Easy As Pi

It was on 9 and 10 March 1987, at the Tsukuba University Club House, when Hideaki Tomoyori recalled the first 40,000 places in 17 hours and 21 minutes (including breaks totalling 4 hours 15 minutes) to set a new world record. In Britain, Creighton Carvello recited the first 20,013 places on 27 June 1980. It took him 9 hours and 10 minutes at Saltscar Comprehensive School, Rcdcar, Cleveland, to set the British record.

In the near future, I plan to set a new world record by memorizing the first 50,000 decimal places of pi. Pi (symbol n) denotes the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It is a very strange, almost transcendental number; it cannot be expressed as an exact fraction and there are no continuously recurring digits (unlike 10 divided by 3, which equals 3.3333333 etc.).

Consequently, it makes for the perfect test of someone's memory of numbers, providing them with an infinite run of fiendishly random digits. Here are the first 100 decimal places:

3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751 058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679

Written out like this, the number looks fairly horrific. By applying the Dominic: system, however, you can turn this mountain of a number into a molehill.

Stage 1:

Choose a journey with 25 stages. Even though you are faced with a 100-digit number, you are only going to memorize 25 complex images, each one placed at a different stage.

Choose somewhere familiar for your journey and keep it solely for memorizing long numbers. I start my route at a patisserie, as good a place as any when you are remembering pi(e)!

Stage 2:

Break the number down into pairs of digits and translate each pair into a person, people or an action. (For the sake of example, I have used the list of characters and actions in Chapter 4.) Every four digits will be represented by one complex image. For example, lake the first four decimal places: 1415. Break diis down into pairs of digits: 14 15.

To form your complex image, translate the first pair of digits into a person, the second pair into an action.

In this case, 14 becomes Arthur Daley (14 = AD), and 15 is the action of writing on a blackboard (15 = AE — Albert Einstein, whose action is writing on a blackboard). Your complex image, therefore, is the sight of Arthur Daley scrawling complicated formulae on a blackboard. The prospect of memorizing 100 digits already seems less daunting.

I have written out below 25 stages of the route I use for memorizing 100-digit numbers, together with the digits, their persons and actions.

Stages

Person

Action

1

Patisserie

Arthur Daley

14

Chalking blackboard

15

2

Road

Nigel Benn

92

Playing tennis

65

3

Fountain

Clint Eastwood

35

Taking the helm

89

4

Jewellers

Gamal Nasser

79

Blindfolded

32

5

Car Park

Charlton Heston

38

Cooking

46

6

Fence

Bram Stoker

26

Casting a spell

43

7

Orchard

Charlton Heston

38

Blindfolded

32

8

Stream

Gamal Nasser

79

Chewing thisdes

50

9

Old Gunpowder mill

Benny Hill

28

Holding up Davy lamp

84

10

Bridleway

Andrew Neil

19

Playing rugby

71

11

Bridge

Steve Nallon

69

Writing

39

HOW TO

DEVELOP A PE

R F

E C T MEMORY

12

Windmill

Nadia Comaneci

93

Singing

75

13

Fish farm

Aristotle Onassis

10

Conducting

58

14

Gateway

Bill Oddie

20

Gambling

97

15

Manor

David Niven

49

Combing hair

44

16

Stonewall

Emperor Nero

59

Waving American flag

23

17

Lake

Organ grinder

07

Computing

81

18

Boathouse

Sharron Davies

64

Backgammon

06

19

Old oak tree

Benny Hill

28

Playing golf

62

20

Steep hill

Oliver Hardy

08

Washing up

99

21

Church door

Harry Secombe

86

Milk float

28

22

Font

Oliver Cromwell

03

Becoming a mermaid

48

23

Congregation seats

Brian Epstein

25

Ice skating

34

24

Bell tower

Bryan Adams

21

Guinness

17

25

Graveyard

Omar Sharif

06

Riding a camel

79

You are probably thinking that the number on its own was preferable to this mass of data. But information presented in a linear form like this always looks more daunting than it really is. And as I have said before, an instant mental image often takes several lines to describe.

Despite appearances, the 100 digits have been translated into a series of images that the brain can accept and therefore store more easily. You are now in a position to start memorizing.

SHOOTING THE SCRIPT

Memorizing long numbers is a bit like making a mini-epic. You are the director, and a whole cast of actors, musicians, comedians, singers, stuntmen, and props are waiting to act out their scenes at a scries of specially chosen locations. Here is my script:

OPENING SCENE: 14 15

Location: Patisserie (1st stage) Person: Arthur Daley (14 = AD)

Action: Writing on blackboard (15 = AE = Albert Einstein) I am obviously directing a comedy. Arthur Daley, as we saw earlier (in rehearsal), is writing something on a blackboard. He is standing in the middle of the patisserie, trying to flog a special recipe to the manager by chalking up its secret formula. I can feel the scraping sound on the blackboard (it gets me right in the teeth) and smell the delicious aroma of freshly baked pies.

SCENE TWO: 9265

Location: The road (2nd stage)

Action: Playing tennis (65 = SE = Stefan Edbcrg)

Nigel Benn is practising his famous 'punch' volley. For some reason, he has erected a tennis net in the middle of the road and is oblivous to the traffic queuing up behind him. I hear the sound of the horns and smell the fumes. Benn is holding the racket slightly awkwardly in his bright red boxing gloves. He hits ball after ball. Perhaps it is just the camera angle, but he looks vast, towering above the net. Hundreds of fluorescent yellow balls are rolling down the sides of the road.

SCENE THREE: 35 89

Location: The fountain (3rd stage) Person: Clint Eastwood (35 = CE)

Action: Standing at the helm (89 = HN = Horatio Nelson) The advantage of directing big-cast movies is that you get to meet all the stars. In this dramatic scene, Clint Eastwood is wearing his usual deadpan expression and chewing on a cheroot, despite being soaked to the bone. He is standing in the middle of the fountain, where an enormous wooden wheel has been erected. The special-effects department have let me down. Eastwood is pretending to be Lord Nelson, battling widi the helm in a raging storm. I feel wet as the spray drenches me as well. The whole scene looks like something out of a B movie, not the mini-epic I had intended.

REMAINING SCENES

And so it goes on. I am sure diat with your own actors and journey, you can devise a series of far more amusing, off-beat and memorable scenes. Continuing with my film, Nadia Comaneci is singing from a windmill, Emperor Nero is waving the Stars and Stripes, and Benny Hill is up an old oak tree practising his golf swing. He's probably got his 'tree' iron out. An old joke, I know, but they are often the ones we all remember.

FINALE: 0679

Location: Graveyard (25th Stage) Person: Omar Sharif (06 = 05) Action: Riding a camel (79 = GN = Gamal Nasser)

The final scene is a typically atmospheric shot, full of meaning and Hollywood dry ice. Graveyards are always misty, and this one is no exception. I see Omar Sharif in the distance, riding a camel. He is picking his way slowly through the tombstones and is wearing heavy, ghost-white makeup. I feel uneasy and cold. The mist is swirling and a full moon is up. Roll end credits!

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