Insights and Impact

Manual: 1 in 43 Quintillion 

How things work 


Sasha Liu

At the annual Albatross Open in March, Sasha Liu, CAS/BS ’24, swam the men’s 50-meter butterfly in 35.32 seconds. But they can solve a Rubik’s Cube in half that time.   
The biology major picked up the 3D puzzle—invented in 1974 by Hungarian architect and professor Ernő Rubik—during the pandemic to help focus their mind. After the Brooklyn native turned to YouTube to learn the algorithms, or sequence of moves, they were able to solve the cube in five tries. “By the tenth time, I didn’t even have to think about it.”
The parallels between cubing and swimming—“both require repetition and [searing] the moves into your brain”—extend to Liu’s studies in AU’s Hall of Science.
“Biology and chemistry involve a lot of step-by-step processes. You have to know those processes, but you don’t necessarily have to know why they work. It’s the same with the Rubik’s Cube: You don’t have to know what’s happening to the pieces you’re moving around, just that you’re moving them around correctly."  

The Rubik’s Cube has 43 quintillion combinations—but only one solution. Here are the first steps:

  1. Hold the white center piece on top. Find an edge—a piece with two colors on it—on the bottom layer that has white on it.
  2. Look at the edge piece’s other color and turn the bottom layer so the edge is under the center of the same color. 
  3. Turn that face to bring the edge piece to the top. 
  4. Solve all four of the white edge pieces to make a cross. Make sure to look at both colors on each piece to ensure the side colors match as well.