Double encodeing question with periodic table example

Hi All,

In different books Dominic O’Brian gives different instructions on how to memorize the table of the elements. In “How to develop a brilliant memory” he suggests walking through a palace and putting an element at each loci in order, this was to give a quick link to the atomic number.

In another book he suggests organizing it by group, so that each group is in the same room. He also suggests imagining a color tint or wall paper per room. E.g. group IV has C, Se, Ge, Sn, Pb, Fl. This second way seems useful for how chemists use the table.

I already have a MP will my PAO characters, so this it would be super easy to do the first method.

My questions are

  1. How do you guys go about indexing and retrieval issues like this?
  2. Would you suggest "re"-memorizing the table with the second method as well in another MP?
  3. It I wanted to add atomic weights should I (A) plan more loci, (B) put more images on same loci or (C) make a link-story from the first item at that loci? What is best?
  4. Generally, how do you guys elaborate on and add more detail to images with MoL? Do you just add like a little movie scene (more actions) to each image at it's loci?


I have done the periodic table using the same memory palace as other data. It is working a treat. I have taught this in schools as well.

When I reach an element in Group 18, the Noble gasses, I bow out of respect for their nobility. This makes it easy to get to the Group of any element in 16 or 17 by going backwards, or Groups 1, 2, 3 or 4 by going forwards from the nearest Noble. At a Group 13 element (the Unluckies), I cross my index fingers to scare off the bad luck of 13. That gives me 14 and 15 easily as well. It is really quick to scan the memory palace for the Nobles and Unluckies. When I want to know where an element sits in the table, I just find the nearest Noble or Unlucky.

When I hit the transition metals, I fold my arms through that section. These simple actions stick really well.

The LAnthanides I sing, LA, LA, LA, so if an element is in the song, then it is a Lanthanide. So they are in the memory palace to add all the extra stuff, but they are also in the song. That makes it really easy to remember them, as well - I am not sure if the song helps remember the locations or the other way around - more of a feedback loop, I think.

The ACTinides form a one ACT play. So they are in the memory palace and in the play. The play starts with Thor contacting a Prostitute who is carrying a Uranium bomb … and it goes on from there!

I have the Periodic table in a normal memory palace, but these additions provide the layout or the Periodic Table as well as the properties. The Atomic numbers are easy, and the locations allow any further data to be added using the usual methods of story and images. It depends on the location and information how I attach from then on.

Hope that makes sense!


It all comes down to how many images you can place in a location without losing any images. I used one location for an element then just stacked the information. For knowing the different groups and such, you can just tag a location with an image that represents the specific info. If you memorize the order of the elements, you don;t really have any idea where the groups are or anything so you need to tag the locations or have an image in the locations that represent the info.

Dr. Kelly you are quite the inspiration. I am going to give the periodic table of elements a shot and try to memorize it as well. Thank you for all your posts!

Hi Lynne,

I like adding in the physical motions. Back when I was a chemistry tutor (and before I knew about memory) I used to have people move their hands & arms about (kind of like a cheer) to learn the functional groups. Two arms overhead --> carbonyl group. If followed by “t-rexing” the left arm --> aldehyde.

When you add multiple items to the same palace, do you just focus on one context or visualize all the contexts every time? Eg, in my case, I have my PAO numbers in the palace. Do I ignore them and just add element imagery or do I visualize both the PAO scene AND the element at the same time?

P.S. I just read your book! So great! Who knew we’re all “iloral” :slight_smile:

Thanks, Mnemon!

Hi Moo. Thank you for saying lovely things about The Memory Code.

I use some physical movements, but the more I think about your comment, the more I want to do it with more gusto. Your movements sound great.

With multiple items in a single location, I don’t seem to need to decide on focus. My brain just does it. I don’t think about what is already there, but my brain will sometimes decide to link to them if a natural link suggests itself. I never find the crowded locations an issue. I have probably quoted this before on this forum, but I love it so I’ll do it again. Augustine of Hippo (later Saint Augustine), born in 354 AD, described using memory palaces and retrieving information from crowded locations:

And I come to the fields and spacious palaces of my memory, where are the treasures of innumerable images, brought into it from things of all sorts perceived by the senses. … When I enter there, I require what I will to be brought forth, and something instantly comes; others must be longer sought after, which are fetched, as it were, out of some inner receptacle; others rush out in troops, and while one thing is desired and required, they start forth, as who should say, “Is it perchance I?” These I drive away with the hand of my heart, from the face of my remembrance; until what I wish for be unveiled, and appear in sight, out of its secret place. Other things come up readily, in unbroken order, as they are called for; those in front making way for the following; and as they make way, they are hidden from sight, ready to come when I will. All which takes place when I repeat a thing by heart.

Oh, to be able to write like that!


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