“No no, no no no no, no no no no, no no, there’s no limit”
~2 Unlimited – No Limit (1993)
Fond memories of the 90s at Uni – They don’t write lyrics like that anymore!
Tony Buzan used to collect magazine covers featuring the brain. These were mostly from publications such as ‘Scientific American’ and ‘New Scientist’. His favourite cover simply contained the words “No Limits.” I didn’t Challenge Tony on this (never a good move as he could invariably win any argument) but as a trained scientist, I knew that when you put infinity into a calculation you tend to get a meaningless answer. This is why science can’t explain what is at the centre of a black hole. It’s just called a singularity and the laws of physics break down.
In physical sports and the advances are miniscule and I think everyone would agree that the human body is not capable of advancing forever. You won’t see a sprinter outpacing a sports car. In mental sports great leaps in performance are not just possible but commonplace. I still think infinity is unrealistic, but we are a long way from any conceivable limit and the brain is capable of the most amazing things.
I have witnessed Superhuman feats at Memory and Speed Reading Championships plus special record attempts. Anne Jones read, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 47 minutes (that’s over 4000 words per minute). She was trained by Tony Buzan and just uses the techniques we continue to promote. At the World Memory Championships, Zou Lujian from China set a new world record by memorising a randomly shuffled deck of fifty-two playing cards in just 13.96 seconds. Ryu Song I memorised a perfect 547 digits spoken at one per second hearing it once and not writing anything down. The World Championships has the best of three trials with increasing difficulty and she scored a perfect 200 and 300 in the preceding two attempts. The list goes on and on: over 48 decks of cards in an hour; 154 historical dates with events in five minutes; nearly seven and a half thousand binary digits in sequence in 30 minutes. These performances were seen as completely impossible a few years ago and could be seen as conjuring tricks had they not been under strictly controlled conditions.
Anyone Can Do It!
The multi-talented Roy Castle sang, “If you want to be the best and you want to beat the rest – dedication’s what you need.” This was the theme tune to the TV show “Record Breakers” presented by Castle from 1972 until 1994 when he sadly died of lung cancer which, as a non-smoker, he attributed to years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs. It was a record attempt on the show by Creighton Carvello, memorising the order of shuffled deck of playing cards in just under three minutes, which inspired, 8 times World Memory Champion, Dominic O’Brien to take up memory.
It really is true, dedication to practise is what you need to set amazing mental World Records but you also need a set of solid techniques. It is not down to natural talent with World Champions often admitting to having a poor to average natural memory. Speed Reading and Memory can be learned in a weekend each but perfecting the techniques takes longer, though maybe not as much as you may think. The 2019 World Memory Champion Ryu Song I from DPR Korea, who I mentioned previously, said she had been training for just eight months.
Maybe Tony was right and there really are no limits.