Parlor Tricks

April 24, 2008

Will Smith wows his future employer with his ability to solve a Rubik’s Cube.


My son received a Rubik’s Cube for Easter and I spent the better part of the day fiddling with it.  Back in the 7th grade, I could solve one side and that was pretty much the upper limit of my spatial manipulation skills.  I was chagrined to discover I hadn’t progressed much past that point.  I suppose my renewed interest in the perverse puzzle stems from my recent viewing of The Pursuit of Happyness in which Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) solves the cube in a suspenseful taxi ride to his prospective employer’s house.  The employer is so impressed he gives Gardner his proverbial foot in the door (Gardner eventually made millions at Bear Stearns – good thing he got out while the going was good).  

Nowadays, the Rubik’s Cube comes with the solution in the package.  The problem,  however, is that it’s written in Cyrillic (or something very similar to it) and I simply could not decipher the cryptic abbreviations.  So for all my diligent manipulations, the Cube sat forlornly for weeks with only a few sides solved. 

The other day, I decided to google how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.  I just needed someone to show me what  Ri – F – Ti – R – B looked like, and as expected, there were plenty of videos on the web of young men sitting in front of their computers flipping and turning their Cubes at dizzying speeds.  As fascinating as it was watching the twenty-ninth Youtube video of compugeek solving it in under 30 seconds, I just wanted to learn how to solve it myself.  I like this video series since it’s pretty straightforward, he doesn’t move too quickly, and you only have to memorize five patterns (or algorithms). 

And so I did finally learn to solve the Rubik’s Cube.   In breakneck speeds of just under four minutes. Maybe if I put some WD-40 on it, I might be able to shave off a few seconds…

On a sidenote, I had taken the solved Cube and made this pattern to show the kids:



I later decided I needed some more practice and I tossed it to my son and told him to go mess it up.  I came back, and it looked like this:



He’s four.  Does this count as the essay portion of the early admission application to MIT?


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