I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in about three minutes. In December I couldn’t at all and now, after a bit of time invested, I can take any scrambled 3x3 cube and solve it.
Three minutes isn’t actually that impressive to most (as they call themselves) speedcubers where completion times are in the 6 to 20 second range. Larger, more complex cubes might be in the 40 second range, but over a minute for any cube is terribly long.
There are two ways to solve a Rubik’s Cube: intuitively, where you understand how a move will get a piece into position using your brain to think about how that move affects other pieces, and algorithmically, where you memorize a set of different moves to solve the hundreds of tiny cases you encounter.
If intuitive solving is getting in a car and driving to the store, algorithmic solving is punching an address into a computer and having your car take you there. While it is easier to memorize a random address in a city, there can be quite a lot of them.
I started solving the cube over Christmas break. My son received an official Rubik’s® Cube for Christmas and the second I saw it something clicked in my brain and I had to learn how to solve it. As a kid I spent hours struggling but never got past a couple of faces. Now with Youtube it’s pretty simple to get a couple of free tutorials and start solving with in a day.
Around that time I stopped using Twitter (I know!) and handed over my idle time to solving the cube. I bought a real speed cube, the Moyu Weilong, and it’s helped my speed considerably, but I’m still not quite there yet. The cube is really nice, though.
Once you learn the algorithms a solve becomes more of a pattern recognition game. The algorithms even start to make intuitive sense and recalling one becomes easier because you know what piece needs to be twisted or swapped.
It’s fun, it feels good to get the pieces in place, and every time I sit down with it there’s a new challenge to figure out, whether it’s recalling an little used algorithm or getting a good spin on a particular layer.