Blog - Escutcheons

September 2015 - Rubik's Cube

My flirtation with the Rubik's cube is tailing off a little now after 3 or 4 years.

Mick and I got into it after his eldest inferred that we should know how to do it at our age. So we learned.

For a while we were both pretty obsessed with it, trying to improve our times, buying fancy cubes etc.

I became so obsessed that I spent two years writing an android app (RightPrime) to solve the cube in various ways

Consequently I now know rather a lot about the rubik's cube.

Did you know for example that if you could put the cube in a position it had never been in before, every second, it would take you 400 times the age of the universe to go through all the possible configurations.

And yet it can be solved in just over 5 seconds, with luck, and in under 15 seconds almost every time (by someone very good).

My best time is about 46 seconds, and my average, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. For a while my average dropped to around 60 seconds, but it takes repeated practice to say under 60 seconds.

Anyway I thought what I'd do is relay to you my progress on the cube from absolute beginner to where I am now (what is called, intermediate)

in the beginning there was the cube

When you first pick up a cube it is just a block of colours you have absolutely no reference points at all.

My friend had learned a method for solving the cube a couple of weeks before me, and so he gave me the basics in a brisk 5 minute conversation over beers.

Looking back now, I know that there are many methods of solving the cube, and he had learned a popular method, but by no means the standard one.

He advised me to go and look at badmephisto.com which is a popular website for cube beginners.

It is at that point that I learned more about our 5 minute conversetion.

The method used almost universally for solving the cube is known as CFOP (cross, first two layers, orientation of the last layer, permutation of the last layer).

Or The Fridrich method after the female Czech engineering professor that created the method.

I did a bit of research and found that the word record at the time (Zemdegs) was done using Fridrich, so I decided to learn that method.

and so it begins

It turns out that this is what you need to know to begin solving the rubiks cube, and without this you simply can't do it :

  • The centre squares of each face of the cube don't move in relation to the other centre squares. They are connected to one piece of rigid plastic. Red will alway be opposite Orange etc.
  • Only a small part of the whole process requires you to think hard, the rest requires you to remember sequences of moves known as 'algorithms'. The thinking hard part needs to become second nature like simple arithmetic, if you're going to complete the cube in under 60 seconds.
  • The minimum number of these algorithms you'll need to remember is 4, each consisting of about 6 moves.
  • The more algorithms you remember (and there are thousands) the faster you'll get. (competition cubers can remember hundreds of them)

The beginners version of the CFOP method requires that you start by completing a cross on one of the faces (usually the top or bottom face).

hook, line, sinker, and copy of the angling times

The cube is actually beautiful. A few hours to learn and few years to master. Not as complex as Chess, not as simple as freecell, but complex enough to grab and hold your attention.

Solving it, once you've worked it out, is also very theraputic. It takes the whole of your brain, no matter how good you are at it.

For me it takes the whole of my brain for 60 seconds or so, for some only for 10 seconds or so. But while you're doing it everything else just fades out. There's just your fingers, and the flashing colours of the cube. It's movement swirling in your head like an alien artifact.

Once you get the the point where you understand the depth of the challenge in all it's beautiful variation the cube becomes a friend, you carry one round in your pocket wherever you go.

I got to that stage after spending almost two solid days working on doing the F2L intuitively (without the algorithm [R U R U R U' R' U' R'] etc.)

I started to be able to feel the complex movement of the cube, almost as if witnessing the solution as a bystander whist my subconscious did all the work.

It was at that point that I got an insight into what it must be like for the competition standard people.

how can I make a computer do this?