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How to Memorize the Periodic Table

Learn how to memorize the periodic table in this Howcast video about memory techniques featuring memory expert Barry Reitman.


Hi, I'm Barry Reitman, author of Secrets, Tips, and Tricks of a Powerful Memory. I'd like to talk about the periodic table of elements. If you have an interest in it, great. And you already know how to visualize that chart. You also know that each element has its own number. So it might be helpful to memorize the periodic table of elements by the numbers. I'm going to show you a few and how I would remember them. I could remember them by any of the various systems that you'll see in this series. It could be the body part system that's discussed in another. It could be the loci system. The memory palace system. The rhyming system, although that has certain limitations. Let's do this by the memory palace. That's where we take a walk around your home. I'm going to show it to you on my home. You, of course, will change it to your home. But what I'm going to do is picture each element in a silly, dopey way. I'm going to focus on it and picture it. And that will allow me to recall it. What I'm doing is filing away my information by the numbers.

In my home, I'm looking at my living room first, and I'm going to go around it in a clockwise fashion. And the first thing I see is a bookcase on my left and then a large picture window. And then a small oil painting. And then turn the corner, and there's the large fireplace above which is a very large oil painting. One, two, three, four, five. Of course, I can go around my whole home. If you have eight rooms, there's 80 numbers right there. Again, you can use any system. We're not talking about specific systems now, but how to make use of it within this case, the periodic table of elements. The first element, number one, is hydrogen. So what I'm going to do is take a hydrogen bomb, place it in that bookcase, and light the fuse. Do you light fuses in a hydrogen bomb? Probably not, but I can. It's my picture. Bow! And the bookcase is blown up by a hydrogen bomb. Number one, the bookcase, hydrogen.

Element number two, helium. Everybody thinks of helium. That's what makes the balloons rise. Well, my word picture for number two in the memory palace, in my memory palace, is a large picture window. So what I'm going to do is attach a helium balloon to the window frame and watch it rise up. That's impossible, isn't it? That's what makes it memorable. Helium is number two. Hydrogen bomb blowing up the bookcase, number one. Helium number two. Rising, raising up, the picture window.

Number three is lithium. Lithium could be thought of in a number of ways. Lithographer and you might picture someone making prints. Or lithium the chemical, which is salt. I'm going to use that. And I'm going to take off the top of a salt shaker and throw it at that picture, that small oil painting, which is my number three. My number four, in my living room is a large fireplace. And element number four is beryllium. You make up whatever picture you want that sounds silly with beryllium. I'm just going to see a lot of wooden barrels. If I see a stack of wooden barrels and I'm thinking about elements, oh yeah, barrel, beryllium. That's too easy. And what I'm going to do to remember it's number four is shovel these barrels into my fireplace and watch them burn up. Barrels, beryllium in the fireplace, number four. Lithium, the salt, being thrown at the picture, number three. Helium, number two, lifting up my picture window. And number one, hydrogen, the hydrogen bomb blowing up my bookcase.

Number five. Element number five is boron. I'm going to change to a rhyming scheme here. Moron. I never liked that big picture over the fireplace that's number five. I think it was painted by a moron. Boron. Moron. Number five. And you can go through all of the elements like that. And you will know the entire table of elements.

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