When Hungarian professor Ernő Rubik invented the Rubik’s Cube (or, rather, his Cube) in the 1970s out of wooden blocks, rubber bands, and paper clips, he didn’t even know if it could be solved, let alone that it would become the world’s most popular puzzle. Since its creation, the Cube has become many things to many people: one of the bestselling children’s toys of all time, a symbol of intellectual prowess, a frustrating puzzle with 43.2 quintillion possible permutations, and now a worldwide sporting phenomenon that is introducing the classic brainteaser to a new generation.
In Cracking the Cube, Ian Scheffler reveals that cubing isn’t just fun and games. Along with participating in speedcubing competitions—from the World Championship to local tournaments—and interviewing key figures from the Cube’s history, he journeys to Budapest to seek a meeting with the legendary and notoriously reclusive Rubik, who is still tinkering away with puzzles in his seventies.
Getting sucked into the competitive circuit himself, Scheffler becomes engrossed in solving Rubik’s Cube in under twenty seconds, the quasi-mystical barrier known as “sub-20,” which is to cubing what four minutes is to the mile: the difference between the best and everyone else. For Scheffler, the road to sub-20 is not just about memorizing algorithms or even solving the Rubik’s Cube. As he learns from the many gurus who cross his path, from pint-sized kids to engineering professors, it’s about learning to solve yourself.
Ian Scheffler’s ties to the Cube go back to his childhood, as does his interest in math, science, and engineering. In 2008 his team won the US Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl, a Jeopardy-style competition, and he traveled as a delegate to the 49th London International Youth Science Forum. He has written for The New Yorker, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He holds a degree in English from Columbia University, where he co-edited the Columbia Review. He lives in New York City.