Question of the Week: Do You Ever Erase Palaces?

Here's a question we've gotten a lot recently: Do you ever erase palaces or actively clean them of old images?

You might consider making an active effort to erase "ghost images"--images on loci you want to reuse. The short answer is that I never actively clean palaces, whether for memory sports or learning projects. For clarity, I'll split the discussion into those two parts...

Read More

Episode #2 on 最强大脑 ("The Brain" TV Show)

I was lucky enough to go back to China for another appearance on 最强大脑 ("The Brain" TV Show). Pretty nuts, it's like the #1 show there! Thank you to the producers for having me back! This time I was up against... get this... an artificial intelligence robot nicknamed "Xiao Du." The "Du" comes from its makers, the folks at Bai Du search engine (the Chinese equivalent of Google).

My challenge had to be robot-friendly, and since Xiao Du would no doubt flatten me in any conceivable memory task, it had to be something outside my usual memory skill set. Here's what they settled on: Using a photo of one middle-aged couple, I had to pick their 20-year-old daughter out of a lineup of 40 random girls. All Chinese families, mind you. If it sounds impossible, that's because it was! Other than studying eyes and ears and face shape (and then choosing mostly on gut anyway), I had next to no idea what I was doing. But I did my best, and luckily it could've ended worse!

One of the great things about going back was that Cathy and my sister-in-law Dora both came with me, and we had much more time to explore Nanjing, which is an awesome city (photos at the bottom). Check out the full video here (my segment starts around 28:30; again, all in Chinese, except when I speak): Watch Here

(Unfortunately I've had to move the link away from Youtube as the channel removed the video). 

My Challenge on The Brain China TV Show

This past month I've twice had the privilege of traveling to Nanjing, China, to participate on The Brain TV show (known locally as 最强大脑, literally "the strongest brain"; also often referred to as Superbrain, the name of its German forebear). Prior to taping, a producer let me in on the little factoid that the show has 400M seasonal viewers, which didn't do great things for the nerves. Memory competitors have for years though been competing on The Brain, now in its fourth season, so I was excited to take part.

I first competed in a challenge alongside the legendary 2x world champ Wang Feng, who has been a fixture on the show since season one. When I first began with memory techniques, he was one of those larger-than-life figures of memory sports lore. I kept having to pinch myself. Anyway, my first episode--which involved memorizing info about airline flights (take-off and landing times, origin and destination cities, and flight numbers of 50 flights)--was broadcast in China Friday night. It may be difficult to understand for non-Chinese speaking viewers, but hopefully the snappy sound effects and crazy visuals are enough to keep you entertained! It was a good time!

You can watch the episode (which included two other challenges: Marwin Wallonius vs 余彬晶 and Yanjaa Altansuh vs 奕沛) below:

(If the video below is removed, you can try this Youku link. Unfortunately the show's Youtube channel has been removing earlier videos.)

Learning Equations with Memory Techniques (Update)

I've updated our "learning equations" discussion over on the Tips page, so I wanted to share it here. Generally I avoid mnemonics when it comes to equations, but I've added an example of how I'd memorize 4/3 pi r^3 with memory techniques at the bottom. 

How can I use memory techniques to learn equations?

Generally, I try to avoid "memorizing" equations. Again, the goal here is to learn efficiently by giving tangible meaning to what you're learning. In the case of equations, true understanding should be achievable, so memory techniques should generally take a backseat.

That said, I do use memory techniques for specific pieces of equations I find difficult to remember. So I'd recommend trying to identify the one or two tiny things that are tripping you up, and to encode those things specifically. For example, take this equation:

Read More

An Updated Beginner's Guide to Mullen Memory

I recently redid our "how to use this site" link on the Tips page and wanted to share it here for anyone interested. It's pretty self-explanatory:

If I'm a beginner interested in applying memory techniques to my learning, how should I use this site?

Feel free to explore whatever piques your interest, but here's our vision for how new users might progress through our content:

Read More

Question of the Week: What are the key strengths of using palaces as a learning tool? Why palaces and not just images?

It’s worth noting up front that we find our current methods of implementing memory palaces to be relatively simple (see “Doesn’t it take too much time to make all these palaces?” on our Tips page). We don’t think that using palaces in a mnemonic strategy adds up to much extra time or effort. Otherwise, the following might be moot. The presence of this question is also not to say that standalone images are never useful. We often create them for out-of-context facts or when it may be useful to create quick images on the fly. When it comes to carefully learning structured material, however (e.g. I'm sitting at my computer to learn the lung pathology chapter), I’ve found there to be three main arguments in favor of palaces:

Read More

New Video: Putting the Chinese System into Practice

In this new video, I discuss my memory palace-based mnemonics for learning Chinese vocabulary, as taken from the textbook Integrated Chinese Lesson 1 Part 2. Like in the recent English vocab/Memrise video, I walk through a learning session, focusing on examples and the different tools I use. This one builds on my earlier two blogs describing the system (links below), which I'd recommend reading before watching this. Hope you enjoy!

Part 1: The Gist
Part 2: Tweaks and Examples