Last year I read about the “formula for genius”, by Dr Piotr Wozniak. I found it very interesting and changed my view on the relation between memory and intelligence. In the past I’d written off the memorisation of facts as being relatively unintelligent (not least because it was boring), and with the internet and personal wikis there was no longer any need to remember trivial information. However, if your brain has access internally to a larger amount of knowledge, it’s able to draw more abstractions, generalise better and find new connections. Which makes sense in hind sight, if you don’t have that knowledge in your mind, how are you going to draw comparisons with new knowledge?
I was also intrigued by his learning software SuperMemo, but it looks like it’s become outdated, and more specifically it’s confined to windows and isn’t open source (meaning I can’t easily modify it if it doesn’t work the way that’s right for me). Thus, I went looking for some new learning software and came across JMemorize and Mnemosyne.
Both are based on the Leitner principle (proposed by the German psychologist Sebastian Leitner in the 1970s) which is described on jMemorize’s about page:
“The basic idea is to divide the cards into different decks depending on the difficulty they present to you. This is done by repetitive quizzes in which you try to answer the question out of your mind. Every time you know the correct answer to a card, it is put on the next higher card deck. If you fail at a card, it is put back to the starting deck.”
I ended up using Mnemosyne for the following reasons:
- it is written in gtk
- supports pictures, sounds, and 3 sided cards
- it also is a research project, allowing you to optionally submit your learning to their server (not the content of the cards, just your performance through time).
Plus it’s in ubuntu so you can just type the following to install it:
So far I’ve been using Mnemosyne for 8 or so months. I’ve learnt the periodic table as a test (Ialways found chemistry my downfall in school due to it mostly being memorisation). I’ve also learnt the French words for dates and body parts, and now I’m learning Spanish (in a more concrete way than just random words, including phrases and the various parts of speech). So far there are 2700 facts, which for the most part I can recall relatively easily.