Always remember where you parked? Never forgot the name of that one guy from high school chemistry class, even though it's 10 years later? Congratulations, you can now become an elite athlete. A memory athlete. Cash prizes are within your grasp.
Where do memory athletes compete? In the Extreme Memory Tournament, a competition held for the first time this year by scientists from academic and industrial backgrounds. The New York Times article on the XMT—which happened in San Diego at the end of April—describes the techniques that high-level memorizers use to hold on to long strings of information:
People have been performing feats of memory for ages, scrolling out pi to hundreds of digits, or phenomenally long verses, or word pairs. Most store the studied material in a so-called memory palace, associating the numbers, words or cards with specific images they have already memorized; then they mentally place the associated pairs in a familiar location, like the rooms of a childhood home or the stops on a subway line.
Each competitor has his or her own variation. "When I see the eight of diamonds and the queen of spades, I picture a toilet, and my friend Guy Plowman," said Ben Pridmore, 37, an accountant in Derby, England, and a former champion. "Then I put those pictures on High Street in Cambridge, which is a street I know very well."
As one competitor puts it, we watch people play cards, spell words and shove food into their mouths for entertainment. Remembering things is another everyday task that can be turned into a battle for millions to see. Just don't forget to set a reminder.
[Image via The New York Times]