Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

  1. Joshua Foer details his yearlong quest to improve his memory while working with some of the world’s best memory champions. He clearly describes some very practical memory techniques, research and tricks that can be implemented immediately into our lives to improve our memory. Memory can be improved with training just like anything else, it is not static as many of us believe
Key Takeaways
  1. Myth of how memory started – Simonides walked out of a building just as it fell and was able to show the killed persons family where they were sitting so that they could say goodbye (memory palace – engage spatial memory and create a visual of unmemorable info)
  2. Memory palace – remembering technique where you create crazy visual images of unmemorable lists or items and place them somewhere you are very familiar with such as your house or a route you walk or drive a lot
  3. Memory is a highly creative and imaginative process which is why the POA (person, object, action) memory technique works so well
  4. We have transferred our extremely important skill of memorization externally to books and computers and paintings. It is a way of extending our mortality but it also robs us of something very human and very important – our memory
  5. When shown 10,000 images, people were able to choose the one they had seen over 80% of the time
  6. Most people believe that we remember everything but forget because we misplace them in our minds
  7. Electrically stimulating parts of our brain brings back vivid lost memories
  8. This man named “S” had an incredible memory and can recall pretty much anything that has ever occurred to him. He has synesthesia too and every number is personified and certain words and people he associates with colors too. He visualizes pretty much every word but this makes short stories and poetry very hard for him to read. He stored memories linearly which was why he could recite things backwards as easily as forwards. This is not the case for normal people. Had to work in the art of forgetting by convincing himself that things were meaningless and he’d forget. He was not successful as a person though and could not hold a job.
  9. People must filter life in order to live it
  10. The mental athletes (memory champions) brains’ were indistinguishable to normal people but London cabbies spatial memory part of the brain was considerably larger than normal
  11. Baker v Baker Paradox. You remember a baker better than somebody who’s last name is Baker since you can visualize a baker better than someone named Baker
  12. Make a sound or situation that you’ll easily remember to remember someone’s name
  13. People can remember about 7 +/- 2 things in their working memory
  14. Chunking – remember more by breaking it into bigger chunks
  15. Who we are and what we do are a reflection of everything we have already experienced
  16. “EP” is a man who has both retro and anterograde amnesia. He does not remember anything after WWII for more than a couple seconds. He is kind of in a time capsule but he forgets that he has a memory problem so it seems like everything he forgets is just casual like it is for normal people.
  17. A scientist did a self experiment where he lived in a cave with no clocks or sunlight or anything. He pretty much became amnesiac and thought that only a month had passed when it had been two
  18. Creating new memories stretches out our lives
  19. Tony Bouzan of Mind Map fame and Ben Pridmore are some famous memory champions
    1. Check out Mind Meister – a free mind mapping software tool
  20. Camillo (a Renaissance scientist) believed that he could create a real, physical memory palace where one could store all there is to know in the world by relying on certain powerful cues that could bring to light any subject you wanted to discuss
  21. Assimilative Memory by Loisette is an amazing read on how to improve your memory
  22. Invention is a product of inventory (new ideas or products are a result of what you already have on your head)
  23. Bruce Lee – there are no limits, there are plateaus, but no limits
  24. Learning and memory are like spiderwebs. The more you know, the more you catch and the more you catch the bigger you become
What I got out of it
  1. Memory is very clearly something that can be trained and improved upon. Many of these techniques, such as the memory palace and “writing” people’s names in the air with my finger, are tricks I use in my daily life in order to better remember lists, presentations, names, etc.

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

  1. Isaacson doesn’t let us down with this huge undertaking of one of history’s most celebrated men. Isaacson dives through Einstein’s childhood, university life, family woes, and achievements. There is much reason for Einstein to be as lauded as he is
Key Takeaways:
  1. Einstein was always somewhat of a rebel. He didn’t really care if he fit in
  2. Believed that imagination and creativity are the key. They are more powerful than knowledge
  3. He was slow to talk and speak as a child – even dubbed the dopey one. Often repeated words an had a temper as a child
  4. Rarely thought in words – always pictures. Lead to lightning on train thought experiment as well as falling in an elevator in space to contemplate gravity
  5. Said he never lost his child like wonder and didn’t believe he was exceptionally intelligent or talented, but exceptionally curious
  6. Mileva Maric, his wife, was an ugly woman with a limp but she was smart and intense. His family did not approve but this made him rebel and like her more. Einstein had always had a strained relationship with his family and was never close with his son
  7. Hated blind following of authority more than anything. Questioned everything until he proved it to himself
  8. Einstein had 4 revolutionary papers in 4 months. They each changed the world. One of the most amazing bursts of creativity and intelligence in history. 1905 was one of the most revolutionary years in history – quantum theory of light, proved atoms exist, explained Brownian motion, upended concepts of space and time and his famous equation
    1. His first revolutionary idea was that light came in little packets, photons, and were not only a wave
    2. Second was the theory and later proven that particles and atoms definitely exist
    3. Third is special relativity – observers are moving at a constant velocity relative to each other. General relativity came 10 years later.
      1. If riding next to a beam of light at the same speed it should appear to be still although oscillating spatially. If everything was a wave there would have to be a universal “ether” which nobody had been able to prove and Einstein thought couldn’t exist
      2. Had 2 essential postulates – theory of relativity where all laws of physics are the same for two observers moving at the same speed and also for inert observers on moving object (people on earth, on a plane, etc.)
    4. Lastly, his world-known e=mc2 equation which determined that an object’s energy depended on its mass * the speed of light squred
  9. His key insight to solve that light moves at a constant velocity is that time is not absolute. What appears to be happening simultaneously to one observer will not appear so to another who is moving rapidly and there is no way to determine who is right
  10. Does not believe in a personal god but believes that a divine design permeates all things
  11. Einstein loved the water, sailing and the violin. He often was messing around with women other than his wife
  12. Einstein was a prominent pacifist
What I got out of it:
  1. Very interesting to learn more about Einstein the man, his background and his family life. His achievements are so well known but learning more about everything which surrounding his successes helps put them in context. Fascinating biography

