Thursday, June 30, 2022

Resolving the Rubik's Cube

On a recent trip to my parents, my brother told me he had relearned how to solve the Rubik's Cube. A few months before this moment he had noticed an unsolved Rubik's Cube in our parents' house. He picked it up and slowly became obsessed with solving it. I could only finish the top layer at the time. Luckily enough our parents kept the small fold-out solution guide for this toy.

When I first got the cube in the early 1980s I was stymied by how to solve it. The top layer is straightforward but how do you solve the whole thing? An old friend came over one afternoon and magically solved it right in front of me. He made believe that he was guessing and figuring out the moves on his own and I was completely fooled! 

It didn't take long before I realized you could just buy a book with the solution, which is what I did. After I had memorized the intricate steps for solving it, I began to time myself to see how fast I could do it. Somehow I learned that you could take the cube apart and oil its innards so you could spin the pieces faster. Yes I did this and I'm pretty certain I was able to solve the thing in a minute. All of this played out in the years before high school.

After seeing my brother solve it last month, I resolved to relearn how to solve it. I bought a Rubik's Cube and found the online solution guide from the cube manufacturer. After an hour of careful reading, I was able to solve my cube. The steps were complicated however, so I looked for an alternative solution. I happily found by Dylan Wang. His page has a simple but slow method to solve the cube and I have recently memorized these steps.

For the moment I'm just happy being able to solve it again. I like the challenge of solving the cube using a different starting color. I've studied the moves from his website and on a solved cube you can see how the steps move the target edges or corners to the desired locations. The cube that I bought seems to spin fast, which is good if I decide to tackle speed cubing. For now, it's enough to have revisited this old obsession.

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