Any Rubik’s Cube can be solved in 20 moves or less. The “meet in the middle” algorithmic trick can help a computer program solve a Cube in minutes or hours instead of millenia.

If you’re interested, there’s a lot more information about algorithms and Rubik’s Cubes in the video’s description.

See also MIT Robot Solves Rubik’s Cube in 0.38 Seconds and A Self-Solving Rubik’s Cube.

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Erno Rubik recently wrote what sounds like a delightfully unorthodox autobiography/memoir about his invention of the Rubik’s Cube and his philosophy about creativity.

In Cubed, Rubik covers more than just his journey to inventing his eponymous cube. He makes a case for always being an amateur-something he has always considered himself to be. He discusses the inevitability of problems during any act of invention. He reveals what it was like to experience the astonishing worldwide success of an object he made purely for his own play. And he offers what he thinks it means to be a true creator (hint: anyone can do it). Steeped in the wisdom and also the humility of a born inventor, Cubed offers a unique look at the imperfect science of creation.

Even the structure of the book is odd. From a review of the book in the NY Times by Alexandra Alter:

“On the way to trying to understand the nature of the cube, I changed my mind,” Rubik said. “What really interested me was not the nature of the cube, but the nature of people, the relationship between people and the cube.”

Reading “Cubed” can be a strange, disorienting experience, one that’s analogous to picking up and twisting one of his cubes. It lacks a clear narrative structure or arc — an effect that’s deliberate, Rubik said. Initially, he didn’t even want the book to have chapters or even a title.

“I had several ideas, and I thought to share this mixture of ideas that I have in my mind and leave it to the reader to find out which ones are valuable,” he said. “I am not taking your hands and walking you on this route. You can start at the end or in the middle.”

I’ve never learned how to solve one without consulting a book, but like many people who grew up in the 80s, I’ve always been captivated by the Rubik’s Cube. It’s both simple and endlessly complex and can somehow be solved in under 3.5 seconds now. It’s exactly the type of thing that could only have been invented by an amateur in his spare time and who still wonders about it almost 50 years later. (via austin kleon)

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A robot built by a pair of engineering students at MIT can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 0.38 seconds (which happens to be 19 minutes and 59.22 seconds shorter than my fastest time):

0.38 seconds is over in an almost literal flash, so the video helpfully shows this feat at 0.25x speed and 0.03x speed. I bet when they were testing this, they witness some spectacular cube explosions. (via @tedgioia)

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For those of us who have never quite gotten the hang of solving the popular puzzle, some wonderful genius has constructed a self-solving Rubik’s Cube. There don’t seem to be any details available about how it works, but based on the videos, it seems likely the electronics inside record the moves when the Cube is mixed up and then simply performs them in reverse. (via fairly interesting)

**Update:** If you read the comments at Metafilter, it appears my speculation about how the Cube works is wrong…it appears to actually be solving itself, not just reversing moves.

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I’ve never been a great fan of Rubik’s Cubes (or chess, or crossword puzzles, or Scrabble, or most obsession-rewarding, intelligence-test-ish popular puzzle games), but it is rewarding for me to read about the cubes and the people who find themselves in solving the puzzle. (It’s still a $250-million-a-year product! The greatest selling single toy of all time.)

Once you’ve defined your goal—“I want to align this orange face with this other orange face”—you can follow a series of steps to accomplish it. An ease with algorithms, they note, is increasingly important in a world dominated by science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. The logic of the Rubik’s cube has, after all, been used by software developers to craft encryption schemes for software for decades. It has 43 quintillion possible combinations—and only one solution.

Puzzling out this 3-D game can also help students hone their spatial thinking skills, according to the presenters. And spatial thinking skills are intimately connected to success in any STEM field. “To think spatially,” the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine write, “entails knowing about” space, representation, and reasoning. This is the kind of knowledge we tap into every day, when timing our commutes or taking detours, reading maps, and, yes, solving Rubik’s cubes.

Maybe I should give that old cube another try.

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Fourteen-year-old Lucas Etter solved a randomly scrambled Rubik’s Cube in just 4.9 seconds the other day, the first time anyone has ever solved one under five seconds. As Oliver Roeder writes over at 538, Cube solve times have fallen quickly in the past decade.

In these competitions, the colorful cubes are randomly scrambled according to a computer program, and a solver has 15 seconds to inspect a cube before racing to spin it back to its organized state. The first official record - 22.95 seconds - was set at the first world championship, held in 1982 in Hungary, home country of the cube’s inventor, Erno Rubik. But speed cubing went into hibernation for two decades, until the next world championship was held in 2003. From there, the record has fallen precipitously, thanks to innovations like the Fridrich method, the Petrus system and even “cube lube.”

(via @djacobs)

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The Fridrich Method is a collection of more than 50 algorithms for solving the Rubik’s Cube. Developed by Dr. Jessica Fridrich, a Binghamton University electrical engineering professor, it is currently the fastest way to solve the Cube.

Cubing is a deep rabbit hole on the web so just two additional things. Here’s Dr. Fridrich solving the Cube in 16 seconds, which is actually 2 seconds slower than the *one-handed* world record holder. And this…this is just amazing: 7 cube moves in just 0.7 seconds (same move, a lot slower).

Ok, I lied, one more. Will Smith can solve the Cube in less than a minute.

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Turn the left slice topwise in style: Pantone + Rubik’s Cube = Pantone Rubik’s Cube. (via monoscope)

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You know what you need? 14 pages of handwritten instructions on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

LOLO-TOFA-BO-LOLO-FO-BATO-LOLO

Exactly.

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Even though a Rubik’s Cube has about 43 quintillion (that’s 43000000000000000000) possible configurations, it’s been proven possible to solve a cube starting in any one of those configurations in 26 moves or less. “Most researchers believe that just 20 steps are enough to solve any Rubik’s Cube, but no one has proved it yet.”

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