Two Weeks to Pi Day!

Published on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 in , , , ,

ThinkGeekIt's exactly two weeks until the most important day of the year for geeks - Pi Day, Einstein's birthday and the Grey Matters one-year blogiversary! For those who may not fully understand it, here is the Wikipedia article on Pi Day for a better explanation.

ThinkGeek.com is getting ready in a big way! If you do a search there for either "Einstein" or "314159", you'll see all they offer to help prepare for the big day.

Update (3/2/06): To help you get ready for Pi Day, there is now a sale on over at the Grey Matters Online Store through March 14th! Simply spend US$40 or more at the store, enter the code MARCH4 during the checkout process, and you'll save US$4 on your purchases! For example, purchasing the Train Your Brain and Entertain software and a pack of eight 400-Digit Pi Challenge Postcards would normally total US$47.90, but you can now get them together for only US$43.90! Remember, this sale only goes on through Pi Day (3/14)!

Grey Matters readers apparently know enough to prepare in ways even they may not be aware that they were. When checking my Site Meter log this morning, I couldn't help but notice the average time readers like you spend on this site:


Seriously Simple Sums: Multiplication

Published on Sunday, February 26, 2006 in , , , ,

Seriously Simple Sums: MultiplicationYes, I already have another brain-sharpening book I want to share with you. However, this one is an eBook.

The name of the book is Seriously Simple Sums: Multiplication, and it is a 66-page ebook in PDF format. It focuses on the techniques of Vedic mathematics (which I've discussed before here, here and here), which greatly simply complex calculations to the point where you can do them in your head.

The ad above describes the book quite well, and doesn't make any promises it doesn't keep. I won't go into the chapters in detail, as the above link gives a complete listing. What I will tell you is that, for only $ 4.95, you're effectively getting the mathematical area of your brain super-charged. If you or someone you know is struggling with math, the value of this book is hard to beat.

As an added bonus, it is actually possible to get the book for free! The author has put up a brief posting showing how you to get this book for free!

If you have some tips worth sharing, why not go to the memorymentor.com forum, help other people learn new things, and learn some new knowledge yourself as a reward?


Mind Performance Hacks

Published on Sunday, February 26, 2006 in , , , , , , , ,

Mind Performance HacksI knew I wasn't the only one!

O'Reilly Media, best known for their line of computer manuals, has a great new release this month: Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain by Ron Hale-Evans.

If the author's name sounds familiar, it's probably because he also runs Mentat Wiki, which has been listed in my External Links section almost since the beginning of this blog.

It's intended as a sort of sequel to Mind Hacks: Tips & Tricks for Using Your Brain. Mind Hacks is about learning and taking advantage of the way your brain natually works. Mind Performance Hacks, by comparison, is a collection of 75 hacks that teach you to improve your ability to performan various mental tasks.

The book focuses on improving 8 distinct mental skills: memory, information processing, creativity, math, decision making, communication, clarity and mental fitness. As you might have guessed, I immediately poured over the memory and math chapters first. I both learned new approaches for both that I hadn't known before, and found articles about familiar ideas, including a referral to the CalendarFeat article to which I was a major contributor!

Each of the hacks is divided up into at least four sections: an introduction, an In Action section, an In Real Life section and End Notes. The In Action section describes the principles and methodology of the particular hack, while the In Real Life section shows how you would actually apply the technique and go through the mental steps in your day-to-day life. End Notes points you to resources where you can learn about that particular hack in more detail. To make things even easier, each hack is ranked with a thermometer that indicates whether the hack is suitable for beginners, intermediates or experts.

To get an idea of how this comes together, you can check out the sample hacks (PDF) for yourself.

Among my favorite hacks in the book are:

* Hack #4: Stash Things in Nooks and Crannies, which increases the power of the Journey system by 10, with little additional work.
* Hack #7: Visit the Hotel Dominic, which describes a simple method for organizing 10,000 pieces of memorized information!
* Hack #20: Force Your Connections, which shows a great way to generate more creative ideas with the help of your computer!
* Hack #44: Foresee Important Problems, which teaches a great method for seeing what problems could reasonably develop and what level of importance you should really attach to them.

All in all, I highly recommend Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain to anyone who enjoys this blog. It is available at Amazon.com or at your local bookstore.


400-Digit Pi Challenge!

Published on Thursday, February 23, 2006 in , , , , ,

To help celebrate today's release of Train Your Brain and Entertain (TYBE), I'm introducing what I like to call the 400-Digit Pi Challenge!

