Hospice Is Hope: Solving a Puzzle

Math professor JW Gaberdiel, left, listens to Dr. Evar Nering explain his formula for solving the Rubik’s Cube. (Hospice of the Valley/Submitted)

By Lin Sue Flood, Hospice of the Valley
Director of Community Engagement

Dr. Evar Nering’s passion for numbers has only grown stronger over a century of living.
The 101-year-old began his career as a young man at Princeton, earning his Ph.D. in mathematics. He later helped create an algorithm for linear programming that garnered five patents. He spent three decades teaching at ASU, building its math program and chairing the department for eight years.

Obviously, Nering has a lot of experience with equations, theorems and statistics. But his most pressing challenge is the one he is facing now: how to share his algorithm for solving the Rubik’s Cube.

Most people abandon the frustrating 3D puzzle within a few minutes. But not Nering. He was so intrigued that he set out to create a mathematical formula that anyone could use.
“I’ve seen videos of people working the Rubik’s Cube super fast, but I can’t tell what’s happening,” the Scottsdale resident chuckles. “I’m not about speed or competing. At my age, I just want to give my algorithm to the world — as my legacy.”

As soon as Nering’s Hospice of the Valley care team heard about his dream, they wanted to help. “Even at 101, he is very mentally alert and loves to talk about math,” social worker Alanna Ambos says. “We decided to connect him with someone who shares that same joy.”
So Ambos and nurse Bonnie Lazzeri teamed with Nering’s daughter and caregiver to reach out to a math professor at Gateway Community College. JW Gaberdiel agreed to visit Evar to learn about his formula.

“Evar’s algorithm is for any cube size and that’s part of its power,” Gaberdiel says. “His approach is symmetric and beautiful, but not necessarily fast. That is also its charm. There’s something elegant about it.”

The men spent two hours chatting about Nering’s life, career and dream to help all of us conquer the Rubik’s Cube.

“I like the challenge of solving problems,” Nering admits. “And getting my algorithm out there in the public domain is just one more thing to figure out.”

In the meantime, he’s sharing it with us at https://bit.ly/HOVRubiks