Apr 30, 2021 | LIFE | By Michael Braithwaite | Illustration by Bibi Powers
If you walked by the Loomis third floor lounge in the last few weeks, you may have heard sounds of plastic pieces sliding against each other, little gears turning, and magnets locking into place. Occasionally, you may also have heard the sounds of exasperated sighs, or even a yell of frustration.
If you poked your head in the door, you may have seen one, two, three, or even four different people simultaneously trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube as quickly as they can.
This is not a competition between people. This competition is personal — one with self-determined goals to try and solve the Cube in faster and faster times.
AJ Saliman ’23, a newer resident of the hall, began this movement when he moved in at the end of Block 5.
“It’s one of those things that is challenging individually because it’s you against the clock,” Saliman said.
Saliman competed in Rubik’s Cubing competitions in his hometown of Seattle during high school. Because of this experience, he is exceptionally fast at solving a Rubik’s Cube, with a personal best time of a little over eight seconds.
“Once I was able to [initially] solve it, my brain said ‘faster’ and then I was just kind of along for the ride,” Saliman said.
This ability to solve the Cube at insane speeds caught the attention of many third floor Loomis residents. After only a week or two of Saliman living on campus, at least three other people had also taken it upon themselves not only to learn how to solve the Cube but also to try and solve it as quickly as possible.
Learning how to solve the Cube is actually not the most challenging part of this personal competition. In fact, one could learn how to solve it from any scramble with a few dedicated hours and a YouTube video or two.
The more difficult aspect of speed cubing (trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube as fast as possible) is speeding up those learned motions and trying to optimize the most efficient way to solve the Cube. This optimization comes as a result of solving the Cube over and over again, with your brain recognizing over time how to most efficiently solve the Cube from various scenarios.
Anna-Taite Murphy ’24 is part of the group of Loomis residents who have recently started trying to solve the Cube as fast as personally possible. For her, a large draw of solving the Rubik’s Cube is the energy of the whole experience.
“Every single time I start a new solve I’m so ready for that adrenaline of solving it and moving my hands quickly,” Murphy said. “As the seconds go by, you’re [thinking to yourself] ‘I gotta be faster, I have to.’”
Indeed, it seems as if there is not one singular reason behind the Rubik’s Cube phenomenon taking hold of those in the lounge.
Some competitors solve the Cube against the clock for the adrenaline, others do it because it gets them off their screens and works their brains, and others do it just because they need to fidget with something.
For whatever reason, Rubik’s Cubing on the third floor of Loomis seems to be a practice that is here to stay for the long-term. Many who participate in the practice have even recently purchased better Cubes that are designed to make turns faster and smoother.
This past school year has been strange for all sorts of reasons, but the Rubik’s Cubing craze will certainly be a truly unique aspect of it for those who have taken up the challenge.