I am so excited that the advance copy of Memory Craft has arrived. Details of the contents can be found here!
Only a few weeks now until the June 3 publication by Allen & Unwin.
The launch will be help at Castlemaine Library at 5:30 pm on June 13. To be launched by Dr Duane Hamacher, with talk on memory methods. Booking will be available through their website very soon. If you are coming to the launch and want to join us for dinner afterwards, please contact me through the contact form and I’ll let you know what’s happening.
I am so excited that the advance copy of Memory Craft has arrived. Details of the contents can be found here!
Corridors are perfect to use as memory palaces – once they are decorated in a structured way. So why do we waste the corridors in schools and universities when they could become such valuable spaces? Usually, if there are any decorations, they are just nice pictures or random posters.
I was pointed to the Long Corridor at the Summer Palace in Beijing by a reader of The Memory Code. It is a superb use of a corridor as a memory palace.
Click on the image below to go to the Wikipedia entry about it.
I finally found a book showing the images and simply adore it. This covered walkway is found in the Summer Palace in Beijing. It dates from the middle of the 18th century. At 728 metres long, it is decorated with more than 14,000 gorgeous paintings. These tell stories – the entire structure acting as a sensational memory palace.
Why not use school and university spaces as memory palaces?
Instead of numbering rooms as dull old 1, 2, 3 … why not 5000 BC, 4000 BC, 3000 BC … and use the spaces between for images suiting that time period. Students will recall where they saw Stonehenge, for example, and associate it with the area around 5000 BC. Or number the rooms for the last few hundred years and illustrate more recent events chronologically?
How about naming the rooms by letter a, b, c … and add images for the words in a foreign language? Or new words in English?
Why not have the students do the images in art? All indigenous cultures integrate art as a key component of the knowledge system. Our even include small videos recording songs composed by students to store knowledge? The ever changing display will attract attention.
It is well known in educational circles that taking information in one form, say writing, and adapting it to another form, say images or music, makes it more memorable. You need to concentrate and know the information well to creatively adapt it. The only limits are imagination – and schools all have art and music teachers and a mob of creative types who can help set the imaginations of students on a wild spree.
A memory palace must be structured – not just an array of paintings or a set of songs. Without structure it is just another gallery display.
And while we are at it – why not use the school grounds as memory palaces as well – just like the Australian Aboriginal songlines and Native American pilgrimage trails? And none of this needs funding! We can do all of this within the art and music curricula as well as meeting the requirements for every subject in the school. We just need to stop separating knowledge into neat little packages – we need to integrate it.
But what I really want is my very own Long Corridor just like the one in the Summer Palace. Please!
Click on the image or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9kpJtHI8jQ
Today, we explore whether memory still has a practical place in the world of big data and computing.
As a science writer, Lynne has written 18 books including The Memory Code. Her research showed that without writing, people used the most extraordinary suite of memory techniques to memorise massive amounts of practical information. This explains the purpose of monuments like Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines and the statues of Easter Island. Her next book, Unlocking The Memory Code explains the most effective memory methods from around the world and throughout time. Lynne shows how these can be invaluable in modern world. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
P.S. The next book is now called Memory Craft, but there was only the working title then!
Allen & Unwin’s description is here:
I have been very slack in writing this blog. Apologies. I have been finishing my new book, Memory Craft, to be published on June 3, 2019. I have just completed the editing process with my publisher, Allen & Unwin, something I find very stressful and demanding. But it has finally gone to the typesetters. The final manuscript will be sent to me in a week or so for indexing and then it is done. My baby will be sent out into the world.
I competed in the Australian Memory Championships for a second time in November 2018, despite my writing in The Memory Code that I could never do it. But yet again, I found the pressure difficult to handle. By the end of the second day of competition, my brain was mush and my nerves frayed.
The competition was run by the IAM (International Association of Memory) and organised by Tansel Ali. There were ten events, including memorising shuffled decks of cards and long lists of numbers, both integers and binary. We memorised pages of names to match faces, dates of imagined events, images in order and lists of words. And all under strict time limits. It is really high pressure and I don’t handle pressure well at all.
We had international guests, competitors from Japan, China and Indonesia. The entire competition was won by Motoro Ohno from Japan (pictured right).
