Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yowza, That's Fast

Speed cubing is crazy. Like me, you've probably seen some video of folks working through a Rubik's Cube wicked fast. But, also like me, you probably thought hey that's cool and moved on, today Kottke got sucked down the rabbit hole and coughed up some goodies.

I'd never really thought about how you do a cube fast, other than shrug and figure it tooks lots of practice. Apparently you also need to memorize upwards of 50 algorithms (over 100 if you want to kick serious ass) I guess that's why the speedsters all look the cube over before they start, they're figure out which set of moves to apply based on teh placement of certain tiles.

The math behind speed cubing, and the woman behind the math, were profiled in this week's NYT Science section. It's a nice piece and you should go take a look. The short version is that Dr. Jessica Fridrich grew up in Chezchoslovokia and fell for the cube hard as a kid, taught herself the math to figure it out, met a professor from Binghamton University and went to grad school there, finalized the Fridrich Method, and now works on 'camera ballistics'.

Kottke's right it's a steep slope once you jump down that hole, and right now I'm really glad that I don't have a cube around (although I'm tempted to go get one), so here is just one video of World Record speed cuber Yu Nakajima getting it done with one hand in less than 15 seconds (if you let him use 2 hands he can do it twice as fast).

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