In the mid-seventies, one of the most devious puzzles was invented that went on to stump some of the smartest people in the world. When the Rubik Cube was first invented and released to the mass public, nearly everyone in North America wanted to see if they could solve the impossible three dimensional puzzle. It is perhaps the fact that a majority of individuals could not solve the puzzle that made the Rubik Cube such a popular item, but both the frustration and the love for the little toy has lasted some thirty years to remain just as popular as when it was released. But when is such a simple toy so popular, and why would you want to base a hobby around it? The simple answer is that the challenge alone is worth your time and effort, but the other reason is that solving the puzzle is simple the beginning of the Rubik Cube hobby.
Once the basics of the puzzle are learned, and by basics I of course mean solving the puzzle, the next step is increasing the speed of solving the Rubik Cube. The hobby of speedcubing, which is essentially the act of solving the Rubik’s cube as fast as one can, has a huge following throughout the hobby. Most of the appeal for people who are not in the hobby is the idea of solving the impossible cube at unheard of speeds. As beginners advance through the ranks and increase their skill, there are the possibilities of solving the cube at ridiculous speeds and even with one’s eyes closed. There is no doubt that the inventor of the Rubik’s cube could never imagine to what heights his simple invention has achieved in terms of competition and fun.
What is a Rubik’s Cube
The Rubik`s Cube is a 3-D mechanical puzzle that was once called the “magic Cube”, but was later renamed Rubik and sold by Ideal Toys. In the year 1980, the puzzle won the German Game of the year, and by January of 2009, 350 million cubes were sold worldwide. It is one of the worlds top selling puzzle game, and often considered to be the world’s best selling toy.
In a classic Rubik`s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by nine matching colored stickers, traditionally white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. A pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently which mixes up the colors so that all the faces have multiple colored stickers. The problem that most people face is that when you move one face, you also move another, so the trick is to maneuver the faces in such a way that they become grouped together. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be returned to a solid color. Similar puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of stickers, not all of them by Rubik. The original 3×3×3 version celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2010.
Once the basics of the Rubik are learned by the beginner, the next logical step is Speedcubing (or speedsolving), which is the practice of trying to solve a Rubik`s Cube in the shortest time possible. There are now a number of speedcubing competitions that take place around the world, which showcase the skill and intelligence of Rubik Cube solvers. The contests are usually based on the fasted speed, completing the cube in a certain time span, or a race to the finish with another speedcuber.
The Guinness Book of World Records organized the first world championship that was held in Munich on March 13, 1981. All Cubes were moved 40 times and lubricated with petroleum jelly to ensure they could be spun and twisted as fast as the competitors could solve the puzzles. The official winner, and first world champion with a record of 38 seconds, was Jury Froeschl, who was born in Munich. The first international world championship was held in Budapest on June 5, 1982, and was won by Minh Thai, a Vietnamese student from Los Angeles, who shattered Froechl’s time by completing the cube in 22.95 seconds.
Since 2003, the winner of a competition is determined by taking the average time spent soving the Rubik Cube of the middle three of five attempts. However, the single best time of all tries is also recorded for the Guiness Book of World Records. The World Cube Association maintains a history of world records from the earliest of events until the most resent throughout the world. In 2004, the WCA made it mandatory to use a special timing device called a Stackmat timer to achieve the most accurate completion times.
For those who have advanced past the speedcubing contest, there are informal alternative competitions that have been held which invite participants to solve the Cube in unusual situations. Some of the more unusual are:
- Blindfolded solving
- Solving the Cube with one person blindfolded and the other person saying what moves to do, known as "Team Blindfold"
- Solving the Cube underwater in a single breath
- Solving the Cube using a single hand
- Solving the Cube with one`s feet
Of these informal competitions, the World Cube Association only sanctions blindfolded, one-handed, and feet solving as official competition events. In blindfolded solving, the contestant first studies the scrambled cube, in order to memorize the locations of the colors, and is then blindfolded before beginning to turn the cube`s faces. Their recorded time for this event includes both the time spent examining the cube and the time spent manipulating it. If simply solving the cube is seen as impossible to you, watching a cube being solved blindfolded is simply fascinating.
