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10 Mnemonic Tricks for Never Forgetting Anything Again

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By Bruce Price

1. The rhyme.

For hundreds of years, schoolchildren started the study of American history with: "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

2. The verbal gimmick.

Clearly, modern civilization would be impossible without these four words: "Spring forward. Fall back."

3. The poem.

Probably a million people every day resort to this famous six-liner:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one
Excepting February alone:
Which hath but twenty-eight, we find,
Till leap year gives it twenty-nine.

4. The easy association.

Many people have trouble with these similar words —desertdessert — until they remember that when it comes to tasty treats like cake and ice cream, you always want an extra helping — just as the word itself has an extra s. 

5. The contrived association.

The essential trick is to focus on something odd or funny, and use that to jog your memory. All the memory experts are doing this when they rattle off the names of many people: Bob is big and bald; Charlie has a chin as big as China. And so on. 

These two words are killers: stalactitestalagmite. But stalag means prison; and mite suggests mighty. Clearly, a fortress solidly on the ground. So the other thing has to be hanging from the ceiling.  

6. The acronym.

Suppose you have to buy three things: nails, plywood, and antifreeze. Use the initial letter of each item to create a word: PAN. Remember that. In the store, work in reverse, P-A-N, the letters reminding you what you have to buy. 

HOMES is a famous example. It tells us our Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Almost as famous is Roy G. Biv, a phony name which tells the colors of the rainbow or spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).

7. Cross words.

Acrostics are another thing entirely. You don't create a new word, you create a memorable phrase or sentence. The first letter of each word stands for the things you're trying to remember. In smart schools, middle-schoolers are given the task of inventing mnemonics for the 8 planets:  My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus. Neptune).

The eight little bones in the wrist are a big task for anyone: Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetral, Pisiform, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate, Hamate. The job is easier, or at least funnier, with this: Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can't Handle.

Med school is next to impossible without mnemonics. One of the most famous reveals the names of the nerves that come directly through the skull (not the spinal column): On Old Olympus' Towering Top, A Finn And German Vaulted And Hopped. (Olfactory, Optic, Oculomotor, Trochlear, Trigeminal, Abducens, Facial, Auditory, Glossopharyngeal, Vagus, Accessory/Spinal, Hypoglossal.) 

When the auditory nerve was renamed the vestibulocochlear, Duke University Medical School held a contest for a new mnemonic. Here's the brilliant brainiac winner, circa 1980: Odor Of Orangutan Terrified Tarzan After Forty Voracious Gorillas Viciously Attacked Him. 

8. Numbers game.

If you want to know a long number, create a clever line in which the number of letters in each word tells the digit. For example, here's pi to 15 ingenious places: "How I like a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics." (3.14159265358979)

9. Making a speech the Greek way.

The Greeks were memory mavens, and actually had a Goddess of Memory (and mother of the Muses), Mnemosyne (ne-mos-se-nee).

And their biggest brain, Aristotle, wrote De Memoria et Recollectione. In Aristotle's psychology, the image is the basis of memory. For example, if you have to make a long speech, imagine that you're walking slowly through your house, and each piece of furniture, art, etc. prompts a paragraph.  

10. Digital frontier.

25 centuries after Aristotle we have Spacefem's surreal Mnemonic Generator. Feed it something, and you instantly get a mnemonic. How to spell mnemonic? Easy: Marks Navigate Empyrean Materials Once Numbers Inhabit Colors. 

Surreal? Still Ubiquitous Rolls Record Eccentric Amusing Lozenges.

Finis? Furious Iguanas Number Itchy Spaces.

Wow!! (Witches Order Waves.)

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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