One of the neat things that SpaceChem does is track your efficiency  how many instructions you used to solve a puzzle and how many cycles it took to complete  and then show you a bar graph that compares it against how many symbols and cycles other players took, letting you know the average time taken as well as the outliers in both directions. Often this graph is dispiriting, as I've managed to put together some hideously slow production lines on the more difficult stages. But nonetheless it's a fun challenge to try to build research reactors that are as fast and efficient as possible, finding weird techniques to squeeze out every last cycle.
Here's a few of the tricks I've come up with when optimizing the simplest reactors:
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All this is very nice and I've managed to create some very small and fast solutions to research problems. But, those tiny little bars at the far left of the chart, to the left of my best times and symbol counts, still taunt me. Someone completed "Double Bonds" using only seven symbols, better than my nine. Someone has a trick that let them do "A Complete History of SpaceChem" in less than 70 cycles, compared to my 107! It's driving me crazy. I must figure it out.
