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Dominic O’Brien: Eight Time World Memory Champion

20 Sep

Here is a video of Dominic O’Brien memorizing a deck of cards and talking a bit about his career.

Of the popular memory improvement books, I think O’Brien’s are among the best.

How to remember KIC 8462852

26 Oct

I am fascinated by the very remote possibility that observations of the star KIC 8462852 may be evidence for an extra-terrestrial civilization.

I don’t have the competence to evaluate or comment on the evidence. What I can do is help you to commit the name “KIC 8462852” to memory.

First, you need to know the Dominic System and the Peg System,  they will take you only a few minutes to learn and its worth effort.

KIC stands for Kepler Input Catalog, but it might help to remember it as Kentucky Intergalactic Chicken (perhaps what they serve at the Star Wars bar).

 

Now, in the Domonic System 84 translates to HD – think Humpty Dumpty

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62 is SB or Sleeping Beauty

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85 is HE, why not Happy Easter?

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Now we have one more digit 2 so lets use the Peg System and represent it as a shoe.

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So just think of Humpty Dumpty, Sleeping Beauty, celebrating a happy Easter all nestled inside a shoe. The more ridiculous and vivid you can make the image the easier it will be to remember.

Now you’ll sound really smart.

Memorizing passwords

18 Feb

This Popular Science article lists some of worlds worst computer passwords:

“Last fall, hackers leaked 10 million email passwords on a Russian Bitcoin forum. Bogdan Calin, the chief technology officer for Web security firm Acunetix, sifted through the data and found almost 50,000 Gmail accounts with the same password: 123456. In fact, strings of consecutive numbers comprised half of the top 10 most common codes.”

One of the reasons people use terrible passwords is that good ones are hard to memorize. A useful technique to help you remember your passwords is the Dominic mnemonic system, described in detail in my book. But go here for a good summary.

Here is a video of Dominic O’Brien on memory:

 

 

Dominic O’Brien explains his memory techniques

23 Feb

There are many good popular books on mnemonic techniques, of these, I think Dominic O’Brien’s are the best. Here is a talk where he explains some of these methods.

 

 

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Thoughts on memory books

23 Jun

There are, in general, two types of memory books: scientific studies of memory or self improvement books.

One of my hopes for this blog is to bridge the gap between these two types of literature.

This means that I take seriously many popular books on memory improvement. Writers such as Harry Lorayne, Domonic O’Brien, and Tony Buzan are not scientists but they have made real contributions to memory improvement and should not be ignored. When Harry Lorayne  wrote that “all knowledge and learning is based on connecting new things to things you already know”  he was writing from his own experience and from the tradition of memory self-improvement. Yet, his observation is in keeping with the findings of modern memory science.  More over, Lorayne and others have demonstrated remarkable feats of memory that demand explanation and are worthy of scientific investigation. For example, Domonic O’Brien, once memorized 316 random digits in five minutes. His ability to memorize cards is so good that he has been banned from many casinos.

My only criticism of these popular books is their almost exclusive reliance on mnemonics. Now, mnemonics are a powerful technique that I use all the time, and I will certainly feature them in this blog. However, there are other techniques that are less well known, particularly spaced repetition learning that help us remember  many things that are not easily handled by mnemonics. You can try out spaced repetition learning at Memrise.

Expert memory

22 Jun

We have a box at the Chautauqua Post Office.

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And here is our Post Office Box

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We live just outside of Cleveland and there is a ten month gap between our visits to the Institution. so remembering information over that gap is a problem. How do you remember the number of a Post Office box that you only need to know during the summer?

I am able to remember the box number 1239 using the D.O.M.O.N.I.C mnemonic system invented by Dominic O’Brien. This system assigns letters to each of the numbers zero to nine. Then every pair of numbers is remembered as the initials of some memorable person. For example, the system assigns the letter “C” to the number 3 you might remember the number combination 33 as Chelsea Clinton.

In the case of my P.O. box I use Annie Bessant (12) and Carrie Nation (39). The people you choose should be memorable to you, and everyone’s list will be different.

I use a similar to mnemonic to remember the box’s combination, but I think it might be unwise to share it on the Internet.

However, the most interesting memory story I have from my visit to the Post Office is that the mail clerk, who hasn’t seen me for ten months and handles thousands of pieces of mail for thousands of customers, remembered my last name.

I believe that this is a case of expert memory, people have better memory for areas in which they have deep experience. For example, cocktail waitresses have better memory for drink orders than matched controls. Actors have superior memory for learning dialog. Chess experts are better at remembering chess positions and mail clerks may have better memory for the names of patrons.

When you develop and expertise in an area you build a deep knowledge of that subject or activity. In turn, your deep knowledge makes its easier for you to learn new material; as your knowledge grows you have more opportunities to associate new information to your expanding knowledge base.

This suggests that the more you know the easier it is to learn new material. This observation has important consequences for memory improvement.

Memory Myth #1: “I have a terrible memory.”

19 Jun

You probably don’t. Unless you suffer from some memory disorder, such as amnesia, you most likely have an ordinary memory that can be used more effectively.

We usually have a very positive view of ourselves. When asked to compare themselves with others on such desirable traits as intelligence, generosity, or leadership skills, most people rate themselves as above average; a mathematical impossibility. There is even a name for this very human trait. It is called flawed self-assessment.

Athletic performance and memory are the exceptions. Most of us know we are not star athletes and most of us believe that we have poor memories. Perhaps this anomaly is caused by the nature of the feedback the world provides. Our friends loathe to set us straight about our generosity. They may feel it impolite to relate their true feelings about our intelligence. Athletic and memory feedback, however, come to us more directly. If we start the race thinking we can finish first, our expectation will soon be confirmed or disproved. Similarly, a memory failure can be direct, immediate, often visible to all, and, sometimes, deeply embarrassing . More over, as we get older, memory failure stirs up deep fears of mental frailty and impending senility.

I have good news. it is unlikely that you have a poor memory, rather you have a memory that can be improved. As you read through the better books on memory improvement, the authors will often tell you that they have quite ordinary powers of recall. Here is Dominic O’Brien making speaking about his memory:

I do not believe that this false modesty. Most of us can improve our memories with the application of well validated techniques. These techniques include mnemonic strategies, improved attention, and spaced repetition learning.

Stay tuned to this blog: all these techniques will be discussed in detail.

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