In the TYBE software, one of the things you learn is how to memorize 400 digits of Pi, and it is taught so thoroughly, you can identify where each of those individual digits are located.

Now, what fun is learning this if you can't share and show this knowledge?

With this in mind, I've created a line of 400-Digit Pi Challenge shirts.

The front simply features the words "400-Digit Pi Challenge", with the sentence, "(I promise I won't peek.)" beneath it. The idea here, of course, it to get people to ask you about the nature of the challenge. What happens once they do? This is where the fun begins.

On the back of the shirts, there is a chart divided up in rows (A-J) and columns (1-10), exactly like the "Pi Chart" that comes with TYBE. You have someone look at the back and quiz you on the digits of Pi. They can do this in many ways:

* They give you a set of coordinates, such as A1 or B2, and you name the 4 digits at that point.

* They give a set of 4 digits, and you can tell them at which coordinates those digits are located.

* They can ask for a single digit located any number of digits (up to 400, of course) after the decimal point, and you can correctly state it.

* They can name just a row (A-J) or a column (1-10), and you can give the 40 decimals in that row/column!

This is not a trick that makes it seem like you've remembered 400 digits of Pi, but rather you are using the real digits of Pi, which can be verified by the nearest math geek, and you really are able to do it from memory!

If you master the 400-Digit Pi Challenge, leave a note and let me know of any good stories that come from demonstrating this feat!


NEW RELEASE: Train Your Brain and Entertain

Published on Thursday, February 23, 2006 in , , , , , , , , ,

I hinted in this post, that I had a major upcoming announcement, and here it is!

Today, I am announcing the release of my new software, Train Your Brain and Entertain! It is available for both Mac OS X and Windows.

Train Your Brain and Entertain is my new software program that teaches memory technique.

You'll learn these memory skills:

* Memorizing lists in order

* Memorizing difficult, abstract words

* Memorizing numbers of any length

* Memorizing lists out of order

Because I believe that using your memory should be fun as well as functional, I've also included some fun demonstrations you can perform with your improved memory:

* Blindfolded Knight's Tour

* Memorizing 400 Digits of Pi

* Calendar Memory - Being able to give the day of the week for any date (handy for meetings and appointments!)

* Memorizing playing cards, including an entire stack!

Help with these techniques, or with using the program itself, is never more than a single button-click away in any part of the program. Clicking "Help"in any section takes you to context-sensitive help window, which can be browsed or searched to help you find what you want.

To help personalize your memory training, the program preferences can be modified to your liking. Setting up your own personal key words and letter arrangements is a great help if you have previous experience with memory training.

Also included are some special bonuses to help you take your memory farther:

* A printable 400-digit "Pi Chart", for the Pi Memory feat

* My MemoryEffects.pdf list

* A printable 8400-year perpetual calendar, useful for the Calendar Memory feat

* For Mac OS X Tiger users, I'm also including the Grey Matters Dashboard widget!

So that you can get a better idea of the look and feel, I've set up some screenshots of both the Mac OS X version (slideshow or individual slides) and the Windows version (slideshow or individual slides).


NEW: The Grey Matters Mental Gymnasium

Published on Sunday, February 19, 2006 in , , , , , , , ,

You've always been able to read about mental feats here at Grey Matters, so I figured it was start time you could both learn and practice some amazing mental feats for yourself.

That's why I'm proud to announce the Grey Matters Mental Gymnasium!

Currently, you can learn four different feats there. They are the Knight's Tour, creating a magic square, memorizing playing cards and calculating cube roots and fifth roots.

Except for the magic square, (which you can practice here), the site includes a “workout” area, in which you can practice these feats once you've learned them.

You can always find a link to it under the “Archives” section in the the left-hand column.

Technically speaking, the Grey Matters Mental Gymnasium is actually older than the Grey Matters blog itself. It has been up on the web since 1998, as my “Be A Genius* (*...or, just look like one)” site. You'll note that not only has the Mental Gymnasium been added to archives section, but that the “Be A Genius*” site is no longer in the External Links section.

I hope you enjoy the section. If you impress others (or even yourself!) with your new-found abilities, I'd like to hear about it in the comments!


Mark Farrar's Mnemonics Site

Published on Thursday, February 16, 2006 in , , , , , ,

I've mentioned Mark Farrar's site before (here and here), but the attention has mainly been focused on the Magic Squares section of his site.

