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March 11, 2008

Who Will Be The Memory Champion?

0803Memory.jpgAt the World Almanac I research a lot of interesting topics every day. The trouble is I'm not very good at remembering details after a few days. I also usually forget names several minutes after I hear them. I have trouble remembering what I did last week, or sometimes even yesterday. Essentially I'm no match for the "Mental Athletes" that competed in the USA Memory Championship qualifier last weekend. Contenders had to memorize the first and last names of 99 faces, the order of a shuffled deck of cards, an unpublished poem, and 25 rows of 20 digit numbers. The first place winner, a software engineer from San Francisco, remembered 66 first or last names and recalled the entire order of the deck of cards in 2 minutes 27 seconds.

The seven finalists will be subjected to even crazier challenges in the final event on April 22. It'll be aired on HDNet if your television provider carries it.

Interested to know how you might do? There are some test examples on the page. Any permanent U.S. resident age 12 or older can compete. Two lines of Speed Numbers is enough for me.

Row 1: 9 6 4 7 7 9 9 7 4 7 0 8 0 6 4 2 6 0 9 4
Row 2: 8 6 7 6 4 3 8 1 8 2 7 9 4 3 9 6 4 3 1 4

USA Memory Championship
Event categories with links to examples

Image from the Flickr page of wetwebwork

March 15, 2007

The World of Sword Swallowers

The 2007 World Almanac includes contact information for hundreds of associations and societies, but here's one that didn't make the cut:

If you’re a sword swallower and you wish to associate with other sword swallowers (and maybe get a few tips on how to avoid esophageal punctures while practicing your trade), then the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) is the place for you. 1870s_UnknownSwordSwallower1.jpg

According to their mission statement:

SSAI is dedicated to networking existing sword swallowers around the world, promoting dialogue between sword swallowers, encouraging safe swordswallowing practices and techniques, and preserving and promoting the art of swordswallowing worldwide.
Sword swallowing takes dedication, a freakish sense of mind over matter, and an almost reckless courage. There are plenty of hazards in practicing the art, including painful death, and I'm sure that there aren’t many people in the world who can relate to those who shove steel blades down their gullets for a living. So it makes sense that sword swallowers have this type of international social network.

Click on the resources link and you'll be brought to a site affiliated with SSAI. There you can see x-ray pictures of people swallowing swords and find out about the history of sword swallowing.

Just remember:

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

Sword Swallowers Association International
Sword swallowers resources and history www.swordswallow.com
Sword Swallowing World Records
X-ray movie of a guy swallowing a sword

And just in case you were still tempted to try it: "Esophageal Perforation in a Sword Swallower" Texas Heart Institute Journal. 2001; 28(1): 65–68

November 18, 2006

Mysteries of the Masons

Glancing through a reprinted copy of the 1868 edition of The World Almanac I came across some information about the number of Freemasons in the U.S. This was a more relevant topic in days past because the Masons had been accused or suspected of being the force behind a number of conspiracies and events either real or imagined. Today in pop culture, the Freemasons have become the poster group for all secret societies. They’ve been parodied on the Simpsons, had a member who turned out to be Jack the Ripper in the movie From Hell, and served as the keepers of a fortune in gold in National Treasure. According to the first edition of The World Almanac, there were an estimated 300,000 Freemasons in the U.S. Their membership was at its highest in 1959, when there were 4,103,161 masons in the U.S. As of 2005, there were 1,569,812 masons in the U.S. And not one of them will divulge the secret handshake.

–Vincent Spadafora

About Associations

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Associations category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Art is the previous category.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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