Man takes 26 years to solve Rubik’s Cube

For the last 26 years Graham Parker has been obsessed with solving Rubik's cube. He finally did it.
200901121125 'I cannot tell you what a relief it was to finally solve it,' the 45-year-old from Portchester, Hampshire, said. 'It has driven me mad over the years – it felt like it had taken over my life.

'I have missed important events to stay in and solve it and I would lie awake at night thinking about it.

'I have had wrist and back problems from spending hours on it but it was all worth it. When I clicked that last bit into place and each face was a solid colour, I wept.'

He's probably happy he solved it, but I predict that he is going to go through a period of depression.

Man takes 26 years to solve Rubik’s Cube (Via Arbroath)


  1. They’re really hard to solve when you’re wearing a straightjacket. (After 26 years, I’d be in one too.)

  2. I had one for about three weeks before I disassembled an reassembled it(it was a rubix globe). This guy has got some real patience. You would think there is a guide online that could have helped him out in about 10 minutes.

  3. Stop the presses!

    Man takes 30 years to finish reading Ulysses.

    Man takes 17 years to complete a 100 piece puzzle.

    Woman takes 2 years to finish watching the Godfather Trilogy.

    Baby takes 3 years to say first complete sentence.

  4. I wonder if he finally solved it once as a fluke or if he understands how to get from unsolved to solved now? If someone mixes his cube up, is it going to take 26 more years to solve it?

  5. This is a fine example of brute force vs. intelligence. The cube can be solved in mere minutes if you’ve figured out or learned the algorithm, or 26 years if you’re just trying to rotate pieces into place based on your gut feeling.

    It’s analogous to adding up all the numbers between 1 and n by hand vs. using the formula n(n+1)/2.

    I don’t fault the guy – I know I don’t have the mental ability to derive the solution to the rubik’s cube. In fact, very few people do: this sort of thing is what separates geniuses from average people. What I do have is the common sense to learn from my mental superiors.

  6. Wow. I really hope nobody points out to him all the freely available algorithms on the net for learning how to solve it.

  7. I like finding unsolved cubes at friends’ places and solving them while talking to them. They’re often amazed as the thing’s been sitting gathering dust for years. Of course, it’s not really amazing with the “how to solve the cube” sites out there (although I learned how from the original book).

    I wonder what would have happened to this guy’s mind if someone had come over and solved his for him in a minute or two. I imagine there’d be a nice padded cell for him after the attack.

  8. I saw this article earlier. He knows there’s guides (now on the net, but not when he started) but he wanted to do it himself. And good on him for succeeding. I know I’ve resorted to the guides way before 26 years.

  9. life could play the cruelest trick on this guy when one of his neghbors or friends innocently shows up to his house just to re-scrambles the cube thus forcing this guy to lose another 2o years of his life re-solving the puzzle all over again!

  10. #7: Well, or an example of the difference between brute force and more efficient means of solving algorithms (at least those for which am more
    efficient solution has been found).

    It would make a fantastic teaching example for an algorithmics course: Give the students a copy of the article about this guy, then show them this. (Then, after witty comments about the record holder being inspired by his girlfriend, teach them some algorithms for solving it.)

  11. “or 26 years if you’re just trying to rotate pieces into place based on your gut feeling.”

    i doubt he used brute force. With 43 quintillion possible unsolved states, the chances of going through one of the few solved states is astronomical. He probably figured out algorithms on his own, which is way harder than asking other people or looking them up.

    i can do the cube in about 2 min but i only came up with 2 or 3 of my algorithms on my own.

  12. Coop @5, my husband and I both solved it the same way you did. We figured it was the graphic arts background.

  13. did he just keep randomly turning the thing? i suppose eventually you’d end up back to the original configuration lol

  14. It’s kind of telling, that people only acknowledge “brute force”; “looking up the algorithm on the internet”; and “being a genius”.

    You don’t need to be a genius to figure out the Rubik’s Cube on your own – it just takes a while. I also don’t see what is rewarding about learning the solution by rote.

    I’m still working on mine, on and off, because I’m not a genius but find it kind of beautiful nonetheless. Likewise, I’m working on a Ph.D. in a subject I find interesting, even though I am merely competent (and, more importantly, comfortable with brainstorming and taking risks), and not a “genius”.

