Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I also didn't want to know this.

The super-memory contests.

"I can feel my brain curling up into a fetal position in shame," whispered one onlooker, who identified himself as a professor of statistical science at a New York university. "I feel very small and very ... limited right now."

We couldn't even comfort ourselves with the idea that the people standing on stage were an elite group with a particular penchant for instant recall. The organizers and competitors in the seventh annual U.S. Memory Championship, held in New York on Saturday, had already taken pains to tell us that we too could perform amazing feats like memorizing a string of 100-plus random numbers if we just practiced.

"This is making me nauseous. I have brain cramps," said Nancy Heeden, a graphic artist who attended the event. "I feel like I should just go home, read a crappy romance novel and give up all my pretensions of being an intellectual. I'm not worthy."

No matter how challenging your job is, it isn't demanding enough. Brains thrive on constant challenge, so presenting them with the same activities that they already excel at doesn't keep the gray matter in top shape.

Bell recently memorized the positions of 52 cards in 100 decks, and then answered questions such as "What is the 17th card in the 22nd deck?"

He got 89 out of 100 questions right, and ruefully says it wasn't his best performance.

No comments: