Can You Rubik’s?

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Connor Ferwerda (’17) is perplexed by the Rubik’s Cube. Photo credit: Allison Grainer

It is probably in your house somewhere. Lurking, forgotten in a dusty corner, perhaps on its stand, solved, or more likely unsolved. At 350 million cubes sold worldwide, the Rubik’s Cube is the top-selling puzzle toy and one of the world’s best selling toys. At first, a 3×3 colorful puzzle doesn’t appear very difficult. However, the chances of accidentally solving your Rubik’s cube by fiddling with it are extremely low. So while many people may have a cube, not many can solve it.

The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by architect and sculptor Erno Rubik. After inventing this toy, Rubik came to the realization that once mixed from it’s original state, he did not know how to solve it. After several months, Rubik figured out how to solve it. After patenting his puzzle in 1977, the toy was sold in toy stores in Europe. Gaining popularity in the 80’s, the First International Rubik’s Championship was held in 1982 in Budapest, Hungary for Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts, known as“Cubic Rubes.” From these gatherings, a new sport was born—speedcubing. Speedcubing is solving a Rubik’s Cube as quickly as possible. The current world record, achieved by Lucas Etter, is 4.90 seconds. This astonishing speed can be attributed to algorithms learned or memorized and used to solve it. Different algorithms are used for different combinations of colors on the cube. Algorithms range from short and simple to long and complicated. The easiest (but slowest), is the layer method. This involves solving the three layers of the cube one by one. While the most common model is the 3×3, there are many variations, such as 5×5, 10×10, and even a 12 sided pentagon. The algorithms for these get crazier and the solve time is longer as the size increases. For a regular 3×3 cube, there are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possibilities for arrangement and for the larger cubes, infinitely more.

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Casual Rubix’s Cube party in the hall. Photo credit: Allison Grainer

Often when people see my Rubik’s Cube they demand to try it with comments such as Turner Wood’s (‘18) “ I can do it!” They take it and stare with intense concentration, randomly turning one side and than the other before giving up and putting it down. Jack Mairs (18’) remarked “I feel stupid”  upon realizing he could not solve the 2×2 cube in his hands. As most people quickly figure out, Rubik’s Cubes of any size are almost impossible to solve without knowing the algorithm. But anyone can learn the algorithm. It took me about a week of on and off learning of the algorithm to have it down. I needed about another week to memorize the algorithms. Anyone with  internet access and a cube has the ability to solve it. The hardest thing about solving Rubik’s Cubes is how easy it is to mess up. With one wrong move you can forget where you are in the algorithm and have to start over from the beginning. Concentration and therefore distraction are also a major part of the solving process. I have been busy solving my Rubik’s Cube when someone attempts to start a conversation with me and I have lost my place many times. However, while solving a Rubik’s Cube can require concentration, it is also very relaxing and therapeutic. Mr. Katz says solving a cube “keeps my mind sharp while grading”. I also find it fun and relaxing. Although it may seem a little strange, I enjoy solving my Rubik’s Cube round school and can be found wandering the halls or in the front hall solving it.

Enjoy this video of Lucas Etter solving a Rubik’s Cube insanely fast.

About the author

Allison Grainer is a senior at Collegiate School. She Is interested in outdoor sports such as rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and sleeping.