The Japanese team was led by Takeru Aoki (at right in the picture below). Also part of the team was Hiroshi Abe (on the left).
Hiroshi is a Senior (over 60) and came with the express purpose of competing with me. He is higher in the IAM (International Association of Memory) rankings, and rightly so. But these competitions have a harsh side with the scoring. A mistake in a row of numbers of the suit of a card and you can end up with a score of zero for the row or the card trial. You need to make a decision. Do you go for speed and risk accuracy or take the careful way out and go slower, hoping to be more accurate.
Knowing I don’t handle pressure well, I went far slower than I do in training, but was mostly accurate. Hiroshi was faster but had some accuracy slips and ended up scoring a few zeros. But the end of the competition, I had beaten him comfortably. I would not have managed it had he been on form!
I was the top Australian Senior again.
The Australian Memory Champion for the last two years, Anastasia Woolmer, was unable to compete due to illness. I was really disappointed to miss spending time with her again. She would have had tough competition from Zeshaan Khokhar who took the 2018 Australian Memory Champion title.
I now do most of my training on Memory League, a really fun way for anyone who wants to start playing around with memory competitions.
You can compete against others at your level, but I just compete with myself. Click on the images to try it out. You need to register but the first levels are free.
All help for getting started is available through the super-friendly associated forum at Art Of Memory https://forum.artofmemory.com.
I am delighted to announce that The Memory Code is now available in Czech – alongside the English and Chinese editions. Click on the image for the link to this site where there are more details. If I could read Czech I could tell you more.
I eagerly await the day when I will hold a copy in my hand.
I also look forward to being able to get a good resolution on the cover image. All good fun.
Oh, and my publisher has started referring to me as The Memory Whisperer. She is referring to the role I play in the next book, due out in 2019. I wonder if that will stick!
We still don’t have a title for the new book even though it is written and in the editing and production phase. Things move slowly in publishing.
I have been rather quiet on this blog recently as I finished the new book (still without a title!) and am working with my editor on final changes and the images. I am very nervous about my art work appearing in the book. I needed to create my own versions of some medieval memory methods and there was no alternative but to paint them myself. More of that in a future post.
I will post the TEDxMelbourne talk here when it is published. It was recorded on August 13, so should be available soon.
Tomorrow. Thursday 27 September, I will speak at The Australian Institute of Archaeology.
I will be speaking and running a workshop for Writers Victoria at the Stories of Influence gathering in Lake Tyers, Victoria.
I’ll be heading up to Sydney on October 13 & 14 for Skepticon2018. This is the Australian Skeptics National Convention. All details here. I am on a panel referring to The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal, but the Skeptics have also been incredibly supportive of The Memory Code. Both books will be available for purchase.
I am delighted to announce that The Memory Code is now available in Chinese. I have only started learning the language, so I can’t read what this says, but I am really chuffed to see this Good Publishing Co edition.
It is available from (among others):
So much of my work is about the incredible potential of hand held memory devices. These carved maps of the Tunumiit culture of Greenland combine the two methods I use most: the landscape and handheld devices. How logical is it to make a portable pattern for the sung landscape to use as a memory device for vast amounts of practical knowledge?
Why didn’t I think of that? I am now going to carve a piece of wood to match one of my landscape walks. Click on the images to get the whole story.
Holm wrote: “A native from Sermelik, called Angmagainak, who had never had a pencil in his hand and had only once visited the East coast, drew a fine chart for me covering the whole distance from Tingmiarniut to Sermiligak, about 280 miles.” They also provided him with incredibly detailed descriptions of terrain, flora and fauna, and, in some cases, local weather patterns and lunar and solar cycles.
There are examples from all over the world of the ignorance of the Eurocentricity doubting the intellect of indigenous cultures – of anything different from their way of doing things:
Some contemporaries of Holm doubted that Inuit people were capable of producing these types of maps, and that they were just the result of mimicry—classic Eurocentrism. In 1886, one Mr. Hansen-Blangsted argued in the French Minutes of the Meetings of the Geographical Society and the Central Commission that it was highly improbable that an “Eskimo” could possess the mental faculties to “invent” a three-dimensional wooden map. It was much more logical, he posited, that some shipwrecked European sailor taught the practice to the Tunumiit hunter—conveniently ignoring, of course, that no Western seafaring tradition had ever produced maps like this. Holm disputed Hansen-Blangsted’s racist claims and jumped in to defend the skill, memory, and intellectual capacity of the East Greenlanders he had gotten to know.
