You know you're in trouble when step 1 is "Memorize the first 10,000 digits of Pi: forwards, backwards, and out of order."
That's what I've spent the last few weeks doing. Or, as my wonderful wife Beth said, "You realize that attempting to do that in only a few weeks is insane, right?" Yes dear...but what a challenge.
Several weeks ago my friend Nelson Dellis, a fellow memory athlete, suggested we not only both attempt to break a world record in memory, but we do it against each other - to encourage each other and compete to see who could break the record by the most (if it was even possible to break the record).
Making it trickier: he wanted to do it on September 21st, World Alzheimer's day, to bring awareness to the disease and educate people about it. We also are working to help scientists who are researching memory in order to eventually find a cure.
Like a good friend (and an idiot), I said yes.
Who cares that I'd have to fly to San Diego right after doing a big keynote address Tuesday morning in Philadelphia? No problem.
The challenge: memorize the first 10,000 digits of Pi in 5-digit segments. For the record, judges will call out random 5-digit segments from anywhere in the first 10,000 digits, always from different thousands. In other words, the first segment may come from the 6,000-7,000 bunch, the second segment from the 1,000-2,000 bunch, etc.
We will have to know Pi well enough that we can tell the judge the five digit segment prior and following the one they've given us. Randomly, no hints, no context.
I memorize using pictures and storing the information in a series of locations (the rooms in my house, my town, nearby towns, etc.) The way it works out, it's 2,000 pictures. Each picture contains the five digits of a segment.
Imagine someone giving you 2,000 pictures you've never seen before, in order from 1-2,000. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to memorize those pictures well enough that you know the order perfectly, even out of context.
Making it more troublesome: imagine some of those pictures are really, really similar. For example, a lion tamer sledding down a hill and running over a bunny, and Joey from friends sledding down another hill, running over another bunny. AND a soldier sledding down another hill running over a bunny. And Joey from friends sledding down yet a different hill running over a clown (sorry, Barry Lubin/Grandma!).
(This paragraph for memory geeks only: I have a PAO system, 2-2-2, and have resisted developing a 3-digit system. Since the challenge involves memorizing Pi in 5-digit segments, this would be the perfect motivator to do a three digit system and do P-O.)
I wasted time trying to work out a new system for memorizing this much data, eventually throwing it out when it became apparent that the new system would take too long to develop.
I was cruising along pretty well, memorizing 1,000 and reviewing every other day, when we had first a small family emergency, then a huge family emergency where I was unable to memorize for many days. Family definitely comes first, and thankfully the situation has worked itself out and ended well (whew!). But it set me back by almost two weeks.
Now I'm sitting in the airport, big gig done, ready to fly to California, and hoping that the past week of cramming has been enough.
My last Pi session with my wife a few days ago was depressing. I remembered many in a row, perfectly and quickly, then would hear a segment and have no idea...it was like I had never even thought of that picture before. I'd ask her to give me clues, the segments before and after, and even that wouldn't help.
I figure out of the 2,000 pictures, I know 1,800-1,850 really well. That leaves way too many that I don't know well enough. On my drive to my presentation yesterday, I spent five hours listening to the numbers read out, hoping that would help. Now I have a 9 hour trip to San Diego to continue cramming!
More details of the challenge here: http://bradzupp.com/media
Follow us on Facebook Live Wednesday, September 21 starting at noon Pacific, 3pm eastern. We'll each be attempting the record three times, so tune in to watch on Extreme Memory Challenge page. (I'll also try to stream it on my page: https://www.facebook.com/brad.zupp