Joshua Foer in Slate:
To attain the rank of grand master of memory, you must be able to perform three seemingly superhuman feats. You have to memorize 1,000 digits in under an hour, the precise order of 10 shuffled decks of playing cards in the same amount of time, and one shuffled deck in less than two minutes. There are 36 grand masters of memory in the world. Only one lives in the United States. His name is Scott Hagwood, and he’s won every U.S. Memory Championship since he began competing in 2001. This past Saturday he was at home in Fayettville, N.C., putting the finishing touches on his first book about memory enhancement. That meant he was not in the auditorium on the 19th floor of the Con-Edison headquarters in Manhattan, and that meant that for the first time in five years, the gold medal of the eighth annual U.S. Memory Championship was anyone’s for the taking.