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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.

A review of my memory improvement book!

16 Aug

I just came across this review of my book. Many thanks to The Art of Memory.

There is also a lengthy summary in the comments.

Comedian Shane Mauss and I discuss memory

15 Dec

Some months ago I received an email from comedian Shane Mauss, asking if I would like to be interviewed for a new podcast project he was working on. Mauss is creating a series of podcast interviews with scientists titled Here We Are.

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Shane is a first class guy and the process of being interviewed was a lot of fun. You can read the program notes here, and find the mp3 here or download it from itunes.

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“Remembering Willie Nelson” now available on Kindle

5 Dec

My book is now available on Kindle.

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My book on memory improvement

3 Dec

Now on sale at Amazon, my book on memory improvement: Remembering Willie Nelson: The Science of Peak Memory .

Here is an excerpt form the  jacket description:

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A MEMORY LIKE GOOGLE? Have you tried the tricks other memory books teach and given up? Can you actually improve your memory? What does science say? Memory researcher Jeremy Genovese knows there’s good news – science offers real help. A growing body of research has given us tools and techniques for REAL memory improvement. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the science of peak memory. Dr. Genovese’s book bridges that gap. Remembering Willie Nelson: The Science of Peak Memory introduces a number of ideas accepted by memory scientists, but largely unknown outside the laboratory. In easy-to-understand language, Dr. Genovese explains how you can harness these ideas to dramatically improve your memory. What would a better memory mean for you? Better grades? A better income? Not forgetting someone’s name? Remembering where you parked?”

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Memory expert: Harry Lorayne

14 Mar

One of the first memory books I ever read was The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. Recently, I found this wonderful podcast interview with Lorayne. Michael Senoff does a good job of asking interesting questions while Lorayne tells about his background in memory, magic, publishing, and show business.

In the interview, Lorayne mentions that he had not yet found a publisher for his autobiography. Apparently, it was finally published in 2013 under the title Before I Forget, I’ll have to track down a copy.

 

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My memory improvement book

4 Mar

Exciting news! Over the weekend I signed a contract with a publisher to write a book on memory improvement. The working title is Remembering Willie Nelson: The Science of Memory Training. The publisher is Moonshine Cove Publishing, an independent house.

The book will be grounded in psychology and brain science. I will describe important experiments and findings that bear on our understanding of memory. It will also explain why memory remains central to education and modern life.

My book will also include my plan for daily memory practice that will help readers with the range of important memory tasks; including remembering names, learning foreign language vocabulary, studying for exams, and recalling computer passwords.

I deliver my final manuscript to the publisher in late November. I will keep you updated on my progress.

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Pioneers of memory improvement

10 Sep

A central purpose of this blog is to help you use the science to improve your memory. Thus, it straddles the space between research and self help.

There have been a number of people who have contributed to both memory scholarship and the self help literature on memory.

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My model here is the work of the couple Chesley and Morris Young.

Chesley Virginia Barnes served as a cryptographer in World War II, She met Morris while they were both stationed in Naples. He was serving as an army physician.

As a boy growing up in Lawrence, Massachusetts Morris Nathan Young saw Harry Houdini escape from a strait jacket while suspended upside from the tallest building in town. Young got to shake Houdini’s hand and developed a life long interest in magic.

By age 17 Young was himself performing as a magician and his act impressed Houdini.

Young studied at MIT as an undergraduate and earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Harvard. He later attended medical school. He chose his specialty, opthalmology, because of his interest in how the eye could be fooled by misdirection and sleight of hand. His friendship with and admiration of Houdini led Morris to become interest in body control in general and memory improvement in particular.

Both of the Youngs wrote popular memory improvement books. Morris Young also published an extensive scholarly bibliography on memory. They amassed one of the largest collections of books and pamphlets on memory, which was eventually donated to the University of San Marino. Their writings blended insights from the practical experience of memory improvement techniques and from the scientific literature on memory. This blog tries to follow their example.

Sources:

Martin, D. (2002) Morris N. Young, eye doctor and collector, dies at 93. [New York Times, November 24, ]

Tanne, J. H. (2002). Morris Nathan Young. BMJ, 25, [December 14, 2002, p. 1424]

 

Alfred Hitchcock, Mr. Memory, and Asperger’s syndrome

13 Jul

Alfred Hitchcock‘s film, the 39 Steps, bears only the slightest resemblance to the novel whose title it borrows. One of the many differences is the character Mr. Memory, who is central to the film but does not appear in the book.You can see him briefly in this trailer:

The entire film can be watched on line here.

It may surprise you that Mr. Memory was based on a real person, the English music hall sensation, W. J. M. Bottle, who preformed under the stage name Datas. Bottle could recall thousands of obscure facts and  answer trivia questions shouted from the audience, The ages and birthdays of celebrities, the results of sporting matches, obscure facts of geography; his range of knowledge was astounding (see Ricky Jay’s fantastic book Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women for more details).

Bottle  wrote a memoir where he disclaimed any early knowledge of special memory powers. In the same book he tells of his accidental discovery of his powerful memory when he overheard two men trying to remember the date of the verdict in the Tichborne trial, a notorious Victorian scandal.

Heir to a great fortune Roger Tichborne had been lost at sea and pronounced dead. A Australian butcher named Arthur Orton, who bore only a slight resemblance to the missing man, came forward and claimed to be Tichborn. Orton’s claim was accepted by Tichborn’s mother, but after her death Orton tried to claim the inheritance. His bid failed and he was eventually convicted of perjury.

Bottle provided them the date of Orton’s conviction; February 28, 1874. When one of the men expressed surprise that Bottle would know a date of an event that occurred before his birth, Bottle proceeded to provide all the important details of the Tichborne case.

 
In his memoir, Bottle tells us “finding how surprised they were at my stock of knowledge, I felt encouraged, and continued with a number of dates of events in English history, and the names of Derby and Oaks’ winners, in rapid succession.” Bottle’s performance was overheard by a theatrical promoter who invited him to appear on the Standard Music Hall that very night still in his dirty work clothes. He was an instant success and soon quit his job as a manual laborer at a gas works for a life in show business.

 
Reading Bottle’s autobiography one finds evidence that Bottle may have had Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by social awkwardness and obsessive interest in facts and details. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are hyperlexic, teaching themselves to read at an early age. Bottle had scant schooling and taught himself to read. As a child he showed obsessive interest in obscure facts; “from memorizing shop-keepers’ names I got to cabbies’ and policeman’s number. Like most children with Asperger’s syndrome he had little interest in his peers. “I was not the same as most other children” in that I took no part in their games, having no desire to.”

 
Bottle had great powers of visualization and he may have also had synesthesia, which is often associated with superior memory.

Dan Brown on Memory

23 Jun

My brother, Michael, drew my attention to this interview with Dan Brown in today’s New York Times:

“I don’t read self-help, although I recently found myself helped inadvertently by reading “Moonwalking With Einstein,” which centers on the science of remembering. I picked up the book because I’ve always been interested in why some people have great memories and others (like myself) do not. Strangely, I discovered that simply reading about the methods used by memory champions helped me improve my own memory. Now at least I can remember where I left my glasses.”

Dan Brown is correct, “Moonwalking With Einstein” is a great read.

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