What can you do in 12 seconds? You can tie a tie, run 100m, or update your Facebook status. Pablo Hortal uses those 12 seconds in a different way. 12 seconds is the time it takes him to -- on a really good day -- solve a Rubik's cube.
"What turned into an interest, became a hobby, and now an obsession," explained Hortal.
It starts easy, you get the cube, you scramble it, and then … then things get complicated. According to the official Rubik's Cube website, there are 43 quintillion ways to scramble the Rubik's cube. That's about 3.7 times all the sand grains on Earth. And while the number of possible ways to scramble the cube is immense, any 3x3 cube can be solved in 20 moves or less … If you know what you are doing.
“In general what most people learn is a series of sequences or steps called algorithms. When they see a certain positioning of pieces, or a case essentially, they learn an algorithm for a sequence of moves they will perform to preserve certain parts of the cube and solve new parts,” explained Kit Clement, World Cube Association senior delegate for the Western USA and Canada.
The World Cube Association organizes cubing competitions all over the world. In these competitions faster usually means better, but solving the common 3x3 Rubik's cube is just the beginning. Pyramid-shaped puzzles, 12-sided cubes, and solving the cube using your feet are just a few of the different events at these competitions. One of the most popular events is the blindfolded solve, where participants receive a scrambled cube, they memorize it and then try to solve it with their eyes covered.
That's Clement. He maintains a YouTube Channel where he uploads his different solves.
Speedcubing has been slowly growing in the past years.
“We have very recently passed the 100,000 unique competitors in the WCA, and that was a pretty big milestone. It's absolutely insane the amount of new competitors we have to deal with,” said Clement.
Just in the next 6 months there are 180 different competitions scheduled all around the world, and if you haven't heard of any of this, it might be because you were not looking in the right place.
“We do have a lot of Twitch streamers. One channel, Mental Block TV, is dedicated to traveling to Rubik's cubes competitions and setting up streams,” explained Clement.
A little bit of math, some skill, a lot of practice, and patience are all one needs to become a speedcuber. Somewhere, in a dark corner of a closet or drawer, lays a forgotten Rubik's cube that you gave up on. Now would be a good time to give it another chance.