Douwe Osinga's Blog: Memory Systems

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Wired has a piece about the American Championship remembering stuff. People compete in things like is remembering the order of a stack of cards, random poetry or the binary digits. The world champion in binary digits does around 3000 in 30 minutes, i.e. memorizes 100 bits per minutes. Computers laugh about this, of course, but to a human this sounds pretty impressive.

I was discussing this article with Hans-Peter and how you could do something like this and we imagined, they'd probably memorize a lot of words, say 1024, and then name every 10 bits after a word, thus reducing the stack of 3000 bits into a list of 300 random words, which is still hard, but already sounds a lot more doable.

Random words are, of course, harder than words that make some sense, so it would probably be better to mix in some colors, other adjectives, numerals and verbs. This could actually be a usefull technique applicable in every day. Make a list of ten colors, ten verbs, ten locations, etc, etc and you can code complex numbers in sentences like 'seven gray birds jumped happily into the dark river.' Remembering a telephone number was never this easy.