Buy Einstein: His Life and Universe


Mastery by Robert Greene

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

  1. A must read. Robert Greene details masters of the past and present – people who are exceptional at what they do, what their processes are and what they have in common

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

Key Takeaways:  

  1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Mozart who was forced to play certain types of music by his father because the music would sell and they could make money. Mozart was very frustrated with this and eventually split from his father. When he did this it was as if all those years of tinkering and making every song he played “his” seeped into him and within a couple years wrote some of the classical songs that are still popular today. He had an explosion of creativity.
  2. Benjamin Franklin – Very interesting to learn about. I think Green described him sort of like a chameleon. Ben Franklin was so good at reading people and knowing what they were like and expected out of him that he would change how he acted around different people. I think I do this quite well too. For example, when Franklin went to France in order to gain support and funding for the American Revolution, he pissed off a lot of Americans because he was partying a lot and drinking a lot of wine, sort of being a playboy and living the high life. However, he did this with a purpose. He was loved by the French and he ended up getting huge support from France which otherwise the US would never have gotten. He played his audience! “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, become them, to see things from their point of view and what their intentions may be.” – Ben Franklin
  3. Albert Einstein – Worked at the patent office so that he could get paid a decent amount but still have sufficient time to work on his theories. He was speaking to a friend about giving up on what later became known as his Theory of Relativity and it suddenly clicked. Einstein always thought in terms of images and came up with many different thought experiments which helped him answer questions that changed the face of physics forever.
  4. Charles Darwin – Exceptional in his attention to detail and dedication. He spent 8 years studying barnacles to prove evolution. He went against what his dad wanted him to do and found his own path doing a combination of things he was very good and passionate about.
  5. Paul Graham – Founder of Y Combinator, hadn’t achieved much until his early 30’s and then created a company that he sold to Yahoo for tens of millions of dollars. He then though about a new concept to help startups acquire capital and this led to the birth of Y Combinator.
  6. Freddie Roach – Was a good boxer in his own right who worked with legendary boxing coach Eddie Futch. Futch’s style was a little impersonal and Roach improved on that by actually stepping into the ring and sparring with his boxers. This way he was able to feel his boxers, how hard they punched, their speed, etc. and could work on things in real time. Through this technique he took on Manny Pacquaio when many wouldn’t
  7. Santiago Calatrava – An architect who also went to engineering school and has designed some of the most famous buildings to date. Many of his buildings resemble animals
  8. Temple Grandin – Was born with autism but found a way to overcome it enough to go to school and graduate. She always felt a connection with animals and ended up designing more humane feed lots and slaughterhouses which make the cattle more comfortable and relaxed. She always enjoyed being squeezed and a she ended up designing a similar technique for cattle. She improved on this design and adjusted lighting and everything the cows saw so they would not get spooked. Her design is used in the majority of slaughterhouses today.
  9. Yoky Matsuoka – A Japanese engineer who created the industry standard for robotic hands. She trained for a while to be a professional tennis player. She specialized in creating more realistic prosthetics.
  10. VS Ramachandran – A neurobiologist who uses relatively simple experiments to measure and learn about the brain. He was able to help people with phantom limb syndrome, found mirror neurons and much else.
  11. Teresita Fernandez – A sculptor who became famous for her art made of metal (which when she started was not ever someone thought a woman could do) and now sits on the board of the Commission of Fine Arts). She worked through the night so that others would not distract her and people thought that her art just came so easily because they would show up the next day and this masterpiece would just appear. She first went with it but then thought that this carefree attitude could hurt her, especially because she is a woman. So, she took a much more intellectual and serious tone with her art and people realized how talented and dedicated she is.
  12. Cesar Rodriguez – Considered one of the best US Air Force pilots and came closer to becoming an ace than any other pilot since the Vietnam War. He was never as talented as the “Golden Boys” of the Air Force but he was so passionate and dedicated that he spent hours in the simulation machine and studying all he could that he eventually surpassed the Golden Boys. At one point he was able to watch a film of some maneuvers he had done to avoid being shot down and killed and had no idea where those thoughts came to him from. He dumped some fuel and flew high and barrel rolled and did all these thing subconsciously, but only because of the thousands of hours of training and thoughtful mastery.
  13. Daniel Everett – A missionary who went to Brazil to try to convert the Piraha people. Many others had tried but the Piraha’s language seemed incomprehensible. It did not follow typical language patterns and they thought it could not be cracked. Everett was quite close to giving up as well, feeling that they did not want him or his wife in their tribe anymore and one day the tribe actually looking for him to try to kill him. But, things turned when he actually went with the men on a hunt one day. The men communicated with each other through a series of whistles and clicks and other noises so that they could communicate seemlessly without scaring off animals or making other humans aware of their presence. Life for the Piraha was so fleeting, so dangerous, that their language did not incorporate any words for past or future events. Everything was in the now.

  What I got out of it:

  1. A must read for anybody who is interested in reaching mastery in any given field. Greene uses such diverse examples that there is something to be gained regardless of your talents or goals. A good takeaway is that while there are certain steps that must be taken to reach mastery, each person can mold it to fit their talents, temperament and goals.