memory feats?

jacob.baltuch at jacob.baltuch at
Sat Jun 14 09:12:41 UTC 1997

I don't know anything about T.Capote's magic trick
but I'm sure a much likelier explanation for it is
that he used a few acolytes posing as journalists.

Cheap tricks like these can impress only the gullible.

Whether tricks like these are physically possible or
not is even besides the point. Even if they are possible
they're still not easy and would take a considerable amount
of time. I'm sure Capote was much too smart to waste
the amount of work this would require on such a completely
useless set of data when much easier ways to impress
the naive exist (if it is possible at all, even for someone
with an incredible memory; btw, even learning that data his
acolytes were going to ask about, those few pages or columns
he did actually probably learn, is not bad at all). Can anyone
imagine any use for such a feat when directory assistance
calls are free? (Oh sure, that can save you a lot of money
if you try to call someone in NYC from China or the Antarctica).
Therefore the only use he could make of that data could
be the cheap "demonstration" he indulged in. Now, is it
really credible that he put the amount of work this would
require (if it were possible at all) just for that display?

Btw, the claim that he was prevented from taking notes
sounds beyond credible. Why would people authorize him
to conduct the interviews while preventing him to take
any notes?

I'd say it's probably more an elaborate invention to allow
him to make up part (or all) of the alleged interviews.
Not being allowed to take notes, losing your notes, having
sharks or your rabbit eat your notes, having the police confiscate
your notes, is probably the first trick in the book used
by those who want to present the creations of their own
imagination as serious data.

Journalists would have been much better advised to seriously
check that claim than to be drawn into attending displays
of magic tricks.

But the most bizarre in all of this is (1) that such things
can be invoked by people supposedly trained in critical
thinking and (2) (even assuming that Capote really did
what he said he did) that such a phenomenon can be invoked
to explain a historical question. Are we now invited to
accept the explanation that the Vedas have been transmitted
by a string of unique Capote-like phenomenons, or what?

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