Sunday, March 30, 2008

Memory Retrieval System

So, the other day, on the sleigh ride, as we passed the half-pipe at Park City, the woman in front of me asked the sleigh driver the name of that Olympic snow-boarding dude with the red hair.  Sleigh driver can't remember -- comments that his sons would know.

And my brain says, "Flying Tomato."  And then it says, "Shaun . . . Something."

And I tell the woman in front of me, "Shaun Something."

And I keep trying to figure out the last name.  I know it's a name that's another word.  I know it's a name I can get, if I think about it long enough.  I run through the alphabet, as I often can retrieve names when I know the first initial, but nothing is hitting.  I give up.  I stop trying to remember the name.

Sleigh gets up to the lodge.  We get out.  I go inside.  Get my table.  Figure I'll find the ladies' room before the rush.  I find it (it's the door labelled "Cowgirls") and enter an open stall.  And sitting there, my brain volunteers, "Shaun White."

Has anyone actually studied this?  The way that you can remember something if you stop thinking about it?  The brain just keeps working on the problem and finds the solution even when it isn't at the forefront of your thoughts.  It's like spotting something just out of the corner of your eye -- the memory is there, but it only comes forward if you're not looking for it.

Weird.  Cool, though.


hewasolddog299 said...

Yep, I think they have studied it and it comes down to the rate of secretion of a protein which causes a synapse to fire (think memory cells in a computer which require a specific addressing scheme before they yield their string of ones and zeros). The rate is readily predictable and is a log of some prime number.

Maybe it was only a multiplicand of a prime number ... I can't remember.

helmswondermom said...

The same thing happened to me on Sunday.  We saw a couple that we hadn't seen for a long time, and spoke with them.  Then afterward we were trying to remember their last name.  I felt like it started with F, and I thought that it was an actual word, not just a name.  I also ran through the alphabet, but to no avail.  Then all of a sudden it came to me.  Hume!  No, it didn't start with an F, and it isn't a word all by itself, but whenever I used to hear it I would think of Flume which IS a word, and that DOES start with an F.  Our brains are remarkable, aren't they?

bobmendo said...

Hello, you don't know me, and I'm not sure if I'm allowed to comment here. You appear to be a lawyer and therefore I'm sure you'll tell me if this is out of bounds.

David Brooks wrote about memory on the NY TImes last week...wonderful article, but I had to look up a few of the words.

Op-Ed Columnist
The Great Forgetting

Published: April 11, 2008

Enjoy! And chag semeach. Did you enjoy using your freshly polished silver cup?