Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein

Joshua Foer, who is the brother of novelist Jonathan Safran Foer and New Republic pundit Franklin Foer, is getting a lot of publicity for his book about memory, Moonwalking with Einstein. Even in these precarious times, the unpublished author got a $1.2 million advance for Moonwalking, which was also optioned as a movie. “Even in his early 20’s, Joshua Foer was forgetting to remember a lot,” Maureen Dowd writes about Foer in her Op-Ed column (“Sexy Ruses to Stop Forgetting to Remember,” NYT, 3/9/11). “Our gadgets have eliminated the need to remember such things anymore,” she quotes Foer saying about things like phone numbers. Memory is only one of a number of mind and body functions that atrophy in the course of being displaced by technology, but Foer, who won the 2006 U.S. Memory Championship, has a theory about how people can cultivate their mnemonic abilities. The human brain that we know today came into fruition during an earlier stage of evolution and is now trying to adjust to mechanization. Thus, we need to go back to our more primitive roots if we want to activate its potential. “When forming images, it helps to have a dirty mind,” Foer says. In short, if you’re having three people over for dinner think “threesome.”  If it’s two couples, think “swapping.” Let’s say you’re trying to remember a geometric sequence that increases exponentially: think about doing a sixty-nine with everyone in sight. 

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