Tuesday, January 8, 2019

--- Remembering the numbers ---

My memory has never been that great. I've mentioned elsewhere that my grades were not that good in high school, but I made it through and found that, to survive college, I was going to need help. I found it in a book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas called "The Memory Book". It's still in print along with other books by Lorayne.

There might be those out there that remember Jerry Lucas as a basketball star - and he was, but if you look at his Wikipedia article, you'll see that he's also remembered as a memory educator. To publicize the Memory Book he memorized half the New York phone book. "Why not all of it?" you might ask> Have you ever seen the New York City phone book?

Anyway, I whole heartedly recommend the Memory Book for anyone that wants to improve their memory. It builds on the Major system for memorizing big numbers and association for remembering lists of words and goes on to explain how you can remember spatial information like map locations. I used it in organic and pharmaceutical chemistry to remember complex organic molecule structures. About the only thing it doesn't handle is prose language and it even helps with that.

I won't tell you about the whole system here (get the book!) but, since we're talking numbers, I'll give you the major system.

You can easily turn big numbers into words and, if you link those words together into a story, you'll never forget the numbers. Here's how.

There are ten consonants in the English language. "Okay, wait," you say, "there's way more than 10 consonants in the English language." but many are formed alike. For instance, j, ch, gee sound very similarly because they're all made by placing the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and blowing air around it in a short burst. Here are the consonants and the digits they represents.

t,d - because there's 1 down stroke in "t" it represents 1.
n has 2 down strokes, so it represents 2.
m has 3 down strokes, so - 3.
r - four ends with an "r" so r reminds you of 4.
l - when you hold your hand out with your 5 fingers spread out, the thumb and first finger is in the shape of a capital "L" so "l" represents 5.
j is almost a backward 6 so j, ch, sh, and gee represent 6.
k and g (as in "get") - you can place two 7s together to form a k, so it's easy to remember that "k" represents 7.
A small cursive f looks like an 8 so f, ph, v all represent 8
P is practically a backward 9, so p or b represents 9
and z and s represent 0.

With all that, you can make words out of any number. Say you want to remember your computer's IP number and it is 76 becomes k-ch. Since the vowels have no numerical value, you can use any of them to fill in the gaps, so 76 could be "catch".

5 becomes "l" so 5 can be "eel", Catch an eel doing what?

Well, 27 becomes n-k so you might catch an eel knocking on something.

It's all waterworld for eels, so 159 becomes t-l-p and it's obvious that you caught an eel knocking on your pet tilapia. Oh yeah, the stories you make up out of your number words should be ridiculous so you will remember them.

This system takes a while to explain, but it's really easy to remember and very quickly becomes second nature. I found myself driving around memorizing license plate numbers. One of my exercises was to memorize all the states of the United States, their capitals, populations, highest points, and elevations of highest points.

Even with the system, your memories have to be refreshed occasionally and I've long ago forgotten what I memorized but I retained it for years.

I use it now for remembering partial calculations in long mental mathematics problems.

Try it out. You'll be surprised at how easy it is.

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