A 14 year old has become the first person to solve a standard Rubik’s cube in under five seconds. Lucas Etter’s performance meant the world’s best time was beaten twice on the same day.
Although the World Cube Association recognizes a variety of world records, including different sized and shaped puzzles, and records based on average speed over several attempts, Etter was taking part in what seems to be regarded as the premium event.
The category, simply titled Rubik’s Cube, involves a cube with a 3×3 grid on each side being randomly scrambled in line with a computer program. The contestant is allowed 15 seconds to pick up and inspect the cube (without manipulating it) and must then put it down on a timer mat and immediately pick it up again, which starts the clock. The clock runs until the contestant puts the completed cube back down on the mat.
Competitive cubing requires more than the simple mental agility of solving the problem as contestants must also use finger skills to manipulate the cube at high speed. Contestants use specially designed cubes which have plastic squares rather than stickers and can operate at high speeds without popping apart. A contestant is also allowed to adjust the tension in the cube and to use lubricant on the mechanism.
The record has fallen dramatically in the mid-2000s from more than 15 seconds to around seven seconds in the space of a few years. However, it had seemingly plateaued at between five and six seconds since 2011.
Before the competition last weekend the record stood at 5.25 seconds. Another competitor, Keaton Ellis, beat this with 5.09 seconds at the event in Clarksville, Maryland. Etter then topped it with 4.904 seconds.
Sadly for Ellis, the World Cube Association’s procedure for translating competition results into official world record standings means he will not be formally recognized as a (short-live) world record holder.