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Joshua Foer was crowned US memory champion after training for just one year. Anyone can learn the same tricks—but is it worth doing?

By Elizabeth Pisani   April 2011

A drawing created by Samuel R Wells in 1870 for his book How to Read Character

We’re in a bar in Dalston. No smoking, of course, so no matchbooks to scribble a phone number on. It’s so long since I memorised one that I know better than to try, especially after several pink drinks. I proffer the inside of my wrist. My young companion looks at me blankly. “Write your number here,” I say. He shakes his head, unsure I still deserve it. “That is so LAME.” He asks my number, calls my mobile; I save his number under the…

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