Monday, May 19, 2014

&^%$#@! Rubik's cube

Today is the 40th anniversary of the most frustrating invention on Earth, the Rubik's Cube. It is also known variously as the Magic Cube, the Hungarian Magic Cube or (in my case) something completely unprintable. It made Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik a millionaire and me a wreck. I once spent a transcontinental flight in the early 1980s trying to align the colored sides without success, though I suppose two helpings of Bailey's Irish Cream didn't improve my chances.

Obviously, it doesn't faze these guys, the 2014 supercubers who can solve the puzzle in the same amount of time it takes me to set the alarm on my house and lock the front door:

I notice two things about these masters. First, they all operate in some kind of purely intuitive state; none of them is trying to work out the problem intellectually, and their fingers and brain synapses seem to be operating at the same phenomenal speed. Even when we got a slow-motion version of the winner at the end of the video, I had no idea how he was doing what he did.

Second, all of them are guys, apparently between their early teen years and their early 20s. (Maybe, as I encountered the cube when approaching 30, it was already too late for me.)

This may mean their hand-eye connections work more efficiently for this purpose than girls' do, or some kind of cerebral hardwiring makes it easier for them than for young women. Or maybe girls can simply think of better things to dedicate themselves to day after day.

Either way, their skill -- can one call it a skill? -- is extraordinary. And I can be *&^%$#@! sure that, even if I labored at one of these plastic cubes until the summer breeze turned to an autumnal blast, I'd never master it.