Comment »Posted on Wednesday 11 August 2010 at 7:19 pm by Jacob Aron
In Mathematics

My latest article for New Scientist is about a mathematical proof showing that it’s always possible to solve a Rubik’s cube in 20 moves or less. Don’t expect to do it by hand though – cracking this puzzle required a supercomputer or two:

It has taken 15 years to get to this point, but it is now clear that every possible scrambled arrangement of the Rubik’s cube can be solved in a maximum of 20 moves – and you don’t even have to take the stickers off.

That’s according to a team who combined the computing might of Google with some clever mathematical insights to check all 43 quintillion possible jumbled positions the cube can take. Their feat solves the biggest remaining puzzle presented by the Rubik’s cube.

“The primary breakthrough was figuring out a way to solve so many positions, all at once, at such a fast rate,” says Tomas Rokicki, a programmer from Palo Alto, California, who has spent 15 years searching for the minimum number of moves guaranteed to solve any configuration of the Rubik’s cube.

Read the rest at New Scientist.

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