Saturday, August 16, 2014


We did it! Ladies an gentlemen, the blogger version of my blog (the original, pre-Tumblr version) has reached over 10,000 views! This is a huge milestone for me, and it has renewed my motivation to continue the experiment and help others improve their deduction/induction/memory skills.

Thanks to everyone who has commented, submitted pictures for practice, and suggested ideas for posts, and practiced along with me! Keep it up!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Deduction #6

Another two-for-one!

Number one - how do we know that these were taken by the same person? Just in case the lighting, decor, and wall coloring were not enough to convince you, we also have the metadata from the picture to confirm that the photos were taken at approximately the same time by the same phone (which by the way was an Iphone 5s) (See a fun little computer trick).

Another interesting thing about this picture's metadata is that it contains some very specific GPS data which supposedly marks the location the picture was taken. Unfortunately, plugging in the data verbatim yields a location somewhere is Kazakhstan, which worried me greatly as there was nothing in the pictures to suggest that as a viable location. In fact, the many English book titles along with the dollar bill attached to your desk might seem to suggest that you live in America. Further exploration of the metadata shows us that the pictures were taken at approximately 11:25 am, but submitted to Padlet about 3 hours prior at about 8:35. If we assume it took about 10 minutes for you to upload the pictures (which I feel is a reasonable assumption given all the data), then via this method we can safely say that you fall into the Eastern Time Zone.

Needless to say I was quite confused about your location. Especially after I noticed that the bottom left corner of your mathematics textbook on the desk. "Chapitre 3." Not a phrase you'd expect on the East Coast of the United States. But it did give me something to go on. Either the girl to whom this room belongs is home-schooled by french parents OR the language of the area in which she lives is French. If we assume the second, then certain parts of Canada meet 2 of the 3 location stipulations - must be in Eastern Time Zone, and must speak French and English fairly commonly. The only outlier seems to be the GPS coordinates. After considering the options, I decided that the balance of probability rested with the notion that somehow the GPS data must be wrong. So I set out to find out HOW wrong.

As it turns out, when Iphone pictures are transferred, either through certain apps or image editing software, the GPS data is altered, resulting in the + and - signs being cut off the front. For those of you unfamiliar with latitude and longitude measurements, the signs allows the reader to ascertain which hemisphere will be used. Without them, the numbers in the GPS field could refer to exactly 4 locations in the world. (++, --, +-, -+). After looking at the possible locations, I found that one of them is a house in Montreal.,-73.8,10z

In the interest of not giving away this person's address, I've truncated the data so as not to deliver such a precise location.

Now onto the fun stuff.

Tentatively, I'm going to say we have a fairly well-rounded, bi-lingual, christian, right-handed female near her early teens with medium to long hair, living in an upper middle class household.

Well rounded based on the piano, soccer ball and packaged assumption that she's either a fan or a player (admittedly weak), and all of the books with titles in two languages (bi-lingual). The religious pictures on the top left part of the book shelf (combined with an over 80% Christian population in Montreal) says Christian. Right-handed because the notebook and pen are placed to the right of the textbook, and all of the writing utensils on the desk are to the right side. Female should be a pretty easy one at this point. We've got the shoe and dress on the desk shelf, various figurines on the bookshelf, and a hair clip on the desk top. Speaking of the hair clip - we can eliminate excessively short hair cuts as our subject would have little use for this type of clip. Upper middle class household based partly on the style of the bookshelves, the price of the matching sets of the various book series, and the local neighborhood property values (easier to find when you have the subject's location).

The only one I'm not super comfortable with is the age of the subject. I managed to find that textbook online, and it appears to be for cycle 1 of the secondary education program in Canada, which I believe equates to upper middle school/ early high school in the USA. In addition, the books on the shelf (the ones I recognize) are young adult titles (Ex: Hunger Games, Caster Chronicles). But something seems off. Either this room has been recently cleaned, the age of the subject is actually higher than I suspected, or this is one organized teenager.

My big question is this - "What is written on that dollar bill?"

