Sunday, January 04, 2015


  1. Relevant to the goings on at Science Congress: H.S. Mukunda et al (1974): A critical study of the work “Vymanika Shastra”. [Hat tip to V. Vinay on Twitter]

    A study of the work “Vymanika Shastra” is presented. First, the historical aspects and authenticity of the work are discussed. Subsequently, the work is critically reviewed in respect of its technical content. It appears that his work cannot be dated earlier than 1904 and contains details which, on the basis of our present knowledge, force us to conclude the non feasibility of heavier‐than craft of earlier times. Some peripheral questions concerning dimensions have also been touched upon. [Bold emphasis added]

  2. Also relevant: an engaging BBC Radio 4 podcast on Indian mathematics (45 minutes, mp3, via Sidin Vadukut). See also this review of Mathermatics in India and Square Roots in the Sulbasutra by Cornell mathematician David Henderson. [Hat tip to Siddharth Varadarajan]

  3. Dalmeet Singh Chawla in Science Insider: India’s major science funders join open-access push

  4. My colleage Prof. E. Arunan has started blogging. Here are the first three posts:


  1. Anonymous said...

    Here's a discussion on Indian science and math at an Indian freethought forum:

  2. Anonymous said...

    I tend not to out of hand dismiss claims about the ancient Indian tradition. However, this one about the "Vimaan"s and all does seem to exceed even my limits.

    But, still, I do believe that it can also be very easy to dismiss such claims without giving them due consideration. Yes, so many of them are ridiculous. But not all. Indeed, as a less noted fact, some of the defenders themselves do contradict each other, but never do notice this fact.

    Let me give you an example. I am unlike some who would accept a claim only if there is a direct archaeological evidence for it. IMO, theirs is a materialistic position, and materialism is a false premise; it's the body of the mind-body dichotomy (in Ayn Rand's sense of the terms). And, so, I am willing to consider the astronomical references contained in the ancient verses as an evidence. So, in that sense, I don't dismiss a 10,000+ old history of India; I don't mindlessly accept 600 BC or so as the starting point of civilization and culture, a date so convenient to the missionaries of the Abrahamic traditions. IMO, not every influential commentator to come from the folds of the Western culture can be safely assumed to have attained the levels obtained by the best among the Greek or enlightenment thinkers.

    And, so, I am OK if someone shows, based on the astronomical methods, the existence of the Indian culture, say, 5000+ years ago.

    Yet, there are two notable facts here. (i) The findings of different proponents of this astronomical method of dating of the past events (say the dates of events mentioned in Ramayana or Mahabharata) don't always agree with each other. And, more worrisome is the fact that (ii) despite Internet, they never even notice each other, let alone debate the soundness of their own approaches. All that they---and their supporters---do is to pick out Internet (or TED etc.) battles against the materialists.

    A far deeper thinking is required to even just approach these (and such) issues. But the proponents don't show the required maturity.

    It is far too easy to jump to conclusions and blindly assert that there were material "Vimaana"s; that "pushpak" etc. were neither a valid description of a spiritual/psychic phenomenon nor a result of a vivid poetic imagination. It is much more difficult, comparatively speaking, to think of a later date insertions into a text. It is most difficult to be judicious in ascertaining which part of which verse of which book, can be reliably taken as of ancient origin, which one is a later-date interpolation or commentary, and which one is a mischievous recent insertion.

    Earlier (i.e. decades earlier, while a school-boy or an undergrad in college etc.), I tended to think the very last possibility as not at all possible. Enough people couldn't possibly have had enough mastery of Sanskrit, practically speaking, to fool enough honest Sanskrit-knowing people, I thought.

    Over the decades, guess, I have become wiser. Not only have I understood the possibilities of the human nature better on the up side, but also on the down side. For instance, one of my colleagues, an engineer, an IITian who lived abroad, could himself compose poetry in Sanskrit very easily, I learnt. No, he wouldn't do a forgery, sure. But could one say the same for every one who had a mastery of Sanskrit, without being too naive?

    And, while on this topic, if someone knows the exact reference from which this verse quoted on Ramesh Raskar's earlier page comes, and drops a line to me, I would be grateful. . As usual, when I first read it, I was impressed a great deal. Until, of course, other possibilities struck me later. (It took years for me to think of these other possibilities.)

    Anyway, enough for the time being.