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Speed Solving the Cube - Dan Harris

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Genre: Sports / Hobbies / Games / Author: Dan Harris / Paperback / 176 Pages / Book is published 2008-07-01 by Sterling

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      25.08.2010 13:30
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      If the Cube has always beaten you, try this book.

      Like many households, ours has one of those delightful objects of torture ... a Rubik's Cube. I'm not going to explain here in detail what one is, as I'm assuming you won't be wanting to know how to solve one unless you know what it is - but it basically looks like the picture on the front of the book, and the idea is to twist and turn until each face of the cube is a single colour. Sounds easy, but the 3x3 cube has a mind-blowing (wait for it ...) 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible configurations, so looks can be deceptive!

      I clearly remember when they first came out, and also clearly remember my frustration at never being able to get beyond solving one side and a 'T' on the four adjoining sides. Especially when my little brother could do the whole thing ... Grrr! The 'peel off the stickers' route never appealed to me - I wanted to do it properly.

      So, many, many years later I decided I was going to beat this thing! This little book, 'Speedsolving the Cube' helped me to do just that. It did take me a couple of hours, painstakingly following instructions, spotting patterns etc. but finally I was in possession of a completed cube. Not quite as satisfying as completely working it out for myself, but still felt pretty good. Only took me 30-odd years! The world record is under 10 seconds, so I've a long way to go ...

      The book itself is actually quite interesting - it gives a short history of the cube, an insight into 'speedcubing' (the solve-it-as-fast-as-possible competitive world), and methods for solving all the types of cube (there are also 2x2, 4x4 and even 5x5 versions available!) There is also a section on how to turn your completed cube into 'pretty patterns', which I found great fun.

      The style is clear, and I found there to be a really good mixture of pictures, diagrams, quick references and longer explanations. Overall very useable!

      The first technical chapter (after all the history etc.) sets out the notation used. This looks complicated but is actually quite logical, and just takes a few minutes to get the hang of - although I did find myself referring back to it from time to time. I'm not going to go into all the detail, but just give a flavour of how it works which should be enough to decide whether this looks like a method you could follow or complete double-Dutch!

      If you look at the cube, the layers which can be turned can be described as upper layer, front layer and so on.

      U refers to the upper layer
      D refers to the 'down' layer
      R refers to the right layer
      L refers to the left layer
      F refers to the front layer
      B refers to the back layer

      When one of these letters is used, it means 'turn this layer 90 degrees clockwise'. An apostrophe is used after the letter to indicate that the turn is anti-clockwise. A '2' is used after the letter to indicate that the turn is through 180 degrees.

      So R' D2 R means : first turn the right layer 90 degrees anticlockwise, then turn the 'down' layer through 180 degrees, then turn the right layer 90 degrees clockwise.

      You do need to be methodical and accurate, but basically if you can follow the above explanation you can probably follow through and do the whole thing. I don't think it would take too many times doing this before being able to do it without the book - I certainly found I was able to learn how to complete the top two thirds without referring to the book at all.

      The main focus of the book is on the standard 3x3 cube, and the author spends three chapters on this, dealing in turn with a beginner's method, a speedcubing method and expert speedcubing techniques. For myself, I only really used the notation chapter and the beginner's method chapter.

      I found the instructions straightforward enough to follow - well as straightforward as they can be, given that they are describing complex moves. They are broken down into simple steps though, so as long as you don't lose your place it's not too bad. Bit like a knitting pattern really!

      So, in summary, I would definitely recommend this book if solving the Cube has been one of those never-completely-scratched itches in your life. You do need to be able to follow algorithms as described above, and you do need some patience, but it's a fun way to spend a few hours. My kids were also seriously impressed! My copy of the book only has a price in dollars, but I seem to remember getting it for only a few pounds - and well worth every penny.


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