If you have any questions, critiques, or violent disagreements, please comment or send me a message. If these are your pictures, please respond and let me know how I did, and be sure to clear up any mistakes I may have made.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mind Palace - Organization

Hey guys. Since my last post, I've been hard at work tweaking my mind palace so that it functions at its maximum potential. in light of that, I'm going to do some more posts on how to organize and maximize the efficiency of your mind palace.

For those of you looking for an update, I've now permanently stored the following data in my memory palace:
  • The order of the U.S. Presidents (and some of the vice presidents... still in progress)
  • Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If"
  • An excerpt from "Hunting Season" by Beau Taplin
  • The name and year of every movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture
  • A few debit card numbers (mine, that is)
  • The order of a specific deck of playing cards (used for magic tricks)
  • All of the locations of the above data relative to my mind palace
If the last bullet point seems a little circular, rest assured that it's not. It IS, however, what I would like to discuss with you today.

(Warning: Meta-Thinking Paragraph Ahead)
You see, having a lot of knowledge and being able to utilize it are two completely different concepts. While having a functional memory palace in which to store specific types of information can be / is incredibly useful, it's only useful insofar as you remember where you put everything. In other words, you can know that you know who the 19th president was, but until you actually go into your palace and pull Rutherford B. Hayes out, you don't actually know who the 19th president was. If someone came up to you and asked what data you've put away in your mind palace, how would you go about answering their question? In short, while it is very easy to know things, soon one discovers that the harder problem is actually to know what you know.

This is one of the main problems with utilizing the memory palace method to permanently store lots of information - no doubt something Sherlock Holmes would have had to deal with fairly early on in his exploits. Rest assured, there is a solution. For the purposes of this post, we're going to refer to it as The Index. Thus far, I have experimented with 2 variations which we'll call web and map indexing.

What is an index?

If you've ever been to a library, you should know the answer to this question. An index is a system of organization, usually taking the form of a list (often alphabetized). How does this apply to us? The short version is this - we're going to make a mind palace containing everything we know, AND where to find it.

The Web:
In experimenting with the web index, I created a small room (think elementary school classroom) and painted the walls all different colors and lined them with bookshelves of different kinds and various decorations so that no two walls were even remotely similar. On the bookshelves, I placed tiny trinkets - things that would remind me of the specific information stored within them - as well as a reminder of the location where the information was stored. (Ex: A picture of President Obama standing in front of my old home would tell me that the U.S. presidents were stored in that home.) I had one trinket for every chunk of information I had logged away. One problem I ran into with this method was that it quickly became difficult to store information, especially literature, on the bookshelf with other similar data. In order to fix this issue, I would recommend creating tiny rooms hidden behind the bookshelves to serve as the set of loci (Latin word for locations) rather than the bookshelf itself. The method functions like a web in that while there are no expressly visualized pathways to your various mind palaces, they ARE connected through your trinkets, making each trinket a vital link to the information you want to remember.

The Map:
The thing about map indexing is that it doesn't actually exist. Sure, I gave a name to the concept, but the essential bit here is that we're just making a bigger mind palace. Rather, we are combining all of our existing mind palaces into one gigantic cobbled together neighborhood of mind palaces. For a more in-depth look at this idea, check out "The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci" by Johnathan D. Spence. Old-school mnemonists used to use city blocks, or whole cities, as mind palaces, making the amount of information you can store as large as the city in which you stored it. Then, we can rename houses, blocks, or even streets to segment the data you are storing (Ex: The "head trauma" room in the "Emergency Medicine" house on "Science Street"). The tricky thing about this method is that in order to effectively use such a large area, one must be either very familiar with the area or very willing to make up a lot of the missing details on their own. One more difficulty is that even if you use a neighborhood you know well, odds are that you don't know the layouts of all the houses. But really, there's no reason to use those houses, is there? One could simply use the layout of an old neighborhood and plant all of the houses one has known or lived in to create a new neighborhood full of memory storage space.