Rubik's Noob

A few weeks ago I got it into my head that I should learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube. I am not entirely sure why, but today, here I am, with a Rubik’s cube in my hand.

Part of the motivation was to be able to observe how my brain learns. It’s not often you learn something completely from scratch, with no training or tutoring, and a Rubik’s cube seemed like a fairly easy, low cost thing to try and learn.

I’ve been resisting googling for solutions. I know there are methods you can learn for how to solve a Rubik’s cube, but my intention is to try it from scratch, without cheating.

Thus far, it’s been fascinating (and frustrating). Having had the cube for about a week, and toying with it in the evenings for a while, I can reliably solve a single side, but much more than that is difficult. The learning has come in a few stages.

First was realising some of the constraints of the cube. For example, I didn’t realise for a while, that solving one side of the cube isn’t just about making a single side one color, each piece has an appropriate place on the side and has to be in the right place, if you’re going to be able to complete the sides adjacent to it. Also realising that the center pieces of each side can never actually move relative to each other. They are fixed (unlike the rest of the pieces).

Even more interesting has been observing my brain solve sub problems, like how to rotate a piece in place. The process goes something like:

  • Knowing what I need to achieve, but having no idea how to do it.
  • Fumbling around long enough with the cube, and finally happening upon the solution I was looking for, but being unsure how I got there.
  • Trying to repeat the move, again without really knowing “how”.
  • Over time starting to get a hunch as to how it’s working, but still not being able to understand what’s going on fully, or be able to repeat it perfectly.
  • Finally having an ah-ha moment, where I can see how the move works, and why, and being able to repeat it easily.
  • To ultimately being able to reproduce the move without even looking at the cube (even if it’s multiple moves long).

There’s still a long way to go though!