Gleaning The Secrets Of Rubik's Cube

Remember the Rubik's Cube? The crazy, confounding puzzle was all the rage in the 1980s. Well, it's back and more frustrating than ever. CBS News correspondent Joie Chen went to one Rubik's contest outside of Atlanta to try to discover the secrets of the cube. She described how it went.


The Rubik's Cube contest at this north Atlanta high school is just humiliating. These kids flip, spin and click the cubes into place in seconds, and you can't solve this thing in ten hours.

Well, I couldn't anyway – even with a lot of expert help.

Joy Wang tried to show me how to solve the puzzle.

"You're going to take all your white petals and move it around," she said.

That should have been doable, but it wasn't.

"We want to bring this one back, right?" Joy suggested.

I was totally lost.

In this back to the future moment, I was once again the class idiot.

I didn't even realize how hot the cube had gotten. Hasbro says it's seen double digit sales growth, thanks in past to Will Smith's movie The Pursuit of Happyness.

That's not a stunt double solving Rubik's Cube on screen. Will learned how to do it from one of Joy Wang's best friends.

She'll tell you the secret: just learn the algorithms – whatever they are.

"It's just seeing different patterns and using an algorithm, which is a set of moves, to put it back," Joy told me, but I was never very good at math.

"No math required," Joy said.

She didn't mention that she got a perfect score on her math SATs and hangs out with other braniacs like 16-year-old Grace Greenwood.

I asked Grace what her best time was.

"Oh, I'm not as fast as some of the kids here," she said. "There was a kid who solved it in 11 seconds."

That kid is Andrew Kang – aka "The Beast." I watched him finish a cube in 10.69 seconds.

He held a new world record… for a couple of weeks.

"I just lock myself in my room two to four hours a day practicing," Andrew told me. I asked him if his parents knew about that.

And then there's Chris Hardwicke. The 3-by-3 cube is too easy for him. He does the 4-by-4 version and the 5-by-5 ones. Blindfolded. In 20 minutes. Really.

Everyone asks him how he does it.

"I tell myself a story, a particular journey through my neighborhood where I grew up so it's a way to file the information away," Chris answers.

So this is what becomes of a UNC honors graduate in mathematics.

Chris works at Starbucks, but hopes to make his fortune on the international cubing circuit.

Me, I'm gonna stick with my day job. Even with Joy Wang's help I couldn't finish Rubik's Cube.

There was one person at the contest who was on the same level as me. She looked to be about two years old, and her mom was coaching her through the puzzle.