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Remember the First 100 Digits of Pi Using This Basic Technique

People with good memories can often seem like they possess an inherent talent—a seemingly magical capacity for fact recollection. But more often than not, famed mnemonists are actually just really good at working the system and coming up with tricks to aid with recall.

In the WIRED video above, former U.S.A. Memory Champion Joshua Foer illustrates just that, albeit in a pretty mind-boggling way for those of us who might not have his kind of visual brain. Foer instructs the viewer on how to remember the first 100 digits of Pi by constructing a building of the imagination, or a “memory palace.” The system pairs letters and sounds with numbers, which can then be turned into words (and images). It sounds confusing, but here’s an example: the first three digits of Pi are 141 which correspond in the system to the letters DRD. Those letters can then become a word, which can become an image. In the video, Foer turns them into 'DRuiD.' You then move on to the next three digits to come up with another image, and create a sort of story in your mind that links back to the numbers. Still sound confusing? Check out the video. It’s still an incredible feat, but one that seems infinitely more achievable than simply committing a random sequence of numbers to memory.

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Medicine
The World's First VR Brain Surgery Is Here
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A lot of consumers are focused on virtual reality as a means of immersing themselves in games or traveling to exotic locales, but the technology holds some incredible potential as a learning tool. One recent—and graphic—example is VR brain surgery, which allows viewers to examine the amygdala like they never thought possible.

In the experience, which was produced and overseen by Fundamental VR at the Royal London Hospital, users will be able to follow along with surgeons as a patient is wheeled into the operating room and undergoes a real neurosurgical procedure to repair two aneurysms (balloon-like bulges in an artery that can rupture). Cameras installed in the OR and GoPro units on the surgeons provide a first person-perspective; you can also switch to the POV of the patient as instruments enter and exit your field of view.

The idea was embraced by surgeons at Royal London, who see it as having the potential to be a valuable training tool for neurosurgeons by mimicking "hands on" experience. Although the footage is best seen using a VR headset, you can get a feel for the experience in the YouTube footage below. Did we mention it's very, very graphic?

More sophisticated versions of the program—including tactile feedback for users—are expected to be implemented in Fundamental VR's surgical training programs in the future. Currently, programs like Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform (SNAP) are being used at major institutions like Stanford University and University of California, Los Angeles to map the brain prior to incision.

If this whets your appetite for witnessing brain operation footage, don't forget we filmed and broadcast a live brain surgery in partnership with National Geographic. You can still check it out here.

[h/t Wired]

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Health
How Dangerous Is a Concussion?
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It's not football season, but the game is still making headlines: In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, neuropathologist Ann McKee and her colleagues examined the brains of 111 N.F.L. players and found 110 of them to have the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The condition has been linked to repeated blows to the head—and every year in the U.S., professional and novice athletes alike receive between 2.5 and 4 million concussions. This raises the question: What happens to the human brain when we get a concussion or suffer a hard blow to the head, and how dangerous are these hits to our long-term health?

Expert Clifford Robbins explains in the TED-Ed video below:

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