Companies resemble puzzles: Many pieces must fit together (like staff, products and processes) in order to produce the desired outcome (profits). When a company fails to solve this quandary, or takes too long, it loses out to craftier competitors. In a new wrinkle, researchers are striving to help companies improve efficiency by studying the puzzle of all puzzles: the Rubik\u2019s Cube.Armed with at least 64 microprocessors and 20 terabytes of space, a professor from Northeastern University in Boston will try to do just that\u2014by recording as many states of the Rubik\u2019s Cube as possible. The project may seem like a fascination with one of the world\u2019s most popular toys gone awry, but it\u2019s actually a complex look at how better operations research could improve a company\u2019s bottom line, says Gene Cooperman, director of the Institute for Complex Scientific Software at Northeastern, who is spearheading the project."I\u2019ve never solved a Rubik\u2019s Cube," Cooperman says. "It\u2019s not one of my personal hobbies. But if you can take the more obscure research and apply it to something the public recognizes, then it\u2019s definitely worth doing."Cooperman says the Rubik\u2019s Cube has about 40 quintillion possible states (Think beyond billions: That\u2019s 40 followed by 19 zeros.) He believes the 20 terabytes of storage (for which his department was given a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to aid various research projects, including his) will not be enough to record all the states of the Rubik\u2019s Cube. Even so, he says the myriad combinations the research will yield could help businesses make smarter operational decisions, such as planning more efficient employee travel schedules.