optical chart

/ Week One

The memory section will be structured differently than the previous sections. This is because exercises for memory are much, much less efficient than systems. A system, once learned and mastered, can be used anywhere, anytime. Thus, each week I will cover one memory system, go through a guided example, and leave you with ideas of how to practice until the next week.

This week’s focus will be on binary data. While perhaps not the most useful, they are easy to learn and employ.

Suggested practice time: 10 minutes a day

/ The Method

Gary Lanier’s Binary Method: Binary Number’s You Can See

The premise is simple: each 3 digit binary number adds up to eight possibilities. By attaching a visual cue to each possibility, you can create a link journey (akin to using a mind palace) to memorize large chunks of binary numbers. 

Here are the cues attached to each possibility, taken directly from Gary Lanier’s blog post:

000 = 3 heads, The 3 STOOGES (000). Can you seem them, Larry, Curly, & Moe? You just can’t think of one without the other two showing up.

001 = Two Eyes or Glasses (00) staring at a Wall (1) looking at an Optical Eye Chart.

011 = Bowling Ball (0) demolishing a 2 Pin Split (11). After awhile, the bowling ball is the cue for the whole image.

111 = 3 Fence Posts (111). Pretty obvious.

110 = 2 Horns (11) on a Bull goring a Matador’s Face (0). Maybe a comic rendition of this gory scene. Yea for the bull.

100 = a Putter (1) putting a Golf Ball (0) into the Cup (0).

010 = a Military Canon supported by a wheel on each side (010). Here’s the sequence: WHEEL (0), CANON (1), WHEEL (0)

101 = a Soccer Ball rolling in for a Goal. I see the goal posts on each side and the ball is in the center. Here’s the sequence: goal post (1), ball (0), goal post (1)

However, you can adjust these to whatever is memorable to you. Here is what I use, just to show how different the cues can be:

000 = A three-headed monster

001 = Arthur (from the children’s TV show) with his head angled to the side, showcasing his glasses

011 = Bowling ball rolling into two pins (same as Lanier’s version)

111 = 3 fence posts (same as Lanier’s version)

110 = A camel, where the 1s are the two humps 

100 = A swarm of 100 bees

010 = A guitar faced front, so the neck is in the center

101 = A swimming pool with buoys on either side

/ The Example

Say you want to memorize 010100101010001010100011

First, chunk it into 3 digit groups 010-100-101-010-001-010-100-011

Next, substitute each group with the predetermined cue: guitar-bees-pool-guitar-Arthur-guitar-bees-bowling

Turn your cues into a story: 

A glistening white guitar was lifted by a swarm of evil bees that dropped the guitar into a pool. The guitar, imprisoned by the buoys around it, had no hope of being saved until another guitar, the size of a giant, came up underneath it and helped the first one swim to the other side of the pool. There, Arthur saw the guitar through his tiny glasses and picked it up, beginning to play. He played very, very badly and threw the guitar in frustration, where it broke into two, fully formed rainbow colored guitars. The bees, angry that there were now two guitars instead of none, stung Arthur until he fell over in pain. While falling, he realized the floor was actually made of several bowling balls and he just cause their release into a pit. He fell through the pit as well and impaled himself on two large bowling pins at the very bottom.

After running over your story a few times, recall it and attempt to convert the cues back into binary digits as you do so:  

 A glistening white guitar (010) was lifted by a swarm of evil bees (100) that dropped the guitar into a pool (101). The guitar, imprisoned by the buoys around it, had no hope of being saved until another guitar (010), the size of a giant, came up underneath it and helped the first one swim to the other side of the pool. There, Arthur (001) saw the guitar through his tiny glasses and picked it up, beginning to play. He played very, very badly and threw the guitar in frustration, where it broke into two (010), fully formed rainbow colored guitars. The bees (100), angry that there were now two guitars instead of none, stung Arthur until he fell over in pain. While falling, he realized the floor was actually made of several bowling balls (011) and he just cause their release into a pit. He fell through the pit as well and impaled himself on two large bowling pins at the very bottom.

This method can be used for more than just a string of numbers; for example you can assign anything that starts with 0 to be red, anything that starts with 1 to be black, and then create a story to memorize the order of cards. 

Say you randomly pulled cards in this order: red-black-black-red-red-red-black-red 

You could then use the above story to memorize the order of these cards. 

/ Applications

All you really need to do for this method is practice a few minutes a day, until you have understood it and can apply it easily. 

Here are some (random) binary numbers to practice with: 

  • 00101010100011101010101010100011101010111010010
  • 110101001001011010110101101001010100
  • 0110101010101011010110001010100111010101101011101001101
  • 01010010110010101101010101
  • 10110101010110001001010110010111010100101010

Here are some ways to use the system other than numbers:

  • black and red playing cards
  • hardcover and paperback books on a bookshelf 
  • pens and pencils 
  • men and women 
  • any two colors 
  • even and odd dates 

Having trouble? Click here for some extra help.

-L.K.