Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. This is a popular memory aid for remembering the colours of the rainbow based upon the first letter of each word. Changing it back to colours it becomes: Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet. Such a learning device is called a mnemonic, which is defined as:
a system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something.
So far, so good, but if that seems a little simple, childish even, could such a device, a mnemonic, help me remember the famous never ending number 'pi' to 20 decimal places, that is 3.14159265358979323846?
And could you too remember that... in 3 minutes?
Pi to 20 decimal places is quite a challenge and normal memory simply isn't very good at this. You can apply brute force but that tends to be quite ineffective because a string of random numbers is effectively an abstract idea. But like the colours of the rainbow example above however, a little word play can help us here.
While the rainbow mnemonic relied on first letters, that wont really work here as two, three share the 't', four, five the 'f' and six and seven the 's' which is rather unfortunate. Still, how about if the number of letters in each word equated to the digit in the number, such that the word 'dog for example having 3 letters would equate to the number 3? The sentence you choose can be outrageous and nonsense if such bold imagery helps you remember it. It is only here to help you remember, not to make strict sense.
The sentence I came up with for this is:
I gave a sweet pineapple to skinny Sarah, she alone politely purchased pungent pizzerias, all as the Princess sang Disney.
Nonsense? Yes. But fairly memorable, and even more so if we break it down into three groups, just like phone numbers are broken down into smaller chunks to help people digest them, such as a hypothetical London phone number (with dialling code), 0207 434 811. See how the split makes the number easier to contemplate? It's the same principal at work here. Accordingly, our sentence becomes three lines:
I gave a sweet pineapple to skinny Sarah. (14159265)
She alone politely purchased pungent pizzerias. (358979)
All as the Princess sang Disney. (323846)
Admittedly, you'll probably need a pen and paper to help you translate the words back into numbers, but I reckon you could memorise these 20 words in about two to three minutes. Memorising pi to 20 decimal places in 3 minutes is damn good going. And of course, should you wish to create your own mnemonic, that will take a little time also, but it is still a lot faster than brute force.
But of course, the point is not about remembering pi to 20 decimal places (though now you can), the point is the creative use of mnemonics to make remembering easier. Presidents of the US, kings and queens of England, capitals of the world, Formula 1 world champions? Whatever it is. I've seldom met a person who didn't want a better memory. The secret however is that people with amazing memories have systems, and this is one of them.
Oh, and in putting this together and occasionally needing a 7 letter adjective beginning with 'p', I found this word site to be amazing:
There are few jobs out there where being able to remember the subject matter better wont help your progress. And few individual things that you will ever be required to remember will be as turgid as remembering pi to 20 decimal places, but you did that in 3 minutes. Your future just got easier.