January 15, 2006 11:25 AM PST
Record falls as best Rubik's 'cubers' meet in S.F.
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Don't tell that to Leyan Lo. On Saturday, at the International Rubik's Cube competition held at the Exploratorium here, Lo took just 11.13 seconds to set the world record for solving of one of the iconic red, white, blue, green and yellow cubes.
Lo's record came at the very beginning of a long day in which dozens of "cubers" squared off in bids to become the best at one or more of a series of different categories of Rubik's Cube competitions. Among them were the standard 3x3x3, the 3x3x3 blindfolded, the 3x3x3 one-handed and the 4x4x4 (The numbers refer to the number of rows and columns the cube has).
And by day's end, Lo had established himself as perhaps the most accomplished of all the competitors, having finished second in the 3x3x3, first in the 3x3x3 blindfolded and 3x3x3 one-handed, and second in the 4x4x4.
But it was his world record that had everyone on hand buzzing all day, even if Lo himself tried to play it down.
"It was a lucky solve," he said. "It was kind of cool. You get good cases and bad cases all the time."
He explained that the solution he'd chosen--based on algorithms he'd memorized for solving the cube as it was presented to him--ended up not requiring a final step that normally would have added two or three seconds to his time.
But others, even competition veterans, were clearly impressed by what they saw Saturday.
"It's great," said Tyson Mao, a student at Caltech and the organizer of the event. "I mean, it's great that people have opportunities to push the limits of Rubik's Cube solving. The world record has dropped so much recently because people have been putting in so much time."
Indeed, for a puzzle that is now 25 years old, it has gone through some serious peaks and valleys. After years in the 1980s as a worldwide phenomenon, Rubik's Cube dropped off the puzzle map in the '90s. But thanks to a growing number of competitions around the world and clubs like the one at Caltech, it is going through a major resurgence.
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Part of the credit, naturally, goes to the Internet, and to its ability to spread the gospel of top-rank cube solving. The mecca for the Rubik's Cube community, said many on hand Saturday, is SpeedCubing.com.
And to see Saturday's competitors, some just little children and others in their thirties and forties, it's easy to see that one reason the cube is back is that it is appealing across all generations.
"It's addictive. I'm very addicted," said 15-year-old Shotaro "Macky" Makisumi, considered by many the best cuber in the world today. "It's something you can improve yourself on. There's a time to show (how you're doing), and it's almost a competition against yourself instead of others. It's a chance to perfect something."
Shotaro certainly did his best Saturday to cement himself in the Rubik's Cube community as the best, or at least one of the best.
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