Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

#95: Rubik’s Cube Decoded

By Bruno MaddoxDecember 16, 2010 6:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Since its invention, Rubik’s Cube has taunted mathematicians trying to figure the maximum number of moves necessary to solve it from any of its 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible starting positions. Someone dubbed the effort a search for “God’s number,” ignoring the theological consensus that Einstein’s maxim “God does not play dice” is likely to apply to yo-yos, Slinkies, Rubik’s Cubes, and the whole range of handheld human amusements.

Whatever you call it, the search has ended. In 2010 a team of whizzes laid bare the uplifting truth: As hopelessly scrambled as one’s cube may appear, one is never more than 20 moves from rendering each of its six faces a solid color. “We were secretly hoping in our tests that there would be one that required 21,” team member Morley David­son, a mathematician at Kent State University, told the BBC. But it was not to be.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 50%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In