New Yorker logoBefore Alex Mullen competed in—and won—the World Memory Championships, this past December, no American had ever placed higher than seventh. Photograph by Jonno Rattman for The New Yorker

Alex MullenOn the Saturday before Mother’s Day, Alex Mullen, the country’s top-ranked memory athlete, joined his parents and grandmother for dinner at a restaurant near his grandmother’s home, in Easton, Pennsylvania. Earlier that day, Mullen had been in Hershey, Pennsylvania, ninety miles west of Easton, where he had competed in the U.S.A. Memory Championship and set two new national records, in speed cards and speed numbers. To set the speed-numbers record, he had memorized more than five hundred and fifty sequenced digits in five minutes.  READ MORE