Learn to Memorize Pi using the Major System
It is impossible to remember all the digits of pi because it is impossible to calculate them in the first place. By 2013, pi had been calculated to more than 13.3 trillion decimal places (~10^13) and the calculation continues. For scientific purposes, it is rarely necessary to work with more than 40 digits but the memory masters can remember many more.
Here, we are going to consider the Major System for memorizing pi. This powerful memory technique was created by Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein in the seventeenth century and is widely used.
The Major system is based on a phonetic code of 10 items – consonants – which have to be learned. These represent the digits 0-9, as follows:
0 – S z c
1 – T d
2 – N
3 – M
4 – R
5 – L
6 – Sh ch j
7 – K g
8 – F v ph
9 – B p
The capitalized letters are used to remember the name ‘Stan Marloshkevip’ (vowels have been added). This name acts as a mnemonic for the Major coding system, to help deciphering. Note that the name contains the phonetic consonants in order. Note that there are a few sounds that do not appear, such as ‘oo’ (we only need to represent 10 digits) – these sounds are used as fillers, as are vowels. There are several other ways of memorizing this list, including one based on images. Settle on one method an practice it.
Once you have learned this, then vowels are added to create words. For example, TURTLE, when decoded is equivalent to 1415 (T*RTL* ) ignoring vowels *. There is no real limit to the words that can be created (other than the language itself). Start with simple words using one sound, such as law, fort. Then move on to more complex words.
These words are then used to create a memorable story, or the stops on a travel trip. In a story, it is best to avoid the use of the same word twice, unless for a genuine reason. For example, the string 1415 occurs twice in the first 20,000 digits of pi, 4567 occurs three times, and shorter strings are more frequent. Some users of the system use a list of maybe 100 ‘peg’ words, such as cat (71) and tar (14).
There are many examples of ready-made stories. If you want to write your own then you only need to write it once.
A Generic Method
The power of this method is transferrable to memorizing any string of numbers, from phone numbers to other irrational numbers such as e (Euler’s Number) and √2, if you really want to take on a challenge. A neat trick is to memorize the product of pi * √2 to n digits. Then you can claim that you can multiply the two numbers in your head. Of course, you know the answer already!
The unofficial record holder for memorizing pi is Akira Haraguchi, of Japan, who claimed a record of 100,000 digits in 2006.