Harry Potter Kisses the Infinity Gauntlet and I Remember How to Count

Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of work on my memory palace system. Most of this has been theoretical, revolving around the best organisational methods to minimise rote memorisation as much as possible. But, I’ve gotten to the point where I wanted to put the palaces I already have into practice, even if they’re not well organised yet. To do this I decided to have a go at using a system for memorising long strings of numbers called the Person Action Object System or PAO for short. PAO is the same method the world memory champions use for their ridiculous feats of memorising pi to 10,000 places or entire books word for word.

PAO: Person Action Object

The way it works is incredibly simple. First you have to choose what version you want to build. 0-9 PAO will let you memorize every 3-digit number as a single image. 0-99 PAO will let you memorize every 6-digit number as a single image, and so on. I’ve heard of one person doing a 0-999, but I don’t think anyone has ever been crazy enough to try a 0-9999!
The numbers essentially refer to the amount of rote memorization you’ll have to do. For each digit you need to memorize a person, an action, and an object. 0-9 would therefore be 10 person, action, and object combinations; 0-99 would be 100 combinations etc.

Being a novice I decided to go for the easy 0-9 system. The trick to making the memory connections easier is combining actions and objects that match the person. For example, Batman (person) throws (action) a batarang (object).

Below is the ten combinations I decided to go for.

Now that I had those memorised the next task is to reverse engineer a number into pictures. Lets take 031 for example. The first digit, 0, refers to the person in my code. Batman. The second digit, the action and the third the object.

Therefore 031 gives us Batman punches a bomb.

This is where the memory palaces come into play. That image of Batman RKO’ing a looney-tunes esque short-fuse bomb gets put into the first loci of the memory palace. The next three digits gives another number, and gets put into the second loci.

My first attempt at doing this using my memory palace of a certain church in rome (Basillica degli angeli) allowed me to memorise a 63 digit number with only a 1 digit mistake and a 3 digit image that I could not remember. The single digit mistake was me confusing the action fight with the action smash – I told myself to include crash-test-dummies as opponents for fight images in the future. The image I couldn’t remember involved the action of waving. I had used this for number 7 before I changed it to shooting to make it more memorable.

My second attempt with those fixes put into place: 88 digits and only a single image I couldn’t remember. I’ve had a few more attempts since then and the numbers kept chuging up steadily, until of course, my palace ran out of spaces!

The Agora and the Tower

So the test run worked! But if I wanted to really use this for something useful such as memorizing things for an exam or random cool facts like the names of all the Roman emperors, then I would have to find a way to interlink all my palaces.

My first idea had been to use a real world location to link to them all. Soon I realised that it was impossible to find somewhere designed to allow the perfect organisation that I needed.

So now I am working on creating a virtual space for this agora. I’ve recently discovered Google Sketchup as a really useful tool for doing this. After playing around for an hour or two with the free version, I have come up with a design that I plan to use. It will keep all the spaces I have organised, while allowing freedom to add more in the future.

The idea is based around a tower with each floor having this identical design. The circle is sub-divided into 26 portions. Each portion of the wall has a door and a persona standing by it. The door guards are ordered alphabetically so that A is Augustus, B is Bacchus, C is Cerberus, D is Dante etc. The doors are then designed based on a theme that relates both to the guard, and also the type of palaces that it will lead to. Augustus guards the door to roman ruins such as the Forum and Coliseum. Bacchus guards nature and gardens and so on. The structure in the middle is a lift that takes me up to the next floor – as high as I want to build it.

And thats all the progress I have to talk about so far! Once I have finished designing this central chamber I plan to have a go at using it alongside the PAO system. Before that, I’m going to have to go out and gather some more memory palaces to fill in all the doors first!

Future plans and ideas include: Using sound to aid memory (same song for each door), using virtual reality to create new palaces from, and using 360 images of famous places or Google Earth to add more palaces. Once all the groundwork is done, it’ll be time to put it to a real test of something a bit more challenging than numbers!

If you have any ideas of ways to improve my design, or aids to memory I would love to hear them. Equally, if you have any suggestions of what I should use to test out my palace system once it’s up and running, leave them in the comments!


    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      If you’re interested in knowing more I recommend picking up a copy of Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. It’s a fun, light read by a journalist who attempts to win the US memory championship after a single year of training.


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