Thank you, Sue McLeod, for pointing me to this article.
There have been lots of articles about The Memory Code. Lots of interviews and lots of talks. I was reflecting back on the past eighteen months as I head into the final stages of preparing the manuscript for the next book. There is one article which I keep returning to because it is from a magazine I hugely respect and a writer who got it so right, and wrote about it so well. Jim Rountree writes for Australia’s leading science magazine, Cosmos. Click on the images and you will get the full article. I have copied the start of the article below. It was originally published just over a year ago.
“Most of us know a place where sculpted rocks, majestic trees or perhaps the light give us a feeling the place is special. We sense something mysterious and wonderful – beyond the normality of everyday life.
Now, imagine you are young and visiting such a place. It is in the land of your people, a clan of hunter-gatherers. Your parents tell you the story of the place. You can see the marks left as mythical ancestors fought and played, acting out momentous, tragic events.
You will never forget this story, and you will never forget the place. They are locked together in your mind.
But the story doesn’t stop there. The ancestors roamed clan territory, leaving traces at every point. It’s easy to remember their bizarre, dramatic acts, which become inseparable from the marks they left behind on the landscape. Story and land merge in a mental map that means you always know where you are and what lies in every direction.
Now you are older and ready to be initiated. Back at the special place you learn there is more to the story. The ancestor turned into a millipede leaving those marks – one for each verse of a song you must now learn; many generations old, it holds vital information you can’t afford to get wrong.
Time passes – you are an elder. You know a thousand songs, chants, stories and dances. They tell about the animals – their life cycles, how they feed and breed, how to hunt them and the rules for dividing the kill. You know which plants you can eat and how to prepare them. The songs tell you the clues, on land and in the night sky, of the passing seasons, so you know when to move as game becomes abundant or plants fruit. The songs tell you the laws of your people and the gods and spirits you must appease. They contain your people’s history and relations with neighbouring groups.
As an elder you have authority, with others, to create new stories for events worthy of memory.
With so much to remember you have songs to list and a ceremonial cycle mapped to each of the locations you visit, so you can be certain that every story is regularly rehearsed.
Spread through your mind and the minds of others in your group is the total knowledge of your people. It is a repository of incredible detail, containing information of practical importance as well as the beliefs that define your understanding of the universe and your place within it. Without a written language, you must keep it ever alive and pass it on completely and accurately. So of course, you use the method by which it came to you, in interwoven branches of story and song that emanate from the landscape myths you learnt as a child. The whole of your country serves as a gigantic mnemonic device for this knowledge.
The trick of using stories tied to features in a location as a memory aid is no secret. Modern speed-memory competitors use the technique, linking each card in a deck to locations within a familiar place pictured in the mind’s eye – a so-called memory palace, a mnemonic device first used in ancient Greece and Rome.
Ethnologists have known for some time how preliterate societies told stories linked to their environments. We can see the method in oral cultures of Native Americans, Africans, Polynesians and Australian Aborigines.
Once all peoples must have used systems of this kind. In the Western tradition, for example, the Iliad was recited from memory.
In her latest book, The Memory Code, Australian science writer and La Trobe University oral history researcher Lynne Kelly stresses the effectiveness of the method to accurately remember and transmit vast amounts of knowledge. This sets the ground for her main thesis: that numerous prehistoric sites around the world had a primary function as memory aids, serving as knowledge centres for peoples transitioning from hunter-gatherer to settled agricultural lifestyles. Her list includes henges, cairns and standing stones in Western Europe, Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, Neolithic temple complexes in Malta, Pueblo “great houses” in the southwestern United States and the giant, geometric animals cut into the Nazca Plain in Peru.
The basic idea is simple.” And the rest is on the Cosmos Website.
Thank you Jim Rountree for taking the time to really understand what I am on about. And thank you Cosmos for being the great magazine that you are.