On a recent Sunday at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, there was a lot of rigorous twisting and twiddling of clickety-clacking multicoloured cubes.
The finalists of the main event at the 14th US National Speedcubing Championship were mostly university-aged dudes. One wore industrial-grade earmuffs during solves, another earplugs, another an In-N-Out Burger paper hat.
Feliks Zemdegs, a pale 22-year-old from Melbourne, took to the stage in shorts. Suddenly he was unscrambling the cube, wrenching his head back as if to give the mad flurry of his fingers more room. In roughly the time it will take you to read this sentence, there was a solved cube on the mat in front of him.
In the very specific sense of perfectly aligning the 54 coloured tiles of a Rubik’s cube, Zemdegs is the fastest man in the world. He has been...