Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.
When I was a child I used to make up monthly “themes” for myself, which mostly consisted of learning everything I could and immersing myself in said theme. One month it was apples: I researched types of apples, how and where apples grow, and tried to uncover the truth behind the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”; I made an apple pie; and, I gathered the neighborhood kids together and made apples into a sport (dunking for apples, trying to juggle, etc.). Another month it was spaceships: I tried to interview an astronaut, made my little brother a fake space-helmet (primarily made of old newspapers and tape), watched Apollo 13, and read every kid-book on spaceships I could find.
These self-imposed theme studies were gloriously fun for me and a remarkably freeing way of self-learning. When recounting these tales to a friend, it recently dawned on me that there was no good reason for theme-months to stop in childhood. In fact, I honestly cannot remember why or when I stopped… SO – I have decided to bring them back (sort of), and document some of my favorite theme-exploits in this blog.
OCTOBER THEME: BRAIN GAMES.
What is memory? Can the human mind/memory truly be improved? How does gamification help/hinder mental progress? Does memory improve in stressful situations (e.g. – does the human mind unlock certain memories for survival purposes)?
Here are the top 3 things I’ve been up to and recommend on this month’s topic:
1) Read Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
A truly exquisite book. It weaves in information on human history/obsession with memorizing for educational purposes with a narrative of one man’s quest to prove that an amateur can become the U.S Memory Champion (yes there is such a thing).
What I found particularly fascinating were the memorization techniques the worldwide memory champions use to say – memorize hundreds of random digits, poems, a deck of cards, or names to faces. Admittedly, not all of these things are useful in the real world (I cannot really see an ethical & good reason when memorizing a deck of cards comes in handy…card counting in Vegas or something?). However – how nice would it be if you could walk around a party and actually remember the faces and names of individuals you meet? Or, to never forget something on the grocery list – because you have the entire list just tucked away mentally.
While I have never believed rote memorization to be a substitute for actual learning, I do believe being memorization could aid learning. College would certainly have been easier if I had managed to successfully memorize certain formulas rather than have to re-derive them during tests. Also, high school history classes had been a pain [for me], as I’d never been very good memorizing important dates of historical events.
I intend to spend the rest of the month trying to internalize some of the techniques discussed in the book and see if I can successfully memorize weekly grocery lists and favorite poems.
2) Play brain games with Lumosity
Created by a Silicon Valley startup, Lumosity games are [supposedly] designed to “train the brain” to improve user spacial reasoning, memory, focus, etc. It’s available both as on online game and as a mobile app.
Now, I am yet to see actual evidence supporting the manufacturer’s claim that playing these games does actually improve brain performance, but I am testing it out for myself and being a guinea pig (in a very un-scientific way) to see if/how spending 5-minutes a day in their brain game drills translates to better brain performance in my work and other areas of life.
It operates in a freemium business model (i.e – registration and most access is free to users, though you can “unlock” more games and brain performance statistics for a few). I personally haven’t made any subscription purchases yet and have been working just the free tools. I may consider purchasing/keeping up with this in the future, depending on how useful in “brain training” I find it. If nothing more – the games are actually pretty fun!
3) See Gravity (ideally in 3D, while in theaters)
I loved this movie, and watching it in 3D in theaters was definitely a good choice. While I am generally not one who particularly enjoys science fiction – I found the movie to be fairly realistic to science while also incredibly suspenseful and thrilling for the entire 90 minutes. I was also exceptionally impressed with how the movie managed to retain my interest and attention with essentially only 3 characters, and 90% of the dialogue being the internal dialogue of 1 character (Sandra Bullock).
I don’t want to divulge the movie contents too much here – but, I will say that that I found myself mentally disoriented by the movie (in a good way), which I don’t believe I have felt with any recent movies since Inception came out in 2010.