Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rubik's Cube

CNN is reporting that a new record has been set in solving the Rubik's Cube. I suppose I should be impressed, but I'm not, really.

See, when I was in high school, the Rubik's Cube craze had died down quite a bit but was still around. I found a little book that explained how to solve the Rubik's Cube. It took me awhile to understand it, but I eventually worked it out and was able to solve the cube without help in a few minutes.

Flash forward a little, to an assignment in one of my classes. It was all about world problems. The group that got terrorism put on a little play and held the class hostage. My group got world hunger. There's not a lot you can do with world hunger in a high school class, and the rest of my group seemed perfectly willing to take a fail in this rather than make a serious effort. So we pulled together a presentation that made a big deal of the fact that we saw starving kids on the TV so much that we had all become jaded. But we needed an opening that would really get everyone's attention. So I suggested that I solve the Rubik's Cube in front of the class.

To open our presentation, I went to the front of the class holding the cube, then handed it to someone in the front row and said "mix that up good for me, will you?" Then while she was working at it, I gave the start of the presentation, the boring statistics and such. When she had mixed it up, I still wasn't finished, so I handed it to another person and said, "make really sure it's mixed up good," and finished the stats and such. As I had expected, most people were paying more attention to the people mixing up the cube than to me. As I am a lousy public speaker, I had been counting on that.

After I finished the stats, I took the cube back and started a little speech about how world problems are like a Rubik's Cube, hard to solve and seemingly impossible when you first look at it. Only, you can't just rip the stickers off the world and fix it that way (that got a laugh). Then I started to solve the Rubik's Cube. While I solved, I dithered on about how hard it was to get food into places that were wartorn, and how raising money wasn't the most difficult part. At one point I completely messed up the cube and had to start over. When I did that, I said, "and sometimes we'll fail, and have to start over," then continued on. After I did each level, I would hold up the cube and say, "it looks better, but to fix it, I'm going to have to make it look worse," then start in on the next level, and sure enough, it would look like I'd messed it up again.

As I got to the final bit, I looked at the class and talked about the possibilities of solving world hunger, and I stopped looking at my hands. I just did the moves the book had taught. I heard someone say to a neighboring student "she's not even looking at the cube!" Yeah, because it was a lot easier if I didn't look at what I was doing.

I finished solving it and showed it to the class. Then I said, in my typically pompous high school know-it-all way, "these problems can be solved! It just takes a willingness to see it through and a guiding force that knows it can be done." The class applauded, the rest of my group came on and we did the rest of the presentation. It wasn't very good. World hunger isn't a topic that can be made thrilling by a bunch of disinterested high school kids.

I got a decent grade for my part in the presentation, but it was forever after known as Laura's excuse to solve the Rubik's Cube in class.