Do You Believe in Magic?

When my Inbox is empty, Yahoo now suggests videos I can watch, p’raps to distract me from the evident fact that no one wants to talk to me (sniff) or p’raps to reward me for being so organized. When did apps start feeling for or rewarding us?

Anyway, you know how it goes from there. In watching whatever forgettable video Yahoo suggested, I followed a link to another one. That’s how I came to watch a YouTube video of a fellow unscrambling three Rubik’s Cubes, blindfolded, on Britain’s Got More Talent. It was worth watching for the judges’ reactions alone.  You’d think he’d turned into a snake. They were impressed, but not sure they should believe their eyes.

Well, I couldn’t leave it like that.

Dear Google,
How do people solve Rubik’s Cubes blindfolded?

Bless Google: It isn’t so hot with formal responses, but it always comes back quickly and with lots of options.

If I want a basic answer to my question, there’s a site for that. Let me just give you the flavour of it, using the question Google figured was pretty close to mine . . .

How do people solve a rubik’s cube blindfolded? Do they actually memorize the location of every piece?
byu/ahhhhhdangit inaskscience

Answer: Kind of.  Ultimately, they have to memorize enough information to be able to recreate the cube state, but most blindfold methods have you memorize the sequences in which you solve pieces, and the method prescribes that the pieces are to be solved in a distinct way so that each piece you solve exactly sets up the next one appropriately.  So what exactly needs to be memorized?  Just the destinations of your pieces.  (Ed’s note: Oh, is that all?)  A typical example, taken from the site, would be memorizing something like FR – UL – FD – DB – DR – UF – LB – UB – DL – FL – BU – stop – UB – RD – UF – UR – DL – RB – FR – LD ““ BL (where F = front, B = back, U = up, D = down, L = left, R = right) or some color coded equivalent.

And much more in this helpful vein, along with tips for how to tackle eight grandmasters at chess simultaneously, just in case I’m looking for that.

If I want to read actual step-by-step impenetrable text instructions for solving it blindfolded, there’s a site for that.

If I want to read actual step-by-step impenetrable instructions for solving it blindfolded, written by Stefan Pochmann, the guy who developed the standard method that bears his name, there’s a site for that.

If I want to watch an impenetrable 36-minute video for solving it blindfolded, there’s a site for that.

If I want to motivate myself (or totally totally demotivate myself, depending on what kind of day it is) by watching a world record holder in blindfolded solving (28.80 seconds, way back in 2012), there’s a site for that.

If I want to explore how fast the official record for blindfolded solving is dropping (21.05 seconds as of 2015), there’s a site for that.

If I want to check out the difference it makes to the world record when you can, you know, see what you’re doing (and you’re a 15-year-old with just 5.25 seconds to spare), there’s a site for that . . .

If I want to check out a three-year-old solver, there’s a site for that.

If I want to check out a two-year-old solver, there’s a site for that.

If I want to get philosophical, there’s a site for that.

“. . . like most amazing things that people do it’s mostly a lot easier than it seems – or more like it appears even more difficult than it really is . . . it’s difficult, but it’s not super-human or “magic,” and it’s finely tuned to appear much more amazing than it is. . . . Like in programming, engineering, or doing anything complicated, you always break the problem down to easy chunks and scale it up, and at the end it’s amazing.”

Hey. I get that solving the Rubik’s Cube blindfolded isn’t magic. Solving it at all isn’t magic, although it totally eluded me when the Rubik’s Cube first came out in 1980. But I’d like to be amazing, too — at least as amazing as a two- or three-year-old — and I’d even be happy to look more amazing than I am. I’m OK to start as a beginner, and there’s a site for that, too.

Maybe that’s the real magic here.

Rubik's Cube after scrambling.

Step 1 completed successfully: The Cube is scrambled.


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10 Responses to Do You Believe in Magic?

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Our son was one of those who learned how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. Not in five seconds, though. Apparently there’s a mathematical formula that applies to most of these puzzles; once you have figured out the formula, you just need to follow it through to the end.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Yeah. I’ll be interested to see how it works, since I never figured it out for myself.

  2. Some types of puzzles will hold my attention; the Cube never did and now I wonder why. I have watched other people solving it and becoming faster and faster. I lacked motivation possibly because my memory tends to be visual and needs distinctive markers or the changing colours disappear in a blur. I also wonder what the links may be to the more practical side of life in solving this type of problem. How to move everything in my office into a room with a different configuration of storage places? Or into the same storage but rearranged — say, thirty-two times? But I’m already pretty good at things like that and probably was at 3, too. Memorizing strings of coded instructions is daunting; as is learning computer code that some take to as ducks to water. Hmm. I am pretty sure the Rubik’s skilled have better-than-average access to their right-brains where the visual cortex and spatial visualization and analysis happen. For them, seeing the patterns fly by must be like watching a movie that is devoid of meaningful content and value except for an intrinsic pleasure in watching something familiar. When I encounter one, my question will not be “How do you do that?” but “Why?”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Ah. For me, I want to see if I can learn how to see it. See? Spatially, I’m a slow learner – instructions for things like origami and the Cube often baffle me. I’ll see whether there’s above-average satisfaction in knowing how to solve it (as opposed to the “joys” of learning to do so, which I can pretty much predict now . . .).

  3. Tom Watson says:

    I emceed a Kiwanis Music Festival in May. A lad there of 14 solves Rubik’s Cubes blindfolded. I can’t do the simplest one with all eyes open, let alone blindfolded.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Well, as I work my way (painfully) through the YouTube video, I can say with pretty good confidence that if I can do it, you can do it. Wanting to do it, is, as Laurna points out, a different matter.

  4. Perhaps slowing the process waaaaay down would allow me to find cues and invest meanings that others don’t need. I am thinking of ancient Greek “picture yourself in a villa with many rooms” techniques. In room one, in this corner, is the first configuration. . . . Keep this up, Isabel, and I will have to find myself one of those dang-nabbed cubes!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – It’s when we get to the 17th room that I’m in some trouble with the Greek’s memory trick! Well, OK, the 3rd. But I’m in it to win it now – not a speed-cuber, but at least a solver.

  5. Jim Robertson says:

    Best of wishes/luck Isabel. (I don’t think either luck or wishes apply, but can’t come up with a better word)
    You are braver than I to state publicly what you are up to. Looking forward to hearing about your progress and ultimate success.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – I figure after I learn how, I’ll video myself solving one and speed it up using my nifty video processing software – that way, the video should only be several minutes long!

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