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Mnemonic major system
The Major System (also called phonetic system or phonetic mnemonic system) is a famous mnemonic technique used to aid in memorizing numbers. It is over 300 years old and was introduced by Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein and later developed by Dr. Richard Grey. It works by converting numbers into words. The words can then be remembered more easily, especially when using other techniques such as exaggerations of concepts involving multiple senses (vision, sound, smell).
Each digit is mapped onto a number of consonants. Vowels and the consonants w,h, and y are ignored and can be used as 'fillers' to make up sensible words from the resulting consonant sequences. The mapping is:
- 0: s,z
- 1: d,t,th
- 2: n,ing
- 3: m
- 4: r
- 5: l
- 6: j,sh,ch,zh (like the s in vision)
- 7: k,hard g
- 8: f,v
- 9: b,p
The mapping is phonetic, so it is the sounds that matter, not the spelling. Each digit maps to a set of sounds with similar mouth and tongue positions. Therefore a word like action would encode the number 762, not 712; and ghost would be 701, whereas because the gh in enough is pronounced like an f - the word enough encodes the number 28.
- 1 -> d,t,th
- 8 -> f,v
- 5 -> l
- 6 -> j,sh,ch,zh
So we can make up daffy lodge, and we think of the Portrait Gallery as a lodge in which Daffy Duck resides (the more silly the image, the easier it is to recall).
Going the other way, we can reverse the mapping and get the year. This works also very well with phone numbers: here you would typically come up with multiple words which you need to memorise in a sequence.
For most people, it is easier to remember an image or story incorporating words than it is to remember strings of digits. For example, it may be easier to remember moderately pendulum than to directly memorize the first 10 digits of Pi (3.141592653) [note: pendulum must be pronounced as penjulum for this to work]. "It's moderately difficult to make a pendulum out of an apple pie", a vivid image of this sentence might be remembered more easily than directly memorizing the number.
The Major System isn't always the best way to remember a number. The first 16 digits of e are 2.718281828459045. If you invented a new way to fold a flag so that it would open up in the shape of an e, could you patent that? "Negative: it isn't innovative to unfurl bizarrely as an e" could be used to memorize the first 16 digits of e. On the other hand, some people might find it easier to remember them directly by grouping them this way:
2.7 the standard approximation of e 1828 a year 1828 the same year again 45 90 45 cut a square in half to get a triangle with these angles
The "best" technique depends on the person and the situation, but the Major System can be a helpful tool in many cases.
The Major System is sometimes combined with a peg system for remembering lists.
Memorizing lottery numbers
One rather surprising variant of the major system is its utility for memorizing lottery numbers, facts, and world events. What makes the system especially useful in this regard is the fact that in most State run Lotto type games the order that the numbers are drawn does not matter. For example on February 5, 2003, right after the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia the numbers 5-26-30-14-33 and mega 5 came up on the California Super Lotto game. Using the Major System, it is easy to see that the phrase "a launch mystery, my oh my - oh well" translates into the sequence 5263014335 which uniquely partitions into the indicated draw set. Since the draw order does not matter, one could just as well have imagine saying to a parent: "Well mom, I enjoy dreams." which yields upon translation and partitioning into a set of numbers the same set, but in a different order, i.e., 5-33-26-14-30 with the same mega number 5.
With practice it becomes straightforward to link news events, to lists of numbers, to specific winning combinations. Consider for example the Laci Peterson missing persons case. If the phrase "my love may be near the bay" is translated using the Major System - then it yields the sequence 3-5-8-39-24 with mega 19, which was actually drawn on March 5, 2003 - about the time that the Laci Peterson case was officially classified a homicide. Likewise such phrases "he told me he did it!" and "he told me I would die too!", and they offered him "a deal to have to do time?, but he said oh no no!" all yield information about the June 28, 2003 draw when 1-5-11-13-18 and 22 came on the California Super Lotto game - as does "die - he will die die die - he might have no one."
See also: Talk:Mnemonic major system
One variant of the Major System is the Dominic System. This was invented by Dominic O'Brien . The system uses images of well known people rather than words. Numbers are coded into images. The system is based on the idea that information about people is better remembered than other information. The Dominic System requires you know a lot of people with different initials.
Although unconfirmed at this point, the system may also have appeared in the GBC PRESS, Las Vegas book "Perfecting your card memory" by Charles Edwards in 1965. Edwards would then be responsible for the system, not O'Brien.
External links and references
- 010 Memorizer A powerful program for using the Major System. Contains many features.
- MajorTeach is free (and Free) portable software to help you learn the Major System
- 2Know is free Windows software for converting numbers to words (English, German, French). (Major System)
- Mnemisis Another free (and Free) mnemonic program - runs on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows
- Human Memory
- Memory Improvement and Learning Information
- Memory Improvement and Learning Information
- Memory Master
- Mind Tools - The Major System
- Mind Tools - Dominic System
- Palace of the Mind
- Pseudonumerology The Major System. A site totally dedicated to the Major System.
- World Wide Brain Club describes SEM Cubed (Self Enhancing Memory Master System), which is an extension of the Major System
- Expand your Peg list by adding colors and smells, textures.
- history of the Major System
- University of Amsterdam - Online Memory Improvement Course is an online step-by-step tutorial of the Phonetic Mnemonic System (The Major System)
- Homepage of World Memory Championships
- Palace of the Mind
- Mick Curtis memory techniques A practical memory course.
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