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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Rubik's Cube

A guy solves it in 20 seconds--one handed!

My Rubik's Cube story:

First some background. Somewhere around 1967, Aunt Fran gave me a little brainteaser called Instant Insanity. It was a set of four cubes, with different colors on the six different sides. The idea was to combine the four cubes in a line so that each of the four outer sides contained one (and only one) of each color--red, green, yellow and blue. Sounds pretty easy but it was difficult because there was only one solution and many, many possibilities. When she gave it to me, she remarked to everybody in the room that they had given the puzzle to a computer to solve and it took 48 hours. Knowing what I do now, I suspect that's more like how long it took to design the program, but that was the mark I had to beat.

I did it in a little under 90 minutes. Like anybody, I fooled around trying some combinations before I realized it was too big a task to handle that way. So I did some observing. First, I noticed that there were seven red sides on the cube, and only four blue sides (IIRC there were 7 green and six yellow). That told me that three of the red sides had to be hidden (i.e. on the sides between cubes) and that all four blue had to be on the outside. This reduced the number of possible combinations by quite a bit and everybody was blown away when I announced I had completed the puzzle.

So when somebody handed me a Rubik's Cube at a party around 1980, I was completely set to amaze one and all again. And six hours later, everybody's leaving and I'm cursing at this evil cube and how difficult it is, having interacted with almost nobody at the party.

I didn't get a cube myself for awhile; it was my recollection that they were rather pricey at first. But I worked in New York and it wasn't long before street vendors were selling cheap knockoffs and I picked one up. I still could never quite solve it by my own efforts, but then a kid wrote one of those Mini Books you see at the checkout counter, entitled "The Simple Solution to Rubik's Cube", and I managed to plod my way through it. Of course, I had learned the easy way as well--pry apart the cube and put the pieces back in in the proper spot.

Update: Guest vlogger Brittany at Hot Air wears a Rubik's Cube tee shirt in today's segment on Dave Ramsey.
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