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India Can Turn To Her Past For Her Quantum Computing Charge


What’s the undeniable link between modern-day quantum computing, Srinivasa Ramanujan’s mathematical brilliance, and Vedic scholar Vatsyayana?

On the face of it, there is none. But the common thread that ties all of these together is coding and decoding, encryption and decryption, which enables data transfer on the information highway, safe and sound, and at lightning speed.

Unravelling this deep link may provide a clue to Indian quantum thrust, even as China and the United States (US) battle it out for supremacy, bit by bit, all the way.

At a time when cyber wars and cyber security are the buzzwords, India’s itihasa of protecting information may provide the basis for our policy formulation and has a fighting chance to take on the quantum biggies globally.

One of the earliest mentions of a substitution cipher, the basic tenet of encryption and decryption techniques, can be traced to Vatsyayana, the Vedic scholar from the fourth century AD, who laid down the popularly-known mlecchita vikalpa. This technique was known only to amorous partners for the exchange of information in full secrecy. It is also regarded as the oldest form of encoding and decoding information, popular as the Kama Sutra cipher code.

At the heart of cryptography is a branch of mathematics called ‘number theory’ (sankhya siddhanta). It has its roots in the work of eminent mathematicians from ancient India, like Hemachandra, Brahmagupta, Aryabhatta, Pingala, and Panini. Sages and poets in ancient India developed mathematical and numerical knowledge to write poetry, compose music, and study all aspects of human existence. The concept of shunya or zero, for instance, can be traced to Aryabhatiya, a timeless mathematical and astronomical treatise by Aryabhatta, written around 500 CE.

Sanskrit poet Pingala is credited for innovation in the binary number system that laid the foundation for modern-day communication. This has been found in his work Chandahshastra, put together in the second century BCE.

Jain scholar Hemachandra wrote about a numerical series that later came to be known by the name of Italian mathematician Fibonacci. In 628 CE, Brahmagupta expounded on negative and positive numbers, the computation of square roots, and developed algebraic notations to solve quadratic equations. All of these mathematical concepts have led to computational advances in modern times.


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