Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pizza, Panini and the Periodic Table

Breaking out of the long break in blogging with a link to this article in Swarajya magazine. Subhash Kak in Swarajya:

Mendeleev was born at Tobolsk, Siberia, and educated in St. Petersburg. He was appointed to a professorship in St. Petersburg 1863 and in 1866 he succeeded to the Chair of Chemistry in the University. He is best known for his work on the periodic table, which was soon recognized since he predicted the existence and properties of new elements and indicated that some accepted atomic weights of the then known elements were in error. His periodic table formulated in 1869 remains one of the major conceptual advancements in the history of science.

Mendeleev arranged in the table the 63 known elements based on atomic weight, which he published in his article “On the Relationship of the Properties of the Elements to their Atomic Weights”. He left space for new elements, and predicted three yet-to-be-discovered elements including eka-silicon and eka-boron. The earlier attempts at classification had considered some two-dimensional schemes, but they remained arbitrary in their conception. Mendeleev’s main contribution was his insistence that the two-dimensional should be systematic and comprehensive. In this he appears to have been inspired by the systematic arrangement of Sanskrit sounds in the standard akṣara-mālā, which he indirectly acknowledges in his naming scheme.

A slice of pizza for anyone who comes up with another fine article like this is being proposed (due to the impracticality of sending pizza over long distances, this is still at a proposal stage. ;)) Pizza, anyone?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My current blogging

My blogging activities have moved to the "Ask the Delphic Oracle" blog. I update that blog quite frequently (~75 posts this year so far). The URL for the blog is : I have created a second placeholder blog. It is at : The placeholder blog simply redirects to the "Ask the Delphic Oracle" blog. You can subscribe to the blog's feed at : 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Panini and Eurocentricity

A followup on the "Pizza and Panini" piece. The "Pizza and Panini" piece is a sly comment on the Eurocentricity of the way we view contributions to science by the ancient Greeks versus the ancient Indians. Panini was, in my opinion, one of the greatest innovators in the ancient world. His grammar was the world's first formal system of language. Panini's ideas of formal rules in natural languages, in fact, significantly influenced the 19th and 20th century linguists who came after him - de Saussure's work (de Saussure,1894) and Chomsky's (Chomsky, 1957).

I am also poking a bit of fun at the lengthiness of some of the works of the ancient Greek mathematicians, scientists and even philosophers. Many of their dialogues appear unnecessary lengthy when viewed by us today. This is because the ancient Greeks had not yet developed the theories of languages, physics, et cetera that were developed after the European Enlightenment. If Euclid's propositions were analyzed today, we would find that they could have been written far more compactly. Two examples follow. The stuff in italics is all that would have been required for a Proof or Algorithm for the two Propositions of Euclid that I deal with below.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Pizza and Panini

This piece is in collaboration with Prof. Krishnan Shankar, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oklahoma. 
The Oracle Asks 
The Sanskrit grammarian Panini is at his friend Socrates’ place in Athens.
Boy. Here is the tea.
Socrates. Thank you.
Panini. The boy, he understands Greek Mathematics, does he not?

Socrates. Yes, indeed; he was born in the house.

Panini. Can you talk to him about mathematics?
Soc. Certainly. Attend now to the questions which I ask him, and observe whether he learns of me or only remembers.