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Joshua Foer: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

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Science journalist Joshua Foer used to be like the rest of us mere memory mortals who forget friends’ birthdays, where we put the car keys, where we put the car…

Then he covered the U.S. Memory Championships in pursuit of a story about intelligence and memory. What he discovered there inspired him to intensively train his own brain and, after a year, to compete in and win the same memory contest.

Foer writes about that experience, as well as what he learned about the nature and meaning of memory, in his 2011 best-seller, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. He will talk about it on Thursday, February 16, at Elmhurst College, as part of the Science Talks lecture series.

In Moonwalking with Einstein, Foer trains with top “mental athletes,” learning ancient techniques once employed by Cicero to memorize his speeches, and by Medieval scholars to memorize entire books.

More important, Foer discovers that, in every way that matters, we are our memories.

“You could argue that we are nothing more and nothing less than what we remember,” Foer says in a recent interview with Salon. “Memory is not just this storage vault that we dip into when we need to recall something. It’s actually intimately involved in shaping how we move through the world and process the world.”

During his lectures, Foer draws from Moonwalking with Einstein, sharing the techniques that earned him the title of U.S. Memory Champion and that can help anyone enhance his or her ability to remember.

Foer has written for National Geographic, Esquire, The New York Times, and Slate. He also is the co-founder of Atlas Obscura, an online compendium of “the world’s wonders, curiosities, and esoterica.”

“The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” is part of the Roland Quest Lecture Series at Elmhurst College.


Recorded Thursday, February 16, 2012 at Elmhurst College.

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