Monday, 24 October 2011

decoder ring or mnemonic spelunking

My brain is still a little addled and turning somersaults over some of the techniques and demonstrable, learnable talent of the imagination and memory described in Moonwalking with Einstein. One of the more intuitive and prêt-a-porter tricks, hacks invoked the Phonetic Major System, developed by Basque sixteenth century polymath and educator Pierre Hérgony, for making strings of numbers more memorable.

Most minds, irrespective of attention span, can only be induced to hold only about seven digits in the short-term memory--because recall of words, direction and other impressions take precedence, but using the Major System (as a guide: it all may seem a little silly to turn numbers into personalities and colourful metaphors when Handys and sticky notes do a fairly good job, but this or one's own associations do become snared in the mind), one can transform an often referenced but never remembered number, like the stubborn IP address of a network printer that is forever needing to be re-mapped, into a more remarkable phrase and image.
Using the technique prescribed (or whatever system and scheme makes sense) of turning consonants into numbers, leaving vowels, w, y, and h as interstitials, one turns an eleven digit number into a "MeSH VoTeR MaPpinG a BuN." Having a subject, a verb and an object (SVO oder Subjekt-Objekt-Verb auf die deutsche Sprache) makes the image even more catchy, though not necessarily graceful or poetic. The Major System, requiring no additional training or meditation, seems to work but I wonder if it is the number, the image or the system itself one remembers--or is it all three?