Author: Subhash Kak

A Very Brief History of Indian Science

The annual Indian Science Congress, which just concluded, had its usual share of controversies about history of Indian science and I have been asked to weigh in. It so turns out that I did precisely that in a brief account titled “Science” for Stanley Wolpert’s Encyclopedia of India(2005) and since that is freely available online, I shall be more selective of themes in this revision of the previous essay. This account does not include the modern period for which many excellent histories exist. Indian archaeology and literature provide considerable layered evidence related to the development of science. The chronological time frame for this history is provided by the archaeological record that has been traced, in an unbroken tradition, to about 8000 BCE. Prior to this date, there are records of rock paintings that are considerably older. The earliest textual source is the Ṛgveda, which is a compilation of very ancient material. The astronomical references in the Vedic books recall events of the third or the fourth millennium BCE and earlier. The discovery that Sarasvati, the preeminent river of the …

Playing With Zero and Ancient History

Mathematical and physical arguments are easier to check for basic errors than those in the social sciences and history. You may not divide by zero, because if you did then you could show, for example, that 2 = 3 (because 2/0 = 3/0); likewise, any system that delivers more work than the energy it takes in is a logically impossible perpetual motion machine. Authors in the social sciences sometimes get carried away by ideas that are unfalsifiable or logically inconsistent and since these ideas are repeated in the echo chambers of the academia, it can take a generation or two, or even longer, to realize this. Here I wish to speak of just one matter of ancient history concerning languages of India and Europe that are far apart geographically but belong to the same family. Recently, people have begun to use ancient DNA to see how India was populated by outside migrants and settlers. It is quite fair to assume that people traveled in different directions in the ancient world but to effectively assume that …

Playing with Zero and Ancient History

Mathematical and physical arguments are easier to check for basic errors than those in the social sciences and history. You may not divide by zero, because if you did then you could show, for example, that 2 = 3 (because 2/0 = 3/0); likewise, any system that delivers more work than the energy it takes in is a logically impossible perpetual motion machine. Authors in the social sciences sometimes get carried away by ideas that are unfalsifiable or logically inconsistent and since these ideas are repeated in the echo chambers of the academia, it can take a generation or two, or even longer, to realize this. Here I wish to speak of just one matter of ancient history concerning languages of India and Europe that are far apart geographically but belong to the same family. Recently, people have begun to use ancient DNA to see how India was populated by outside migrants and settlers. It is quite fair to assume that people traveled in different directions in the ancient world but to effectively assume that …