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A few middle-aged couples are chatting at a dinner party when one husband, Harry, starts talking enthusiastically about a new restaurant he has just visited with his wife. What's its name, demands a friend. Harry looks blank. There is an awkward pause. "What are those good-smelling flowers with thorns called again?" he eventually asks. A rose, he is told. "Yes that's it," Harry announces before turning to his wife. "Rose, what's that restaurant we went to the other night?"

It's a vintage joke but it makes a telling point, one that forms the core of a newly published book on memory, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by American journalist Joshua Foer. The book, for which Foer received more than $1m in advance royalties in the US, is an analysis of the importance of memorising events and stories in human history; the decline of its role in modern life; and the techniques that we need to adopt to restore the art of remembering.
這則笑話雖然俗套,但卻生動的道出了一個事實真相,該事實也是一本新書《與愛因斯坦漫步月球:記憶的藝術和科學》(Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything)的核心內容,其作者是美國記者約書亞•弗爾(Joshua Foer)。這本讓弗爾收獲了一百多萬美元預支版稅的新書分析了人類歷史上記憶活動的重要性;現代生活中記憶行為的衰退;以及為了還原記憶藝術我們需要采用的技術手段。

As Foer points out, we no longer need to remember telephone numbers. Our mobile phones do that for us. We don't recall addresses either. We send emails from computers that store electronic addresses. Nor do we bother to remember multiplication tables. Pocket calculators do the job of multiplying quite nicely. Museums, photographs, the digital media and books also act as storehouses for memories that were once internalised.

As a result, we no longer remember long poems or folk stories by heart, feats of memory that were once the cornerstones of most people's lives. Indeed, society has changed so much that we no longer know what techniques we should employ to remember such lengthy works. We are, quite simply, forgetting how to remember.

Hence Foer's book, which is published by Penguin this month. It outlines the methods that need to be mastered in order to boost our memories and regain the ability to recall long strings of names, numbers or faces. In the process, he adds, we will become more aware of the world about us.

The trick, Foer says, is to adopt a process known as "elaborative encoding", which involves converting information, such as a shopping list, into a series of "engrossing visual images". If you want to remember a list of household objects – gherkins, cottage cheese, sugar and other items – then visualise them in an unforgettable manner, he says. Start by creating an image of a large jar of gherkins standing in the garden. Next to it, imagine a giant tub of cottage cheese – the size of an outdoor pool – and then picture Lady Gaga swimming in it. And so on. Each image should be as bizarre and memorable as possible.
在弗爾看來,記憶的訣竅在于采用所謂的“詳細編碼”方式,即轉化信息,例如一張購物清單可以被轉化成一系列“有趣的視覺圖像”。如果你想記住一張羅列日常用品——青瓜、白軟干酪、糖和其他物品等等——的清單,不妨將它們以一種難以忘記的方式具體化。首先創造出這樣一幅圖像:一個裝滿青瓜的大廣口瓶立在花園中,旁邊是一個巨型浴缸,里面全是白軟干酪,浴缸就像戶外游泳池那般巨大,而Lady Gaga就在里面游泳。諸如此類,每幅圖像都盡可能的荒誕不經,但又令人難以忘懷。

Using methods like this, it becomes possible to achieve great feats of memory quite easily, Foer says. It certainly seems to have worked for him: he won the annual US Memory Championships after learning how to memorise 120 random digits in five minutes; the first and last names of 156 strangers in 15 minutes; and a deck of cards in under two minutes. "What I had really trained my brain to do, as much as to memorise, was to be more mindful and to pay attention to the world around," he says.

These techniques employed by Foer to master his memory were developed by Ed Cooke – a British writer and a world memory championship grandmaster. He acted as Foer's trainer during preparations for the book and helped him achieve his championship performances. "Memory techniques do just one thing: they make information more meaningful to the mind, making the things we try to learn unforgettably bright and amusing," said Cooke.
弗爾用來鍛煉記憶的這些技巧是愛德•庫克(Ed Cooke)發明的,庫克是一位英國作家,同時也是一位世界腦力錦標賽大師。在著書期間,他充當了弗爾的訓練師,并幫助弗爾取得了冠軍稱號。“記憶技巧總結起來很簡單:它們讓信息變得更有意義,讓我們要掌握的那些事物變得鮮明和有趣起來,從而叫人難以忘卻。”庫克說。

We remember facts about subjects we are interested in – football or gossip – but day-to-day memories are often devoid of meaning: dates, numbers, definitions or names. These we tend to be poor at recalling. The trick, therefore, is to transform these grey bits of data into something colourful through the use of some energetic imagination.

In this way, all sorts of feats become possible. Arrange the images that you have thought up on a route through a familiar place, like your garden, and imagine yourself passing through that space, said Cooke. Describe each of your created images when you reach its assigned place on your mental route. This way you can talk for an hour while always knowing exactly where you are. "Orators like Cicero used this technique to give seven-hour speeches under intense heckling in the Roman senate," Cooke said.

However, he rejects the idea that people today have simply become sloppy when it comes to using their powers of memory and are now incapable of remembering important facts or bits of information. "The same parts of our minds that we once employed to recall great chunks of data – telephone numbers or addresses or even poems – we use, instead, to remember ways to access information: websites like Google, apps for our iPhones, and routes like that," he said. "In other words, we don't know the data but we remember lots of ways to get at it very quickly."

And in many situations that is a perfectly acceptable way to operate. However, there are several exceptions, he said. "Personally, I like it when doctors remember everything about the human body before they qualify. I don't want to wake up on the operating table to find one of them staring at their iPhones where they have downloaded an app that directs them how to cut up a body.

"And let's face it, there is nothing sadder than someone who has lost their mobile phone and who finds they cannot even phone home or call their parents or partners because they cannot remember a single telephone number. That is an example of the tragic disillusion of personal independence. So, yes, there is a need for us to be able to remember certain things in life."

Further information can be found at Ed Cooke's website: www.

■ The storage capacity of the brain is virtually limitless – the estimated number of patterns nerve cells could form is 1 followed by 800 zeros.

■ Goldfish can retain memories that last for up to three months.

■ Japan's Akira Haraguchi has the record for reciting the number Pi from memory – to 83,431 decimal places.
日本人原口證(Akira Haraguchi)曾創下圓周率記憶的世界紀錄,他記住了π小數點之后的83431位。

■ The elephant has the longest memory of any member of the animal kingdom and can even remember where other elephants have died.

■ Marcel Proust's novel Remembrance of Things Past is the most famous literary exploration of the role of memory in a person's life.
馬塞爾•普魯斯特(Marcel Proust)的小說《追憶似水年華》(Remembrance of Things Past)是探討記憶在人生中所起角色的最著名文學作品。

■ Ben Pridmore from Derby is world memory champion – memorising the order of a shuffled deck of cards in 24.68 seconds.
來自英格蘭德比郡的本•普瑞德摩爾(Ben Pridmore)是世界腦力大賽冠軍,他在24.68秒內記住了一副被洗亂撲克牌的順序。

■ Mahan Dulai, 11, is the UK's junior memory champion. He can remember 31 numbers, 40 faces and 44 random words in five minutes.
十一歲的馬漢•杜萊(Mahan Dulai)是英國少年腦力大賽的冠軍,他能在五分鐘內記住31個數字、40張面孔和44個隨機單詞。

■ The Sinclair ZX81 computer, which went on sale 30 years ago, had a 1KB memory. You would need 50,000 of them to run iTunes.

■ Your brain runs on 12 watts of power – less than that use by a refrigerator light.

■ The average person is believed to have 70,000 thoughts a day.


關鍵詞: 記憶 遺忘 好記性
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