Science Questions

How much was understood in ancient India?

Tue, 7th Jan 2014

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Question

Bavesh asked:

I got a film, ďUnder SiegeĒ, a Steven Seagal film. Basically, they mentioned Ė well, this is just a check of veracity of the statement with you obviously. Well, they mentioned how physicists understood the mechanisms of nuclear technology after they had perused ancient Indian text like the Bhagavadgita which go back about 5000 years I believe. A very ancient text amongst the first actually and they mentioned how they peruse the text and they understood the nuclear physics from reading these texts. Now, just suppose of that question and this answer in, I found out that an ancient Indian civilisation, the Harappan Civilization, and just go about 5000 years and made complex cities built at degrees and angles from the monsoons every year and so forth. They build them around the time they build the pyramids. They had amongst the first environment conservation programmes that we know in archaeological literatures. So, they obviously knew a thing or two about science even going back in the Neolithic era. So, how could the science behind this, the veracity...

Answer

Dominic - Certainly, there is quite a lot of interesting science in India.  One of the reasons for that is to do with legacy of ancient Greece which actually travelled to India.  I think it was through the Persian empire and in fact, in the first few centuries AD, India was quite a big mathematical centre because ancient Greek knowledge had been lost in the west but it was still flourishing in the east.  It was only in fact in about the 12th century, it came back to the west.  In terms of nuclear physics, I have not heard anything about that.  I certainly heard lots about ancient Greek astronomy being found in texts in India, but I don't think the ancient Greek has ever got anywhere near nuclear physics.

Dave -   Though there was a nuclear reactor, a very, very ancient reactor which developed somewhere in Africa, but this was millions of years ago when a load of bacteria obviously evolved to collect uranium which have kept them nice and warm.  They collected so much that it actually went critical and you actually look in the rocks, you can see the results of a nuclear reactor a bit form a couple of million years ago.  But it was anything to do with humans...

Chris -   That's called a geo reactor or something, isnít it?

Dave -   Yeah.  Something like that.

Chris -   That they're actually bugs living in the Chernobyl nuclear power station.  There's a kind of fungus that's evolved to make extra large amounts of melanin, the same stuff that makes our skin black.  Because itís a very electron-rich molecule, itís very good at interrupting the kinds of particles that give rise to the radiation that's coming out of the core of that melted down reactor.  So, the fungus is flourishing on the inside of the reactor vessel even now.  So, it shows that bugs can tolerate really quite extreme conditions, can they?

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Nah, wishful thinking. Same stuff as expecting people of a limited life span to become instant gurus. We learn through experience. But the Chernobyl fungus was interesting. yor_on, Mon, 13th Jan 2014

The Ancient Greece ideas traveling to India seem plain false. Ancient Greece culture is nowhere near as old as the Indus Valley Civilization. It is about 3000 years younger (founded in the 6th to 8th Century BCE). India has given quite a lot to us from plastic surgery to sewer systems. It has been claimed that India found gravity 500 year before Newton. It was published by the scientist Bhaskaracharya. Amanda, Tue, 18th Aug 2015

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