OK, to be fair, magic squares are most definitely Mark's strong point. Still, as much time as I've spent on memory feats on the blog, you would think that I would have paid some attention to the Mnemonics section.

The first thing you'll note is that this section is deceptively small. There are sections teaching the link method and the figure alphabet, as well as links and references (if you've found my MemoryEffects.pdf list useful, you'll also find this list quite useful), and that seems to be it.

Seems is the operative word here. If you look at the bottom of the memory section, you'll find a link to a password-protected section of the site, along with the clue to the password. Viciously, if you try and Google for the answer to the clue, the only link you'll get (at least at this writing), is a link back to that same page.

If you do make it to the memory test section, you'll find tests for the Knight's Tour, as well as several different card stacks.

The coolest test, however, is what is called the Conveyer Belt Memory Test. This test is for the link method, and challenges you to remember objects scrolling on a TV screen, as if on a conveyer belt. Your challenge is to remember as many as possible. The test is customizable, allowing you to adjust the number of objects (up to 35), as well as the speed. This one stands out because it has the most "real world" feel about it. Practicing this test regularly can really boost your confidence as you ability increases, and you can remember more items at a higher speed.

Quick Note: If you enjoy links like this, and would like to learn and practice more memory techniques and feats, I'll be making a major announcement in the near future that may be of great interest to you.


Challenge Your Brain on Mac OS X...For Free!

Published on Sunday, February 12, 2006 in , , , ,

Being a Mac user and programmer myself (which you may have figured out when I released the Grey Matters Dashboard widget), I've been looking at various free brainteasing programs for Mac OS X recently, and I thought I'd share my findings with you.

Plasq, a Mac software development company best know for their Comic Life software, has just turned 1 year old. In celebration, they're giving the gifts! The gift they're giving is a free version of the classic 15 puzzle, called Pluzzle. As a whole, this is very nicely put together. The look and sound (yes, sound) is that of a puzzle made out of wood. The tiles actually make the sound of wood scraping against wood when they're moved. The puzzle itself can be set to any size from 3x3 to 7x7, and photos can be dragged and dropped into the puzzle to be used as the background. If you've taken the time to learn my "40 30s 4 15" feat, this is a pleasant way to practice.

Thanks to the Dashboard feature in Mac OS X, there are plenty of free brainteasing widgets now available. One of the most original and challenging widgets I've come across is Cross Eyes mini. You have to keep the eyes from making angry stares at each other by separating each pair of eyes that are the same color.

There are also many versions of classic puzzles and games available, as well. You can find versions of Rubik's Cube, Sudoku, Mastermind and even Concentration.

Although they're not brainteasers in the classic sense, I have found several guilty and geeky pleasures available as widgets, as well. There's Jumbolaya, which helps you solve anagrams by allowing you to visualize new possibilities, and the Einstein Random Quote Generator. However, anyone who knows me will understand why the closest one to my heart is this one. No, it doesn't do anything except sit there, but that's enough for me.

I don't mean to belittle the brain challenges available on the Windows platform, but as I work more with the Mac, I have to go with what I know.

Judging by the 'ol BallClock on the Dashboard, it's time for me to be going now.


GRAND OPENING: The Grey Matters Online Store

Published on Thursday, February 09, 2006 in , , ,

It's been some time in coming, but I'm glad to finally announce the opening of the Grey Matters Online Store!

I'm kicking off the grand opening of the store with my close-up card magic book, Pasteboard Presentations II.

This won't be the only item in the store for long. I have several other original items in the works for the store, all related to magic and/or amazing mental feats. If you're interested enough in those, as evidenced by the fact that you're reading Grey Matters, go over a check out the new store!


Scott Flansburg - the Human Calculator

Published on Saturday, February 04, 2006 in , ,

Scott Flansburg on OprahWith an unusual interest such as training your brain to work more effectively, it's not often I'm able to locate videos of people performing such feats. About the only other time I've been able to do this on this blog is the entry that included video of Anton Zellman's memory feats.

A little searching, however, has thankfully yielded some results! Scott Flansburg, known as the Human Calculator sells his Math Magic course on his website. To help promote the course, he has included several videos on the site.

All the videos in this entry are only available in Windows Media Player format. For Windows computers, you can download the player here. For Mac OS X users, I highly recommend using Flip4Mac WMV, which allows Windows Media files to play in your QuickTime Player.

