Thought Fractals

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Posts Tagged ‘my brilliant brain: make me a genius

The Art of Memory

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The other night, I watched a program on National Geographic called My Brilliant Brain: Make Me a Genius. What I found to be most interesting was that it wasn’t centered around how to “become” a genius. It instead focussed on Susan Polger, a grand master chess player.

Her parents, firm believers that “geniuses are not made, not born,” home schooled her and her two sisters. While looking for something to do one day, she happened upon her father’s chess set.

The Polger girls’ enthusiasm for the game was what, first and foremost, paved the way for them to become, not only the youngest grand master chess players, but also the first women grand master chess players.

Traditionally, chess was thought of as something in which men excelled, not woman.
Mathematics and engineering are still do this day primarily male dominated.
But studies of the brain and how it works, in both men and women, are at long last dispelling formally held “truths” about which is the “smarter sex.”

The answer is neither.
Men and women are different–there is no argument there.

The Brains of Boys and Girls: Cerebral Cortex vs. Corpus Callosum

I. The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of the brain.
It plays a key role in memory, attention, thought, language, consciousness and spatial awareness.

Studies of the cerebral cortex have shown this area of the brain to be thicker and more developed in boys, making them better equipped to:

  1. handle spatial awareness
  2. solve problems from a “distanced perspective”
    a. they are better able to look at the bigger picture of a problem and solve it with little respect/attention to detail

II. The corpus callosum connects the 2 halves of the brain: the left and right hemispheres.
It is responsible for sending and receiving information to each cortical.
Studies have shown that girls have a more developed corpus callosum, and a stronger connective pathway–or “bridge”–allows them to:

  1. cognitively grasp spatial relations
  2. observe subtleties and nuances
    a. by perceiving the minute details of a bigger picture problem, they are able solve it from different angles

Working Memory: aka Short-Term Memory & 15th Century Florentine Architecture: Leon Battista Alberti

I. Chunking: a term used in short term memory refers to the “breaking down” of an idea or concept into smaller “chunks.” This helps us process large amounts of information and retain it in our short-term memories.
Most commonly, people are able to hold no more than 7 pieces of broken information in their short-term memory. This is why telephone numbers (disregarding long-distance and international numbers) are 7 digits.

II. Architectural Elements in Threes

Palazzo Rucellai

Palazzo Rucellai

“The facade, [of the Palazzo Ruccellai] built over a group of three medieval houses, is much more severely organized than that of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Each story of the Palazzo Ruccellai is articulated by flat pilasters, which support full entablatures; the whole is crowned by a Classical cornice. The rustication of the wall surfaces between the smooth pilasters is subdued and uniform, and the suggestion that the structure becomes lighter toward its top is made in an adaptation of the ancient Roman manner by using different articulating orders for each story: Tuscan (the Etruscan variant of the Greek Doric order) for the ground floor, Composite (the Roman combination of Ionic volutes with acanthus leaves of the Corinthian) for the second story, and Corinthian for the third floor.”

“[. . .] Alberti has created a large-meshed, linear net that, stretched tightly across the front of his building, not only unifies its three levels but also emphasizes the flat, two dimensional qualities of the wall” (706-07; Wadsworth Art through the Ages).

In other words, this facade has 3 rows and 7 columns.

Curious and humorous aside: Why do good things happen in 3s? Why is 7 thought of as a lucky number but 13 an unlucky number (psst. note today’s date)? Why doesn’t anyone care enough to coin an adage for 15, 17 or 19, but 21 is important enough to get its own card game? If all these numbers are odd and odd means peculiar, then what is so peculiar about them? If even means balanced and balance is something to strive for, then why don’t good things happen in twos; why is there no lucky 6 or unlucky 14; why no casino game called Black Jack 22; why are teenages allowed to drive at 16, and why are we legally an adult at 18?

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt
When I was younger, I remember watching an episode of Dateline about a guy who had an extraordinary memory.
He explained one of his tricks to Stone Phillips using a deck of cards. I remembered this trick and still to this day use it.

Memorize the Order of a Deck of 52 Cards (an even quantity, mind you)

  1. with each card, say its name: 2 of hearts, jack of spades, etc.
  2. in your head, visually picture a place you know well: your home, work, school, etc.
  3. start from a certain spot in a certain place: your bedroom, the door to your office, etc.
  4. and with each card, visualize that you are putting it a specific spot: 2 of hearts on your pillow, jack of spades by your keyboard, etc.
  5. and repeat

Personally, I’ve never attempted to do this for an entire deck of cards because I’ve never felt the need to memorize the order of an entire deck of cards; but I have found it to be an indispensable studying trick.
In art history, whenever I had to memorize the names of 20-30 pieces, the artists/architects/sculptors (and how to correctly spell their names), the dates of creation, the art movement/culture they belonged to and their significances, I would place all of that information inside the piece itself.

Botticelli, Birth of Venus or Venus on a Half Shell, c. 1482 Early Renaissance

A pupil of Fra Filippo, Botticeli excelled in the principle methods of painting firm, pure outlines with light shading around subtle contours. “He is known as one of the great masters of line” (721).
Botticelli belonged to the circle of Lorenzo de Medici (Medici family). He studied what is now known as Neo-Platonism at the Platonic Acedmy of Philosophy. He espouses spiritual and mystical Platonism with Christianity in his paintings.
The inspiration for The Birth of Venus was the poem The Joust of Lorenzo de Medici by Angelo Poliziano, a leading 15th century Humanist.

“Venus, born of the sea foam, is wafted on a cockle shell, blown by Zephyrus (the west wind), to her sacred island, Cyprus, where the nymph Pomona runs to meet her with a brocaded mantle. The lightness and bodilessness of the winds move all the figures without effort. Draperies undulate easily in the gentle gusts, perfumed by rose petals that fall on the whitecaps stirred by Zephyrus’ toes. The presentation of the figure of Venus nude was, in itself, an innovation [. . .] The nude, especially the female nude, had been proscribed during the Middle Ages. Its appearance on such a scale and with the use of the ancient statue Venus Pudicia (modest Venus) as a model could have drawn the charge of paganism and infedelity. It was only with the protection of the powerful Medici family that a new world of imagination could freely open within Platonism” (721-22).

From my long-term memory via my working memory, I remembered what I learned about the Palazzo Rucellai while I was watching a program about memory; I remembered how I learned it, and I learned how the brain works to store memories.

“The difference between false memories and real ones is the same as for jewels: its always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.”
–Salvador Dali

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
–Arthur Shopenhauer

“Genuis is work through fortunate circumstances.”
–László Polgár


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