People have appreciated memorizing the digits in pi since the start of the early 19th century. Back then, only several hundred digits were identified, so it was hardly more of a challenge than memorizing a long story or a poem. However, since then supercomputers have calculated more digits of pi than any memory genius could ever recite in a lifetime, let alone memorized. These days pi memorization is only for the truly dedicated and elite.
Most people would get a headache just thinking about some of the things Sancy Suraj commits to memory. Last month, Sancy set a new Singapore record by memorizing and reciting 1505-digit of Pi. He took 30 minutes to recite all 1505 digits of pi. The event was sponsored by Red Bull and GNC.
Sancy is no stranger to memory sports. He previously held the Guinness World Records for The Longest Colour Sequence Memorized. At the World Memory Championships on 2011, Sancy Suraj, A True-Red-Blooded-Singaporean also memorized, 176 abstract images in 15 minutes, 98 words in 15 minutes, 480 numbers in 60 minutes, 51 names, and faces in 15 minutes, 460 binary digits in 30 minutes.
When asked why did he memorize Pi? “I love memorizing numbers, I do not know why, but i just do. With regards to going for the Singapore record, the time was right. I had the sponsors I wanted and was well prepared so I decided to go for it.” Sancy said.
Sancy only had 30 minutes to recite the 1505 digits of Pi. According to the Singapore Books of Records rule, those attempting the Pi recitation record will have to write the digits down.
“The issue I faced was writing down the digits. I could have recited more digits of pi but the writing was slowing me down.”Sancy Suraj
“I think the rules for Pi recitation for the Singapore Book of Records has to change by removing the 30 minute time limit. This time limit also limits the potential of local mental athletes because there is only so much number you can recite in 30 minutes. On top of that the numbers has to be written down, that takes even more time. I would really love to see the time limit removed. There is no time limit for the Guinness Book of Records for pi recitation and we shouldn’t have it either,” said Sancy Suraj.
Piphilology comprises the creation and use of mnemonic techniques to remember a span of digits of the mathematical constant π. The word is a play on the word “pi” itself and of the linguistic field of philology.
There are many ways to memorize π, including the use of poems (a portmanteau, formed by combining pi and poem), which are poems that represent π in a way such that the length of each word (in letters) represents a digit. Here is an example of a poem: “Now I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics.” Notice how the first word has three letters, the second word has one, the third has four, the fourth has one, the fifth has five, and so on. In longer examples, 10-letter words are used to represent the digit zero, and this rule is extended to handle repeated digits in so-called Pilish writing. The short story “Cadaeic Cadenza” records the first 3834 digits of π in this manner, and a 10,000-word novel, Not A Wake, has been written accordingly.
However, poems prove to be inefficient for large memorizations of π. Other methods include remembering patterns in the numbers (for instance, the year 1971 appears in the first fifty digits of π) and the method of loci which Sancy used to memorized 1505 digits of pi for his Singapore Book of Record.
The major system (also called the the Herigone’s mnemonic system) is a mnemonic technique used to aid in memorizing numbers. The major system works by converting numbers into consonants, then into words by adding vowels. The major system works on the principle that images can be remembered more easily than numbers.
One notable explanation of this system was given in Martin Gardner’s book The First Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions, which has since been republished in The New Martin Gardner Mathematical Library as Hexaflexagons, Probability Paradoxes, and the Tower of Hanoi. In this, Gardner incorrectly attributes the system to Lewis Carroll.
Each numeral is associated with one or more consonants. (In other words, the link is to the sound, not the letter. For example, the letters C in “cat”, “cello”, and “Cynthia” each have different values in the system – 7, 0, and 6, respectively.) Vowels, semivowels and the consonant /h/ are ignored. These can be used as “fillers” to make sensible words from the resulting consonant sequences.
The groups of similar sounds and the rules for applying the mappings are almost always fixed, but other hooks and mappings can be used as long as the person using the system can remember them and apply them consistently.
Each numeral maps to a set of similar sounds with similar mouth and tongue positions. The link is phonetic, that is to say, it is the consonant sounds that matter, not the spelling. Therefore, a word like action would encode the number 762 (/k/-/ʃ/-/n/), not 712 (k-t-n). Double letters are disregarded when not pronounced separately, e.g. muddy encodes 31 (/m/-/d/), not 311, but midday encodes 311 (/m/-/d/-/d/) while accept encodes 7091 (/k/-/s/-/p/-/t/) since the ds and cs are pronounced separately. x encodes 70 when pronounced as /ks/ or /gz/ (e.g. in fax and exam) and 76 when pronounced /kʃ/ or /gʒ/ (e.g. in anxious or luxury); z encodes 10 when pronounced /ts/ (e.g. in pizza). In ghost (701, /ɡ/-/s/-/t/) and enough (28, /n/-/f/), gh is being encoded by different numerals. Usually, a rhotic accent is assumed, e.g. fear would encode 84 (/f/-/r/) rather than 8 (/f/).
Short term visual memory of imagined scenes allows large numbers of digits to be memorized with ease, though usually only for a short time.
Whilst this is unwieldy at first, with practice it can become a very effective technique. Longer-term memory may require the formulation of more object-related mnemonics with greater logical connection, perhaps forming grammatical sentences that apply to the matter rather than just strings of images.
The system can be employed with phone numbers. One would typically make up multiple words, preferably a sentence, or an ordered sequence of images featuring the owner of the number.
The Major System can be combined with a peg system for remembering lists, and is sometimes used also as a method of generating the pegs. It can also be combined with other memory techniques such as rhyming, substitute words, or the method of loci. Repetition and concentration using the ordinary memory is still required.
“The Method of Loci is the best method to memorize large amount of information,” Said Sancy. I have used it for both my memory records. I suggest everyone learn this memory techniques, especially students,” Sancy added.
“I also used the Major System to memorize pi. It is a combination of the Method of Loci and The Major System. I did not use the poem method to memorize pi and I do not think it is efficient. Some people like it but i do not as I fell like I’m doing double work. First I have to create the poems and then I have to memorize it,” Said Sancy.
When asked if he plans to break his current record? “I do not usually plan that far ahead for my records. I’ll do it when I fell like it’s the right time. For now, I’ll let someone break my Singapore record first.” Beating 1505 digits of pi in 30 minutes, anyone up for that challenge?
EW Marketing World would like to thanks Sancy Suraj for this interview. © 2020 EW Marketing World.