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Nov 11th 2016 by RepUs_Josh • 24 Questions • 810 Points
I'm a journalist who spent three years trying to solve a Rubik's Cube in under 20 seconds. Eleven years ago, I learned to solve the puzzle thanks to Toby Mao, who taught Will Smith for "The Pursuit of Happyness." I documented my quest in "Cracking The Cube: Going Slow to Go Fast and Other Unexpected Turns in the World of Competitive Rubik's Cube Solving," which was recently featured in the New York Post. The book touches on everything from my journey into speedcubing to the story of Erno Rubik, the reclusive Hungarian who invented the puzzle, and whom I had the pleasure to interview in person. Today I'm back in the Post's office to talk more about my love of The Cube and answer your questions.
Update: Thanks for all your questions! I had a great time answering them! I'll get to any I didn't answer later! "CRACKING THE CUBE" is available everywhere books are sold--and I'll be doing more events in the future! Check out my website at www.ianscheffler.com if you want to learn more. I'm also active on twitter at @ian_scheffler, Instagram at @ian_scheffler and @thegentlemancuber, Facebook at @ianschefflerauthor and on YouTube!
Our country has become so divided and polarized. So many people just want to attack or blame the other side, not realizing that both Rs and Ds use exactly the same techniques to distract and anger each other, avoiding any mention that it's the corrupting effects of money in the system that is at the root of all problems, and that nothing gets fixed until that aspect gets fixed. What materials (like YouTube explainer videos) or techniques do you recommend to help people understand that their partisan preferences are getting in the way of seeing the bigger picture? How can we help people understand that it's not the "evilness" of the other side that is the issue, but rather the system that rewards these conflicts that is the problem?
Did you read guides on how to get faster (such as the Fridrich method), or if you figure it out all by yourselves? And since the world record is around 5 seconds, do you think you'll keep trying to go faster to reach that?
I think one of the most important things is to approach the conversation about corruption with a willingness to call out your own “side.” Liberals tend to get angry about money in politics when it’s coming from conservatives, and conservatives get mad about liberal spending. But everybody is mad about the same thing – big money and special interests controlling our political system. So just saying, “You’re right, both sides need to stop taking money" can make a huge difference.
In terms of resources, this TED talk is a great place to start! https://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind
So I've interviewed hundreds of people in the process of writing this book, and can more or less count on two hands the number of people who figured it out on their own. (Obviously Rubik, the inventor, had to!) So that's really hard, and you need some pretty high level spatial and mathematical skills.
I learned initially from a person, Toby Mao, a former world record holder, and then got faster by a mix of internet stuff (like youtube--check out badmephisto's videos on YouTube) and meeting cubers at competitions and asking for advice!
As far as the world record goes, there's no way I'll ever beat that. It's down to 4.74 seconds, which was set by Mats Valk, a really awesome cuber from Holland, just the other weekend.
but I do hope to keep getting faster--my goals next year are to get a sub-11 second single and sub-15 second average in competition!
Do you feel that the sales tax and state funds portion of the bill gave opponents something to attack? Do you feel it would be best left off of the next attempt?
That stated - I believe it was the best part of the initiative, but I worry it may have contributed to the complexity of the bill and freaked out some voters at the expense of getting the anti-corruption parts passed.
How long after the cube was invented did people figure out that you could solve a cube with math?
Polling data showed that once we had a chance to explain to voters what the provisions of I-1464 were, they strongly supported all the provisions, including citizen-funded elections. So we feel confident that the real problem was the confusing ballot language. People simply didn’t know what they were voting on.
So, solving a Cube is kind of like doing math, only what Margaret Wertheim, a really excellent journalist, has called "embodied mathematics." (You know, sort of like how when you throw a baseball, you're embodying principles of geometry, etc.)
As far as high-level math treating the Cube, once it got out into the world, in the early 80s, mathematicians fell in love with it; there's an early book called "Rubik's Cubic Compendium" which I think was published by Oxford University Press and deals with the math of it.
To be clear, you don't HAVE to know lots of math to solve it, but you certainly can use math to solve it.
At the moment, I use a Gans 356 S, but I'm thinking of switching to the Valk 3. I tried out some magnetic speedcubes recently and really liked them!
None (on purpose.)
But, funny story, I was on Good Day New York recently, with Greg Kelly and Rosanna Sciotto, and Greg threw one of my cubes over his shoulder and it exploded.
Inside, I was like -________________-
But I kept smiling at the camera!
What do you think is the largest accomplishment in the cubing world?
Well, I'd have to say this last weekend is up there--there are some records that are just so hard to break. So Kaijun Lin breaking all the BLD records (except multi-BLD) is pretty exceptional. Not to mention Mats Valk using his own method--VLS--to get a 4.74!
But for me, personally, the biggest accomplishment implies something more: it's not just a record, maybe, but a result, or something personal overcome.
So, here's a couple of contenders for me:
Yu Da-Hyung becoming the first female world record holder (she broke the Megaminx WR, for the first time in 2014)
Feliks Zemdegs getting that insane 7x7 single WR at the World Championship in Sao Paulo in 2015. Basically Kevin Hays got the WR, left the stage, said to Feliks I hope you don't break the WR, Feliks goes on stage, breaks the record, all the while Kevin is tearing his hair out, and Feliks was just so nonchalant about it--he told me he didn't expect the solve to be nearly that fast. (Which is always how fast solves feel!)
Basically Feliks's whole career, which is just nuts, and includes everything from the first sub-10 average to his 6.88-second OH WR.
The way so many cubers have given so much to make this hobby so lively and thriving; from taking cubes to competitors abroad, who might not have the money for the equipment, to the Gutierrez Cuba brothers in Peru busking with their puzzles at traffic intersections to make money and get to Brazil for worlds. Really, as Natan Riggenbach, the former WCA board member, once put it, we're all in this together, and our only enemies are time itself and the cube; it's amazing that we've managed to build a community that is at once so competitive and so supportive, which is my favorite accomplishment :)
Can you still take them apart like you could back when they first came out?
Yep! They won't let you solve it that way in competition, but it's a great way to learn about the mechanics of the puzzle.