernot Muenster of "Institut fuer Theoretische Physik", Westfaelische Wilhelms-Universitaet. Muenster. Germany.
Wrote a reply to: Andreas Kronfeld of "Theoretical Physics Department" at Fermilab
Subject: SOMA & Heisenberg

Dear Andreas,

Indeed Piet Hein once claimed that he got the idea of the Soma cube during a lecture by Heisenberg.
See e.g. Martin Gardner, "Mathematical Games" Scientific American, 1958, and "The Second Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles & Diversions". New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961.
Thorleif note: See the Newsletter 2012-12-19 document Gardner on SOMA.pdf

Whether this was a lecture about Heisenberg's "lattice world" from 1930, or a general lecture about field quantisation, where the canonical commutation relations are introduced via discretised space, is unknow to me. I guess it was a general lecture in 1933.

Heisenberg's "lattice world" is from 1930, and he talked about it in Copenhagen already in 1930.

B. Carazza, H. Kragh: "Heisenberg's lattice world: The 1930 theory sketch", American Journal of Physics 63 (Issue 7) pp. 595-605 (1995).
Thorleif note: See the Newsletter 2012-12-19 document Heisenbergs lattice world 1930.pdf

Greetings, Gernot

Written by Thorleif Bundgaard <>

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