American teenager Collin Burns broke the Rubik's Cube world record earlier this year by solving the cube in 5.25 seconds — about a third of a second faster than the previous record, set in 2013 by a Dutch teen. The video of Burns's achievement went viral as the world collectively gasped, "How on earth did he do that?" This video is our best attempt to answer that question.
Anyone who has handled a Rubik's Cube knows how frustrating the puzzle can be: You succeed in placing a handful of pieces, only to see that work unravel as you focus on the next section. But that's also what makes the Rubik's cube such an elegant design.
Ernő Rubik, the Hungarian professor of architecture who invented the puzzle in 1974, actually thought of it as a work of art. And indeed, you can see it on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Following the initial Rubik's Cube craze in the early 1980s, the puzzle might have been retired to museums and memorabilia if not for the internet. The internet is how Rubik's Cube world record holder Collin Burns learned how to speedsolve the cube. And the internet is how we learned about Collin Burns. (Warning: You don't want to watch this video with your volume up high.)
In the past decade, the Rubik's Cube has made a big comeback. Forty countries were represented at this week's World Championships in Brazil, and there are now 18 official events including 3x3 blindfolded, 3x3 one-handed, and 3x3 with feet. (The record-holding feet took 20.57 seconds to solve the cube.) There's even a 7x7 cube that takes the fastest cubers over 2 minutes to solve.
The 3x3 world record has been cut in half since 2007, with Collin Burns being the latest competitor to shave down that number. We caught up with him at a competition in Maryland in pursuit of an explanation for how he and other speedcubers are capable of dispensing with this notoriously difficult puzzle in a matter of seconds. Watch the video at the top of this post or at our YouTube channel to see what we found out.