We'll start with Scott's appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show, which lasts about 12.5 minutes. He starts at the Tempo Cafe in Chicago, with some quick multiplication and division problems. Next, he moves on to a grocery store, where he's challenged to figure out the total grocery bill, including the tax! In the studio, he does the calendar feat, as well as the "constant" feat (you'll see what that is when you watch the video), with both two- and three-digit numbers!

In the segment, he also shares how he impressed a teacher when he hadn't been listening to the math lesson. It reminds me somewhat of the Art History test in which I was accused of cheating.

He also mentions one of my top pet peeves here: he claims that we only use 5-10% of our brains. This is an oft-repeated saying with little basis. A quick trip to the Straight Dope and/or Snopes.com will fill you in on why I hate hearing this overused cliché.

He closes by teaching a handy way (used in sneaky ways by magicians quite often) to check your addition to make sure you're right.

Among the other videos on his site, you can see the "constant" feat with a more impressive ending (Dial-up or Broadband). On a Discovery Channel show called "More Than Human", there was an even more impressive ending on this video. The person on the calculator with whom Scott was competing came up with a number that wasn't even a multiple of the original! Not only did Scott pick up on this right away, but also mentioned the number she mis-entered!

There's also some great video of Scott teaching some school students the way addition should be taught (Dial-up or Broadband), to give you an idea of how simple and powerful these principles can be.

I'll let you look through the other videos yourself. Although I do recommend the rare and strangely fascinating video of Alice Cooper talking about how he sees math (Dial-up or Broadband).


Two New Mental Math Releases

Published on Thursday, February 02, 2006 in , , , , ,

Sometimes authors keep the good stuff close to home. Such is the case with two new releases, both available only directly from their respective authors.

Sal Piacente informs me that Karl Fulves has written a sequel to his book, "Combo," simply entitled, "Combo II". I haven't been able to verify the price information yet, but I currently understand that it is $22, from the same address that many Fulves fans have memorized over the years:

Karl Fulves
Box 433
Teaneck, NJ 07666

Speaking of Fulves' works, if you either perform or want to learn the classic Calendar feat, you might want to inquire about the price and availability of "Day For Any Date," by Sam Schwartz, which is also available directly from Karl Fulves at the above address. It is one of the most thorough examinations of this classic feat. At each step, Sam explains every detail clearly and simply, so that each step is easily understood. He also shares many tips that were obviously developed over years of performing the feat for live audiences.

In the February 2006 issue of MAGIC magazine, Harry Lorayne, who is primarily known for his memory course and his many memory books, has announced his newest work, called "Mathematical Wizardry."

I won't reprint the entire ad here, but among the feats that are mentioned are:

1) You're given a random 6-digit number, and you immediately write down four 5-digit numbers whose sum is the chosen number.
2) Square any two digit number instantly (a version of this feat was linked to in an earlier post on Grey Matters.)
3) Adding columns of numbers at a glance.

There are, of course, many more feats in the book. Some may worry that these are all old feats. To those people I say, check Harry's track record. Between his magic books and his 20 years of publishing Apocalypse magazine, he's established a strong track record of bringing his own strong, original material, as well as that of other magicians, and giving new life to many time-honored classics.

Even more importantly, the ad promises something I see in few other mathematical books: "For the first time, presentation is stressed." Mathematical feats, like memory feats, can easily become little more than a statement of, "I'm better than you," when presented poorly, so I'm thrilled to see a major new mathematical magic work that focuses on the importance of presentation.

Thanks to having the advertisement in front of me, I have the detailed payment information available for Mathematical Wizardry:

-----------------------Mathematical Wizardry Information-----------------------
US Price: $45.20 ($39.95 for the book +$5.25 for US shipping and handling)
Added shipping and handling costs for outside the US: $52.95 ($7.75 for foreign shipping and handling)
Preferred payment method: Check or postal money order
Make check payable to: Harry Lorayne

Harry Lorayne
62 Jane Street
New York, NY 10014

PayPal payment: Add $5 for PayPal charges
PayPal recipient's e-mail address:

Credit card payment: Add $5 for processing
E-mail address: same as above
Needed credit card information: card number and expiration date
-----------------------Mathematical Wizardry Information-----------------------

Once I'm able to get my own copies of both of these works, I'll go through them and post their respective reviews here.

On another topic: This is the 100th post to Grey Matters, since it began on 3/14/2005!