The Truth and Irony about Solving a Rubik’s Cube

Somebody’s gotta be able to do it.  So I took it upon myself to become that person.

Last night at 11:15 PM, I solved my first Rubik’s Cube.  Then again, and again, again.  It all started on February 23rd when I was trying to think of a clever title for a post that I was working on about the true danger of dying of boredom and inactivity, which ended up with me questioning the small possibility that I could have a mild case of Aspergers (I’m pretty sure I don’t, though…).  I ended up naming the writing “Rubik’s Cube Syndrome”.

http://wp.me/pxqBU-zv

A few days later, on February 27th, I decided to take the concept literally: I went to Target and paid $9 for a Rubik’s Cube.  Because I realized I didn’t know anyone in my life that knew how to solve it, nor did I know anyone who knew anyone who knew how to solve it.  So I knew that meant that I would have to become that person.  I would have to become “that guy”.

For the next 11 days (which ended last night), I took “The Cube” with me everywhere.  The token running joke I kept hearing as I was learning to solve it was, “I can solve that thing for you, just let me take off the stickers…”

Everyday during my lunch break I walked over to Borders and used their free wi-fi to watch YouTube videos on how to solve it.  And, it worked.

The truth about solving a Rubik’s Cube is this:  Basically, trusting your own puzzle-solving abilities, you can not solve a Rubik’s cube.  It’s impossible.

The Cube is solved through completing a series of 7 layers, starting from the bottom up (like levels of an old school Nintendo game like Donkey Kong) and each one has a corresponding algorithm which is a set series of turns and twists (like the Konami code on Contra to get 30 extra lives or the combination of buttons pressed in order to pull of a “special move” on Streetfighter II).  But one wrong move, and you end up having to go back a few layers and start over.

The biggest hint that The Cube itself provides is that the middle squares of each side are the only ones locked into place, and each corner is predetermined.  For example, the green side will never share corners with the blue sides, because they’re on opposite sides from each other.

Interestingly, in theory, no matter what the positions are, it should never take more than 20 twists in order to return The Rubik’s cube to its original state.

The Rubix Cube has been frustrated millions of people since its commercial release 30 years ago in 1980.  Understandably.  Without memorizing the algorithms, it virtually is impossible.

So my advice is this.  Unless you’re willing to spend 11 days to memorize the exact formula, don’t waste your time.  It will be nothing but frustrating.  The Cube is either the most frustrating puzzle in the world or the most rewarding and therapeutic.  But if you don’t follow the formula step by step, you will not succeed.

The irony of being able to solve a Rubik’s cube is this: While you will most definitely be able to impress your friends when they watch you do it in front of them in just a matter of a few minutes, it takes memorizing algorithms to do it.  You must become a little bit dorky in order to become cool.

And I’m okay with that.  Because for a lifetime I have memorized the formula.  So for a lifetime, I will keep my mind active.  I called my Rubik’s Cube my “Alzheimer’s Prevention Device”.

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