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Year 12 School Speedcubing Research Project

Ezazar

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This is my article for my year 12 Research Project. As you will find out it was about the methods for reducing solve time. Any feedback would be appreciated, if there are any questions please ask :) I just want to point out it has to be written in a certain way to fit the criteria. Because of this I needed to use first person in some areas and explain things in detail that most cubers already know.

What methods are the most useful for reducing Rubik’s Cube solve time?

The purpose of this article is to present and weigh up many different methods for reducing solve time. These methods range from the staples of reducing solve time such as practice and cube quality to less obvious methods such as the use of caffeine.

From my research I have concluded that practice is the single most important method for reducing solve time. The reason for this is that it trains multiple different areas necessary for reducing solve time at once. Memory, finger speed, general cube knowledge, algorithm knowledge and foresight (being able to see what moves are required next) are all trained during solve practice. Because of this, practice should be capitalized on but should not be the only method used.

If a person is able to identify a weakness in their solving, such as memory for instance, they could choose a training method which focuses solely on the improvement of that field. Memory can be trained in a multitude of different ways (Lumosity Brain Trainer). Games are often very helpful. The humble memory card game can improve a cuber’s ability to remember what coloured sticker is where without looking at it (Craig Robin, 2010). Lumosity Brain Trainer provides games which improve certain aspects of brain function. Users can select games that will improve their memory and attempt to improve their performance.

Finger speed and tricks (moving a face with one finger) are highly important for fast solves. Finger speed can be passively developed during solve practice or typing. Repetitive finger movement can help to develop and strengthen fast twitch muscle fibres (Chun-Lam Lo, 2010. ‘Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fibres’ Elizabeth Quinn, 2012). This aspect goes hand in hand with cube quality. If the cube is of poor quality then finger tricks become slower and more of a strain to perform possibly leading to Repetitive Stress Injuries (Username: Somerandomkidmike, 2011). From my research on the speedsolving.com forum I found that the Dayan Zhanchi and Guhong cubes are the best for cubing(Username: X-TownCuber, 2011). They are specifically designed to be used in competitions by elite cubers. When lubricated, they become extremely fast and tolerant cubes. Silicone spray is used by most elite cubers however cooking oil is also a viable alternative. Proper tensioning of the cube is also important. It is best to find a guide on this as it can sometimes be difficult to know when a cube is properly tensioned.

Algorithm knowledge is important for efficient solving. The Fridrich method is the most common solve method (Anthony Brooks, 2009) which requires 57 Ordering of Last Layer (OLL), 21 Permuting Last Layer (PLL) and an optional 41 First Two Layers (F2L) algorithms to be learnt. Knowledge of these algorithms is incredibly important for elite cubing using this method. I would recommend searching through several resources to find the best algorithms for a case. Some are much easier and faster to perform than others. Algorithms are best learnt through muscle memory. Applying them on the cube many times will develop an automatic response of moves when the case is detected. Other sets of algorithms such as ZBLL, COLL and over 50 others can also be learn to improve the efficiency of solving. These methods are confirmed not to be required for extremely fast solves (Bob Burton, 2013).

Gaining knowledge of the Cross (solving a cross shape on one face, the first step in the solve) and F2L steps of the Fridrich method can be a useful part of reducing solve time. The edge pieces of the cross can be placed in proper orientation with respect to eachother (i.e. a 90o turn from their centre piece) and adjusted when the cross is finished. This is a well-known and useful technique to use in more efficient solving. It is best to observe the cross for as long as is required while developing skills and to solve this step blindfolded. Using this practice method one can work on shortening their observation time and get used to not watching the cross as it is being solved. Looking ahead for the first F2L pair while the cross is being finished allows for a ‘smoother transition’ between the two steps (Feliks Zemdegs, Cross Tips and Techniques, 2009). I would recommend spending a good amount of time watching Youtube tutorials on solve tips for help in refining your technique.

The mental state of a cuber has a direct impact on their performance. There are multiple factors which can alter the mental state of a person which at times can be beneficial, other times not. Fish oil has been proven time and time again to be beneficial for the brain. Fish oil contains DHA which is an acid that is key in the structure of nerve cells in the brain (The Benefits of Fish Oil on Brain Function, 2008). Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors and allows natural stimulants to become more active in the brain (What Caffeine Really Does to Your Brain, 2012, DiSalvo, David). Although this can have negative effects, it can improve processing speed, reflexes and hand speed as the person feels more active and alert. This method touches on moral issues as it is technically the use of a drug for improving performance. In my interview with Bob Burton I learnt that solving ‘big cubes’ (4x4, 5x5, etc) before solving the 3x3 can heighten a person’s ability to search the cube and give them a feeling that the 3x3 is simple compared to the big cubes. Although this is difficult to prove for certain Bob swears by it. He states that his times “reduce significantly” after solving big cubes beforehand. Once I had tested this myself I realised that he was correct and my mentality changed temporarily. Colour neutrality, being able to solve efficiently while starting with any colour, can help to improve solve times and create more opportunity for a fast Cross.

