Post-empire Q&A: Life, liberty, and the parallelepiped of happiness

Around 5 p.m., when the Rubik’s Cube Competition hosted in Sudler Hall had already run out of free pizza and soda, Kevin Hernandez (16), Joseph Dzaluk (11) and Ric Donati (11) showed each other some moves and said some things in between, flipping a cube’s colored sides all the while.

Ric Donati: I start like this and then go around that way and go around.

WEEKEND: When did you first start doing Rubik’s cube?

Kevin Hernandez: I started cubing about, I’d say, maybe, like, November of 2010. My friend started doing it and I thought it was pretty cool and fun. Then I saw speed cubing and started getting into it. Three months ago I saw this competition on the WCA website.

[WKND: What?]

RD: The WCA. World Cubing Association website.

KH: I go on the website to see world records for certain cubes, to see the people on it, when upcoming events are.

Joseph Dzaluk: I started about one year ago when I went to camp and my counselor knew how to solve one in maybe a minute so I wanted to learn how to solve one. So I went online and looked it up and once I started that, then the person who taught me knew how to solve it really fast.

WKND: Have you competed before?

RD: This is my first competition.

JD: It’s mine too.

RD: He’s from California.

JD: I’m from Florida.

RD: Florida.

WKND: Are you here with your parents?

RD: Yeah, my mom actually competed.

KH: Really?

RD: Yeah she competed in magic. The flat puzzle sheet you fold up and change the picture.

Ric’s mom: And I qualified in everything. [Her best time was 3.09 seconds.]

WKND: So what are your fastest times?

KH: 26 seconds.

JD: 11 seconds.

RD: 14 seconds.

WKND: Um. How do you solve so fast?

KH: Fingertips not full hand turns. Don’t grab a layer. I take my pointer finger and just move the layer along with it. At first you’ll find it going slow with it, but then your finger muscles will build up and you’ll get faster.

WKND: Do math and science have anything to do with this?

JD: I got a perfect score on my tests twice.

KH: No. Well, we’re good but it doesn’t have to do with it.

JD: Letters have something to do with it. It’s kind of like algebra.

RD: Yeah.

KH: You know algorithms in math? The algorithms in this are represented by letters and each of those letters represents turns. So, for example you have six sides of the cube: up-down, left-right, front-back. Each of those represents moves. And they get ingrained in your muscle memory when you do those moves. And you just memorize them. So then when you see that situation, each situation has its own specific algorithm, you recognize it, without consciously thinking of the algorithm, and just perform what you know by muscle memory.

WKND: Does this pattern recognition and agility transfer into other subjects?

KH: I’ve gotten better at recognizing things in general. I don’t know if hand-eye coordination has to do with this, but mine’s gotten a lot better these past couple months.

RD: Chess is also a good analogy in terms of looking ahead but the general concept is different.

JD: Learning algorithms makes you faster. The more you learn the more you practice.

WKND: I’ve been dying to ask. What’s your favorite color?

JD: That’s random.

RD: On the Rubik’s cube? Or in life?

KH: In life, I like purple.

JD: In life, I like green. ON the Rubik’s cube, blue.

RD: Blue in both for me. It’s the fastest side for me.

WKND: Why?

RD: I think when they ship it they put blue on the bottom so all the lubricants sink to that side.

KH: I didn’t know that.

RD: Not all cubes, just a few.

KH: Where can I get those?