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How To Build an Infinite Memory Palace [Tutorial]

By , 18 January 2015

I started some time ago using memory palaces to remember the music that I learn. It was great, I could think of a song, go to the memory palace for that song and have it all mapped out for me ready to perform. But soon I found I had a new problem - how to remember what songs I know? Or more generally - how do you remember what you can remember?

Well, as you might have guessed, you can use a memory palace for that too. You just need to connect each location in the new palace to your other ones. You can embed your memory palaces in this way ad finitum so you effectively have one infinite memory palace.

To embed a memory palace I found the easiest way was to add a 'descent' option at each location so that when I visit a location I can choose to pass over to the next location or descend into the embedded memory palace. Other people using similar techniques have used portals or doorways for the same thing, however I found that associating a definite direction (down) made it easier to remember and also easier to go backwards (up).

The descent path needs to be mnemonically linked to the destination memory palace or you will forget where it goes. For example, my memory palace for 'Comptine de un Autre Ete' from Amelie is along the Siene river in Paris. To get there I descend through a letterbox full of letters from Paris. Sounds ridiculous, but it works. Plus I just need to look at that letterbox and I feel like I'm in France.

It's also kind of fun traversing your memory palace like this.

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How To Memorize Music [Tutorial]

By , 18 January 2015

Although I can read music, I hate it. It's slow, uncomfortable, distracting and entirely unnecessary. Music is already quite memorable and only requires a few hacks to get into your long-term memory. Here is the process which I use that has evolved over the past few years.

I hope you find it useful.

1. Find the MOTIVE behind the music.

Your goal here is to determine the reason WHY the artist wrote the piece. Throw out the sheet music and listen to a recording of the piece. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • How does it make you feel?
  • What images does it elicit?
  • How does it progress and flow?
  • Why did the artist write this piece?

It can also be very useful to do some background research about the piece and the artist. What was happening in his or her life when he wrote the piece?

2. Identify the FORM of the music.

Again, just listen to the piece over and over. The most important goal of this step is to identify the tonic and mode (major, minor, blues, lydian etc) of the piece. You will also recognise the genre and structure which are key parts of the music's form.

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The Battle Of The Sexes

By , 17 December 2014

Once upon a time eggs and sperm where the same size. Or more correctly, once upon a time there were no eggs and no sperm. Just gametes. Equal in size and equal in cost these gametes could reproduce with each other in a happy and fair trade.

Then one day an individual chanced upon a mutation that would change the world forever. His small, undersized gametes gave him a reproductive advantage, allowing him to have more offspring at a lower cost. He was the first male.

His family flourished with the advantage of cheap sex and further mutations drove his gametes smaller and smaller - until one day something unexpected happened: His family could no longer reproduce successfully. Their gametes were too small to create viable offspring.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond lived another individual who acquired a mutation that led to large gametes. Costly and burdensome her large gametes were a reproductive disadvantage. Her family was small and struggling. She was the first female.

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List of 10,000 Famous People for PAO

9 December 2014

Recently I've taken up mnemotechnics which I've been using for music and lucid dreaming. One useful mnemonic tools is called PAO or Person-Action-Object. This tool encodes numbers into memorable unique scenarios. For example I have mapped the number 6 to 'Jesus walking on water'. You can then recombine these sequences the encode longer numbers.

If you don't know exactly how PAO works you probably want to read the Art Of Memory wiki first.

Yan from mentathlete.com generously posted a list of 10,000 famous people to use for your PAO system. I've forked his list and resorted it by <First Initial, Last Initial> to make it easier to find people for two digit numbers. I'm planning on updating and maintaining this list and will keep this page updated with the latest version.

Download the latest list of 10,000 Famous People for PAO

If you have any additions you'd like to suggest please feel free to post them in the comments below.

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Efficient Market or Predictable Patterns?

By , 25 November 2014

I'm doing Yale's "Financial Markets" course on Coursera at the moment and for one of the assignments we had to review a paper by Eugene Fama defending his theory of efficient markets. It was kind of interesting, so I wanted to post my summary here for you guys...

In "Market efficiency, long-term returns, and behavioral finance", Eugene Fama reports that anomalies which appear to contradict the Efficient Market Hypothesis are in fact predicted by the hypothesis itself. The hypothesis is therefore not falsified by the observation of these anomalies.

Fama discusses several patterns that have been published and seem to reflect an inefficient market:

  • Past winners tend to be future losers and visa versa (DeBondt and Thaler, 1985)
  • Long term returns are poor on IPOs and seasoned equity offerings (Ritter, 1991; Lougran and Ritter, 1995)
  • Stocks with high returns over the past year tend to have high returns over the following three to six months (Jagadeesh and Titman, 1993)
  • Divesting firms post above-average returns
  • Firms doing a stock-split post above-average returns.

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Opportunity Only Knocks Once

By , 1 November 2014

I had been running up and down a flight of 500 stairs for half an hour listening to music on my phone. As a result, my shirt was drenched in sweat and clung to my chest as I jogged along the wharf on my way home.

When I first saw her she took my breath away. She was walking towards me, alone, dressed beautifully and ... well I've never seen breasts quite like that before. I didn't look at her directly as we got closer, but I could see her eyes shift from my face to my body and a shy smile forming on her face.

She was checking me out.

Possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen was checking me out.

So I ran straight past.

My brain was screaming at me to stop.

But I didn't.

The next evening I went back to the place I had seen her and waited. Just maybe it was her regular route home. There was no sign of her. She was gone.

Gone.

Gone.

Gone.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Snow, Hey Oh (Cover)

By , 23 October 2014

This song makes more sense the more you play it. The images just melt into each other...

Alison Sparrow's Violin Exercises - First Finger

By , 9 October 2014

Progressing from the open string exercises, here is my transcription of Alison's first finger exercises for violin written in Sam's Mobile Music Notation. First, her tutorial:

And my transcription of the exercises (G3=1) with the images I use to remember the music.

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Sam's Mobile Music Notation

By , 4 October 2014

This is how I write down music so I can read it from my phone or notepad or scrap of paper or whatever. I really really don't like traditional notation because it uses absolute pitches which makes everything very complicated.

Okay, so here are the basics:

  • beats are represented by spaces
  • bars are represented by a colon :
  • pitches are represented by scale degree number
  • chords are also represented by number
  • held notes are represented by ~
  • rests are represented by 0
  • downstrums are \
  • upstrums are /

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Alison Sparrow's Violin Exercises - Open Strings

By , 4 October 2014

I've started learning the violin. It's something I always told myself I'd do 'later' (which is a pretty bad way to learn something new). So yeh... I just went to the shop, bought the stupid thing and started.

I found a good set of violin tutorials by Alison Sparrow on YouTube and have written down the first set of drills for you from tutorial 5 (I just prefer my notation to sheet music). There are six exercises and I use an image to remember each one as you'll see below. Firstly, here is the original tutorial:

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