Solving cube variants and other twisty puzzles such as the Rubik’s Magic or the Square-1 can also significantly improve performance while solving the 3x3. For instance, the Rubik’s Magic is useful for improving dexterity and hand speed. Other puzzles such as the Gear Cube, Megaminx and many others can help to improve problem solving and memory. Solving big cubes helps greatly in improving ability to search the cube, multitask and remember the location of stickers (Bob Burton 2013).

Now to weigh up the methods and determine how useful they really are. Practice is definitely the number one method for reducing solve time. Repeating solves will train the body to do certain moves faster and allows the brain to become more and more used to each case. Cube quality and algorithm knowledge are the next down the ladder. A reliable, lubricated and properly tensioned speedcube is absolutely essential for fast solves. One cannot hope to get much lower than 20 seconds with a Rubik’s brand cube. Equally as important is knowing the solve method and algorithms. A decent knowledge of Cross, F2L and 2 look PLL is very useful for reaching middle-length solves (around 20-30 seconds). A complete knowledge of the Fridrich method steps and algorithms are basically a requirement for near world record solves.

Next down the list would be finger speed, memory and cognitive ability. Finger speed can be improved simply by using the fingers to perform fast actions, such as in solving the cube. Memory and cognitive ability can be directly trained using the Lumosity Brain Trainer app. These skills can also be learnt by practicing other twisty puzzles. These areas are important in low solve times for several reasons. Finger speed can be explained very simply, you can only solve the cube as fast as you can move the faces. Memory is important as it is required for the planning of the Cross step and remembering algorithms. Cognitive ability is important as it dictates how quickly one can recognise a case, make decisions and plan ahead.

Solving cube variants and other twisty puzzles are beneficial both short and long term for cubing ability. Solving big cubes increases solving ability in many areas and can ‘trick’ the brain into thinking 3x3 cubes are much simpler short term.

Other methods are less important than the ones above and make less of an impact on solve times however are still useful and worth consideration. These include: Use of caffeine, use of fish oil, finger tapping for speed practice, hand warmups, learning extra sets of algorithms such as ZBLL, Using ‘corner tracking’ during the cross step, learning mirrors of algorithms to reduce rotations and many others are all worthwhile methods.

There are an incredible amount of different methods to reduce solve time. It is up to the person to identify which methods will be the most useful to them and are worth their time. In my opinion, all are worth a try and should be considered for incorporating into your training/solve method.