Since there are continuous competitions that have competitors constantly attempting to break the current record in speedcubing, there are frequent changes to the record standings. The current world record for single time, on a 3×3×3 Rubik`s Cube was set by Erik Akkersdijk in 2008, who had a best time of 7.08 seconds at the Czech Open 2008. The world record average solve is currently held by Feliks Zemdegs; which is 8.52 seconds at the New Zealand Championships 2010.
It wouldn’t be a world recorded for Guinness if there wasn’t at least one case of the strange involved. On March 17, 2010, 134 school boys from Dr Challoner`s Grammar School, Amersham, England broke the previous Guinness World Record for most people solving a Rubik`s cube at once in 12 minutes. The previous record set in December 2008 in Santa Ana, CA achieved 96 completions. By breaking this record, others are challenged to form larger groups to challenge the current record.
With the popularity of the Rubik cube, there really wasn’t a big surprise that the market flooded almost instantly with imitations and variances of the original game. There are many different variations of Rubik`s Cubes ranging from the original 3x3x3 cube up to seven layers: the 2×2×2 (Pocket/Mini Cube), the standard 3×3×3 cube, the 4×4×4 (Rubik`s Revenge/Master Cube), and the 5×5×5 (Professor`s Cube), the 6×6×6 (V-Cube 6), and 7×7×7 (V-Cube 7).
CESailor Tech`s E-cube is an electronic variant of the 3x3x3 cube, made with RGB LEDs and switches instead of colored stickers and physically twisting the multiple layers. There are two switches on each row and column that by pressing them indicates the direction of rotation, which causes the LED display to change colors, simulating rotations of the standard Rubik Cube. The product was demonstrated at the Taiwan government show of College designs on October 30, 2008. Another electronic variation of the 3×3×3 Cube is the Rubik`s TouchCube. By sliding your finger across its face, its patterns of colored lights rotate the same way they would on a mechanical cube. The TouchCube is a fairly new creation that was introduced at the American International Toy Fair in New York on February 15, 2009.
The Cube has inspired an entire new category of puzzles that are commonly referred to as twisty puzzles. These other games includes the cubes of different sizes mentioned above as well as various other geometric shapes. Some such shapes include the tetrahedron (Pyraminx), the octahedron (Skewb Diamond), the dodecahedron (Megaminx), the icosahedron (Dogic). There are also puzzles that change shape such as Rubik`s Snake and the Square One. With the most simple change in shape, the style of play drastically changes and so too must your style of play, if you want to solve the cube in any variance.
How do I solve it!
As there are countless options on how to solve the elusive Rubik’s cube, one of the best options for beginners is to search online sites for instructional videos. These videos are created to teach new speedcubers the basics of the hobby and how to increase their basic skill levels. These videos offer great help for new beginners because instead of trying to interpret written instructions, the instructions are given to you step by step right in front of your eyes. Other teaching aids also include books and videos that can teach you the hobby, and increase your skill.
Prior to books, videos, and online websites, people who became addicted to the Rubik Cube did so by solving the puzzle with trial and error. As mentioned above, one of the more successful methods of solving the cube is done by using advanced mathematics, but even all of the above is no substitute for great skill and talent when it comes to the more advanced challenges like solving the Rubik’s cube blind. In the end, there is no substitute for dedication and countless hours of practice.
Not only is the Rubik’s cube a challenging hobby, it can also be quite a bit of fun. The initial challenge that all beginners have to face is to figure out a solution to the standard Rubik Cube, and from there, the challenge of speed awaits you. There is nothing more impressive to friends and family than not only completing one of the hardest puzzles ever devised, especially one that they have all tried at one point or another, but by doing it in under a minute. Plus if you can accomplish the deed in under a minute, than maybe it is time to enter a competition or two. On the plus side, if you decide that it is a terrible hobby and that you absolutely hate it, the actual Rubik cube is less than $20 in most stores. So even if you purchase a brand new cube, there is nearly no monetary loss should you decide to throw it in the garbage in complete and utter frustration. But that it from someone who have played with them in the past, they are addicting, and you will spend countless hours sitting on the couch trying to solve the devious Rubik’s Cube. And if true life is anything like the movies, if you have the ability to solve the puzzle, your apparent intelligence skyrockets in the eyes of others!