What Anthony Brooks can do with his computer-like memory and lightning-fast fingers will amaze you.
The University of Texas at Arlington senior has mastered the art of unscrambling a Rubik’s Cube.
The famously frustrating, 3-D puzzle (with six colored sides and nine squares per side) has more than 43 quintillion possible combinations but only one solution.
Brooks can blaze through the many permutations and solve the puzzle in mere seconds.
He is a former national “speedcubing” champion and has set more than 80 continental records, which include one-handed and blindfolded categories. In 2014, he set a Guinness World Record for most Rubik’s Cubes solved in one breath while underwater: five!
Brooks is one of three North Texans putting their remarkable mental and physical skills on display in a new reality-competition Fox series called “SuperHuman.”
The show, hosted by actor Kal Penn, premieres at 8 p.m. Monday on KDFW/Channel 4.
The other Dallas-Fort Worth-area superhumans are David Millar of Fort Worth, who will show off a remarkable ability to memorize mazes, and Kamen Casey of Dallas, a martial arts master with an uncanny knack for anticipating an opponent’s every move.
When Fox introduced “SuperHuman” in January 2016 as a two-hour special, another North Texan was showcased: memory expert Ronnie White of Fort Worth.
Put these men and their talents together and they could become the basis of a formidable, albeit very specific, superhero team.
“If ever there’s a Rubik’s Cube bomb that needs to be solved in under a minute to save the planet,” Brooks jokes, “then I’m your guy.”
Mastering the Cube
Brooks will appear in the fourth episode, airing July 3. Millar is in episode 2 (June 19). Casey is in episode 7 (July 24).
The mind-boggling speed with which Brooks solves Rubik’s Cube conundrums seems nothing short of miraculous. But Brooks insists that almost anyone can do it. He learned an algorithm-based system (there are many demonstrations on YouTube) and then honed the skill with practice, practice, practice.
“It wasn’t a like I just picked up a cube and could immediately do it,” he says. “When someone says they did something like that, that they picked up a cube when they were 7 and twisted it around a few times until it came back together, my response is, ‘It probably wasn’t that mixed up to begin with.’ ”
Here’s how Brooks does it:
Hand him a scrambled cube and he’ll start spinning the edges, an ever-changing jumble of colored squares, until he recognizes a pattern. “I know thousands of these patterns,” he says. “The first two-thirds of this process is pretty much making it up as I go along. The last third is where I reduce the cube to a finite number of positions.”
At this point, Brooks almost doesn’t need to think it through any more.
“The algorithms are stored in my muscle memory,” he says. “So when I see a pattern, even if I’m on a big TV show like ‘SuperHuman,’ where it’s a high-pressure situation, my fingers know what to do and I can trust that.”
Of course, if you’ve ever toyed around with a Rubik’s Cube, you’ll know he’s making it sound much, much easier than it actually is.
Brooks, a native Texan who moved to DFW from Brownsville to study economics and business administration at UTA, has one semester left before he graduates.
He’s not sure what his future holds, but his speedcubing skills will probably be put to use. He already travels all over the country almost every weekend to perform or compete in various events.
Putting the pieces together
Millar, a self-proclaimed “King of Puzzles,” is a computer software developer by day and a freelance puzzle author and blogger by night.
“I’ve always been good with puzzles,” he says. “I’ve been drawing mazes ever since I was a kid, 7 or 8 years old. After all this time, I can see a maze now and instantly see the path through it.”
In his “SuperHuman” episode, Millar glances at a giant maze and then, without looking, guides Penn through it from memory.
“The way I remember all the twists and turns,” Millar says, “for me, I see it almost like cursive writing in my mind.”
If you’re looking for a navigator or co-pilot, you can’t ask for a better sidekick.
But be sure to hand him a map first. “I’m still a little new to the area,” Millar says. “I’ve lived in Fort Worth only about three years now. I moved here from Michigan. So I’m still getting to know the city.”
At the end of each episode, the studio audience’s favorite of five “SuperHuman” contestants will be awarded a $50,000 prize. Millar admits the potential to line his pockets was enticing, but he says the real incentive for appearing on the show was to demonstrate a skill that often gets overlooked.
“We see a lot of superstar athletes getting their moment in the spotlight, meeting with the president and so forth,” he says. “But we also have a lot of super-intelligent people with a lot of interesting skills in this country, and I think it’s about time we took a moment to glorify that.”
All the right moves
That said, “SuperHuman” also allows people to show off their physical prowess.
Casey, who has lived in Dallas since he was in grade school, is a first-degree black belt in karate. He says he discovered his knack for sensing an opponent’s every move while studying in Chuck Norris’ Kickstart Karate Program as a middle-schooler.
“Anticipating what’s coming next, that’s always the goal,” Casey says. “It’s something I’ve always been good at.”
In his episode of “SuperHuman,” he shows what he can do while blindfolded.
Casey said he hopes the show serves as a launch pad for his career as an actor and stunt man.
“I want to be the next big movie action star,” he says. “I would love to work with guys like The Rock, Vin Diesel and Jason Statham.”
Casey compares his gig on “SuperHuman” to being in the circus.
“Everyone is super-talented and everyone does vastly different things,” he says. “Watching a couple of people and the things they could do, especially the ones who were good with math and memory, I was like, ‘I definitely could have used that skill in college.’
“In the end, everyone there was just so humbled by the person standing next to them. One of us would be like, ‘Man, how did you do that?’ And they’d ask back, ‘Man, how did you do that?’
“Being able to take part in that was very cool.”
- 8 p.m. Monday
- KDFW/Channel 4