Bibliography


1. B. Burton, Skype interview, Sunday, 17th March
2. BOCA, Matthew. 2009. BOCA. [ONLINE] Available at: http://boca.bee.pl/index.php?l=pl. [Accessed 12 February 13].
3. Bullet Cable, Ted McCann. 2011. STRETCH AND WARM-UP THOSE METACARPALS BEFORE WE SHRED. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bulletcable.com/diy-lab/stretch-and-warm-up-those-metacarpals-before-we-shred-2/. [Accessed 28 January 13].
4. Cubewhiz, Bob Burton. 2011. CFOP. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cubewhiz.com/cfop.php. [Accessed 21 January 13].
5. David DiSalvo. 2012. What Caffeine Really Does to Your Brain. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/07/26/what-caffeine-really-does-to-your-brain/ [Accessed 09 February 13].
6. Dr. John Caldwell. 2010. It’s Time to Wake up to the Value of Sleep!. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.fatiguescience.com/assets/pdf/The-Value-Of-Sleep.pdf. [Accessed 03 February 13].
7. Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fiber Types. Quinn, Elizabeth. 2012. Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fiber Types. [ONLINE] Available at:http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/anatomyandphysiology/a/MuscleFiberType.htm. [Accessed 05 March 2013]
8. Fish Oil Benefits. 2008. Fish Oil Benefits Guide. [ONLINE] Available at:http://fishoilbenefits.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/the-benefits-of-fish-oil-on-brain-function/. [Accessed 03 February 13].
9. Google Translate. 2007. Translate. [ONLINE] Available at: http://translate.google.com/. [Accessed 12 February 13].
10. How to get faster on the 3x3 Rubik's cube - Part 1: Introduction - YouTube. 2013. How to get faster on the 3x3 Rubik's cube - Part 1: Introduction - YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h9g5fd7MSM. [Accessed 15 February 2013].
11. How to Play Piano - Developing Lightning Fast Finger Movement. Chun-Lam Lo, 2010. How to Play Piano - Developing Lightning Fast Finger Movement. [ONLINE] Available at: http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Play-Piano---Developing-Lightning-Fast-Finger-Movement&id=4268138. [Accessed 05 March 2013]
12. Lila Roe. 2011. CONS OF FISH OIL. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/409690-cons-of-fish-oil/. [Accessed 03 February 13].
13. Rubik's cube world record: 5.66 seconds Feliks Zemdegs - YouTube. 2013.Rubik's cube world record: 5.66 seconds Feliks Zemdegs - YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v_Km6cv6DU. [Accessed 19 February 2013].
14. Speedcubing101, Anthony Brooks. 2009. Fridrich Method. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.speedcubing101.com/fridrich-method.html. [Accessed 21 January 13]
15. Speedcubing101, Anthony Brooks. 2009. Petrus Method. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.speedcubing101.com/petrus-method.html. [Accessed 21 January 13].
16. Speedcubing101, Anthony Brooks. 2009. Roux Method. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.speedcubing101.com/roux-method.html. [Accessed 21 January 13].
17. Speedsolving, byliu88. 2012. DaYan GuHong 3x3x3 Version 2 [Review]. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.speedsolving.com/forum/showthread.php?35035-DaYan-GuHong-3x3x3-Version-2-Review. [Accessed 10 January 13].
18. Speedsolving, Mirzon. 2012. DaYan GuHong 3x3x3 Version 2 [Review]. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.speedsolving.com/forum/showthread.php?35035-DaYan-GuHong-3x3x3-Version-2-Review. [Accessed 10 January 13].
19. Speedsolving, XSLube. 2012. DaYan GuHong 3x3x3 Version 2 [Review]. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.speedsolving.com/forum/showthread.php?35035-DaYan-GuHong-3x3x3-Version-2-Review. [Accessed 10 January 13].
20. SpeedSolving.com, somerandomkidmike. 2011. What to do about rubik's wrist, RSI's and pain related to cubing and other activities. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.speedsolving.com/forum/showthread.php?32930-What-to-do-about-rubik-s-wrist-RSI-s-and-pain-related-to-cubing-and-other-activies. [Accessed 28 January 13].
21. TwistyPuzzles, X-TownCuber. 2011. review of dayan V zanchi. [ONLINE] Available at:http://twistypuzzles.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=21677. [Accessed 10 January 13]
22. Youtube, Camcuber. 2011. How to Properly Tension a Speedcube. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X1hUDWxx3Y. [Accessed 8 January 13].
23. Robin, C 2010 Benefits of the Memory Cards Games, ArticlesBase, accessed 13 May 2013, <http://www.articlesbase.com/mental-health-articles/benefits-of-the-memory-cards-games-2345598.html>.
 

Maccoboy

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that's a great project, apart from going onto other speedsolving types like one handed and feet i'm pretty sure you covered everything, and in decent depth :D
 

Maccoboy

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"The mental state of a cuber has a direct impact on their performance."

how do you know that?
i don't know about him but if im in 'the zone' with some great music and not focused on anything else whilst still fairly relaxed i'll get my best times :D
 

AvGalen

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AMAZING first post. Welcome to the forum and how you will contribute more.
I know from Chris Hardwick that he likes to do "jumps" before solving. They seem to "get his blood flowing".

I personally like to do warmups on exactly the same kind of puzzle that I am about to solve officially (so I bring 1 444 ShengShou for warmup and 1 for competing).

And of course there are many obvious things, like "use the exact same stickercolors for all cubes" and "wash your hands with warm water after lunch and before solving"
 

Ollie

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A couple of issues:

The humble memory card game can improve a cuber’s ability to remember what coloured sticker is where without looking at it (Craig Robin, 2010)
This wording implies that Craig Robin has suggested that memory card games improve memory in cubing. If you check the source you've given then you'll actually see he makes zero reference to cubing at all, or indeed to any actual credible sources himself. As far as I could see he is just some random guy expressing an opinion based on very little at all. You can't just assume that practice one thing will automatically improve another thing.