    It’s just remarkable to me, that the reaction to something mathy is automatically to cram for it, or pass it off to the geniuses. Even if it’s meant to be amusement.

  15. @#18: yes, that might happen, if you had a few billion years of free time on your hands. Otherwise he could also figure out how the cube actually moves, and what moves you can do without upsetting other pieces.

  16. I don’t know the algorithms and I don’t want to. I would like to figure it out on my own, one day. I’m starting with a mini Rubik’s cube (8 little cubes), which is hard enough for my befuddled brain.

  17. “I don’t know the algorithms and I don’t want to.”

    well thats the point. you do want to, you just want to figure them out on your own. if you don’t know a series of moves that swaps pieces without disturbing the rest, then the only other method is random turning, and you aren’t going to live long enough for that.

  18. At last a candidate for my title, “The Most Wasted Life,” I thought I was going to have to wear the belt forever.

  19. TNH @16, I considered the peel-the-stickers approach, but figured the stickers might not stick back on after having been peeled. So I took the whole cube apart and put it back together solved.

  20. No, no, no, no, no! Don’t peel-n-stick! That takes too long. If you smash it on the concrete the little cube bits pop off. Pop them back in in the correct order, and you’re done. THIS is the Brute Force method. At least it worked on the ones they made in the 80’s.
    I’m sure this guy is really good at other stuff.

  21. Good effort! I bet he’s the only one here who’s solved it *properly* – by figuring it out on his own.

  22. @ OM:
    now that he’s solved the 3x3x3, the rubik’s revenge (4x4x4) is pretty simple to solve. there are only 2-3 moves needed to turn a 4×4 into a 3×3 and they are rather intuitive, especially for someone who has spent a quarter century cubing.

  23. #29 Avram

    My preferred ‘solution’ all those years ago too.

    Graham Parker is lucky no one found his cube, dropped it, and reinstated it with one of the corners rotated, thereby rendering it insoluble.

  24. This is an odd story. The original instructions for the cube give you advice for completing one side. Those mechanics alone should give you enough to have a fighting chance at solving it in a reasonable amount of time. I think that the odds of “accidentally” solving it are astronomical.

    Having owned a few different destroyed or confiscated rubik’s cubes, I solved it on a Christmas day in an obsessive 8 hours of experimental twisting. When I solved it, I didn’t really know that my next move would solve it, but I knew I was close. It was like magic. It wasn’t magic, obviously, and not really a testament to any superior mental powers my ego likes to imagine that I possess.

    It’s just a matter of preservation of order. Once you get a part of the cube into an ordered state, you have to concentrate on preserving that while getting other pieces into place. If getting another piece in place breaks up the order of what you had before, return to what you had before hopefully not displacing the new piece. That’s basically how I solved it. I knew one algorithm, how to get one specific piece into a place on one side, that’s all I really know how to do. I could do it again, but it would probably take the same, if not more time, I don’t really ‘know’ how to solve it. All I can do is one side.

    Anyway, that’s what makes this story so weird to me, as I feel that once you figure out how to create some sort of order to the situation, the solution is inevitable. Just don’t go backwards. He apparently had no method or it wouldn’t have taken him this long. His right hemisphere did it.

  25. When I learned I could pop-out the corner with a screwdriver in my pocket-knife and then re-arrange the positions, I “solved” it.

    That was one of my proudest childhood “hacks.”

  26. I have a slightly different method of “brute forcing” it!

    Turn one side to 45 degrees, so a corner is poking out. Press outward hard on that protruding corner, the piece will pop out. The rest come out easily, leaving you with a core and a bunch of pieces to snap back into place solved.

    Brute force ;-)

  27. When I first heard of the cube, oh maybe about 26 years ago, I went and bought one. And what do you know? It came with a piece of paper explaining how to solve it. I tried to ignore that piece of paper, determined to find the solution myself. I solved it in less than 1 hour. But not because I’m a genius. It seems my resolve was not so strong either. :-)

  28. Once you’ve solved two layers, the important but overlooked step of the final layer is to solve the corners first, then work on the four final two-colored edge pieces.
    It’s still very difficult, but that advice probably would have saved him about ten years.

  29. I just did the math, and solving the rubik’s cube with random twists seems a lot more common than i would guess. The chances of you doing 20 moves on the rubik’s cube (because that’s how many moves it takes for a cube to be solved in any state) are 1 in 360. I would have gessed something way more.

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