Fourteen-year-old Lucas Etter is now the Roger Bannister of the Rubik’s cube. On Saturday, Etter became the first person to solve a Rubik’s cube in less than five seconds under sanctioned competitive conditions. That’s the kind of breakthrough that Bannister made in 1954 when he became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. Etter’s time was 4.90 seconds, 0.35 seconds better than the record-holder going into Saturday’s competition, Collin Burns.1 The chart above shows the progression of the official world record, according to the World Cube Association.
In these competitions, the colorful cubes are randomly scrambled according to a computer program, and a solver has 15 seconds to inspect a cube before racing to spin it back to its organized state. The first official record — 22.95 seconds — was set at the first world championship, held in 1982 in Hungary, home country of the cube’s inventor, Erno Rubik. But speed cubing went into hibernation for two decades, until the next world championship was held in 2003. From there, the record has fallen precipitously, thanks to innovations like the Fridrich method, the Petrus system and even “cube lube.”
If you’re curious what it looks like to solve a Rubik’s cube in less than five seconds, here’s video of Etter’s feat, which occurred at a tournament in Clarksville, Maryland.