If a person is able to identify a weakness in their solving, such as memory for instance, they could choose a training method which focuses solely on the improvement of that field. Memory can be trained in a multitude of different ways (Lumosity Brain Trainer). Games are often very helpful...Lumosity Brain Trainer provides games which improve certain aspects of brain function. Users can select games that will improve their memory and attempt to improve their performance.
I've always been skeptical of these games. The samples they test these games on always seem to be small and more often than not any increase in performance is most likely down to practice/increased familiarity of the task, You also need to be a bit more specific about what sort of memory needs improving. I.e. short-term memory? Long-term memory? Visual memory? It's still open to (some) debate but read this if it helps.

Some of your other references are questionable too, but nonetheless a good read.
 

mark49152

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Interesting article that touches on a number of factors I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere.

My suggestion would be to add some intro/background for readers with no familiarity with speedcubing. For example:-
- what is speed solving and what's its status as a sport?
- what is a fast time and what's a typical time for beginners, i.e. what are cubers aiming for?
- what are the factors in being fast? Move count, turn speed, looks/recognition, lookahead, etc.
- plus definition of some key concepts, e.g. what are algorithms and why are they important to being fast? which of the above factors do they influence? Etc.

Then they might have a good idea of what you'd be trying to achieve using the techniques described in the rest of your article.
 

Maccoboy

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also maybe add some the common misconceptions associated with speedsolving for example

- solving 1 side is useless, you need to solve a layer (unless you now PLL)
- there is not 1 pattern you can do that always solves the cube no matter what (well there is but it's quadrillions of turns)
- there cannot be 1 piece out of place and the rest of the cube solved, this is impossible
- you do not put the cubes into a certain pattern and solve it from there, you just solve it to the solved pattern to begin with (makes no sense but someone has genuinely thought this)
- the center pieces cannot move place, only twist


also might be good to add a part about cube needs for speed cubing for example

- corner cutting
- reverse corner cutting
- lubing your cube (maybe not say lube if it's school) maybe say oil instead
- fast or gummy depending on preference
 

applemobile

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As an examiner reading that, I would have no idea what you are even talking about. You imply an awful lot of knowledge onto the reader. What is a Rubik's cube? What is solving it? Surely it depends who 'jumbled it up?' Dafuq is a finger trick?
You could have written the best thesis in the world, but without these core basics, the reader will just see 'blah blah blah'
 

Ollie

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As an examiner reading that, I would have no idea what you are even talking about. You imply an awful lot of knowledge onto the reader. What is a Rubik's cube? What is solving it? Surely it depends who 'jumbled it up?' Dafuq is a finger trick?
You could have written the best thesis in the world, but without these core basics, the reader will just see 'blah blah blah'
The target audience is probably speedcubers.

I just want to point out it has to be written in a certain way to fit the criteria. Because of this I needed to use first person in some areas and explain things in detail that most cubers already know.
 

applemobile

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The target audience is probably speedcubers.

You are aware that your second quote backs up my argument? He says he needed to "explain things in detail that most cubers already know" which I am saying is exactly what he didn't do.
 

Ollie

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Speed cubers are not marking it.
He's not trying to explain to an examiner how to improve his times so that he can go away and try it himself, because the chances are he's not a speedcuber and doesn't know how to solve. The point of the project is to show knowledge and understanding about how his research can help his target population.

You are aware that your second quote backs up my argument? He says he needed to "explain things in detail that most cubers already know" which I am saying is exactly what he didn't do.
He attempts to explain how finger tricks improve performance over time, how using the right algorithms for certain cases is important, how solving variants or other puzzles can increase performance on the 3x3x3, and briefly explains other points such as solving method, use of caffeine, practice etc can also help decrease solving time. He even gives evidence from internal and external sources. Granted that it's brief, but he may well have had a word limit.
 

applemobile

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Blah blah blah.
Tldr. I'm right you're wrong. No matter who your audience, never assume they know anything


Also, suprised no one has had a puppy over this one "A complete knowledge of the Fridrich method steps and algorithms are basically a requirement for near world record solves"

I am unsure if OP's thing is about speedsolving, or fridrich
 
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applemobile

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Nice retort. I'll try that the next time I present a scientific paper to a room of well-established and respected academics.
If you are presenting to a room full of well-established and respected academics then you know that they understand the basics, so you are not assuming anything. OP is writing to a blind audience, he has to assume everything.
 
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