Brain Pickings

Moonwalking with Einstein: How to Hack Your Memory


One of the mind’s most fascinating — and, some nuroscientists argue, uniquely human — facets is memory. Why do we remember, and how? Is there a finite capacity to our memory reservoir? Can we hack our internal memory chip?

These questions and more are precisely what science writer Joshua Foer sought to answer when he set out to cover and compete in the U.S. Memory Championship. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything tells the story of Foer’s fascinating journey as he became enthralled by the secrets of the participants and learned how to play with the hard-wired quirks of the brain, optimizing it to remember information it ordinarily wouldn’t.

The title refers to a memory device I used in the US Memory Championship—specifically it’s a mnemonic that helped me memorize a deck of playing cards. Moonwalking with Einstein works as a mnemonic because it’s such a goofy image. Things that are weird or colorful are the most memorable. If you try to picture Albert Einstein sliding backwards across a dance floor wearing penny loafers and a diamond glove, that’s pretty much unforgettable.” ~ Joshua Foer

In the process of studying these techniques, I learned something remarkable: that there’s far more potential in our minds than we often give them credit for. I’m not just talking about the fact that it’s possible to memorize lots of information using memory techniques. I’m talking about a lesson that is more general, and in a way much bigger: that it’s possible, with training and hard work, to teach oneself to do something that might seem really difficult.” ~ Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein is out today, one of the most ambitious brain-hacking experiments we’ve encountered in a long time — do your memory a favor and don’t forget to grab it.

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