Sunday, May 20, 2012

Remembering Everything

"The Art and Science of Remembering Everything" sure sounded appealing, what with my increasing lapses lately.  But "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Joshua Foer isn't about that at all.  It explores the history and science of memory. And it describes the bizarre memory competitions, U.S.and World Championships in which competitors memorize the order of decks of playing cards, large lists of numbers, entire poems and more, with time limits of just a few minutes. The author, a journalist, becomes so fascinated by his subject that he himself trains and competes in the U.S. Memory Championship.

The methodology of memory competitors, which is interesting because it could be put to more practical use, involves constructing vivid visual images for each item.  A visual image, the more outlandish the better, placed in a mental location such as the front door of one's childhood home, is the key to retrieval.

I found it amazing that even the Greeks had a well-developed memory methodology which was similar. Remembering things was so much more important in early times before widespread access to written material. And today we have externalized so much to electronic devices that we barely need to recall anything, only where we're stored the information.  Who knows the phone numbers of their friends any more? Or their own schedules?

This was a fun book, with an intruiging subject, lots of scientific anecdotes as well as nearly certifiable characters.

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