Indian Mathematics – an Introduction

A simple and very concise/quick introduction to various simple math techniques originally developed in India. Likely, these have been dealt with at length in Vedic Math type of books, but this is a very inviting quick read.

For contents, head out to Google Books:

This book taps the mathematical traditions of India for some simple and elegant methods of performing arithmetic calculations. There are techniques for multiplication, division, squaring, square-rooting and factorisation that, once mastered, are faster than the conventional approaches currently in wide use. Errors arising out of carelessness in calculation were apparently a problem faced by our ancestors too! They devised an amazingly simple technique to catch such errors. These techniques are presented in this book in a lucid manner, with a large number of examples to illustrate the basic ideas and elaborate on their variations. The use of Sanskrit terms has been minimised. Most of the methods described are general and work for all numbers, not just for special cases. The mixed-number, or Mishrank, which contains both positive and negative digits, is extremely useful in simplifying calculations and is widely used in this book. The reader will find that ideas such as these can be effectively grafted to the conventional methods. The book will interest a wide audience. Students will benefit the most, since they can easily make the methods of this book their own. They will soon find that much of their arithmetic can be performed orally. Adults will find it a pleasure to discover new and elegant ways of doing things they already know. The computer enthusiast may find hidden in the simple methods ideas to speed-up machine computation. Finally, the mathematically-inclined may find their curiosity sufficiently aroused to go beyond this book and delve deeper into the Indian mathematical legacy.

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King – Man + Woman = Queen: The Marvelous Mathematics of Computational Linguistics

“Recent work on word embeddings has shown that simple vector subtraction over pre-trained embeddings is surprisingly effective at capturing different lexical relations, despite lacking explicit supervision. Prior work has evaluated this intriguing result using a word analogy prediction formulation and hand-selected relations, but the generality of the finding over a broader range of lexical relation types and different learning settings has not been evaluated. In this paper, we carry out such an evaluation in two learning settings: (1) spectral clustering to induce word relations, and (2) supervised learning to classify vector differences into relation types. We find that word embeddings capture a surprising amount of information, and that, under suitable supervised training, vector subtraction generalises well to a broad range of relations, including over unseen lexical items.”

Ref: : Take and Took, Gaggle and Goose, Book and Read: Evaluating the Utility of Vector Differences for Lexical Relation Learning

via King – Man + Woman = Queen: The Marvelous Mathematics of Computational Linguistics

Ramanujan’s Continued Fraction!

The popular English magazine Strand had long carried a page, entitled “Perplexities,” devoted to intriguing puzzles, numbered and charmingly titled, like “The Fly and the Honey,” or “The Tessellated Tiles,” the answers being furnished the following month. Each Christmas, though, “Perplexities” expanded, the author fitting his puzzles into a short story.
Now, in December 1914, “Puzzles at a Village Inn” took readers to the imaginary town of Little Wurzelfold, where the main topic of interest was what had just happened in Louvain.

In late August, pursuing an explicit policy of brutalization against civilian populations, German troops began burning the medieval Belgian city of Louvain, on the road between Liege and Brussels. House by house and street by street they set Louvain to the torch, destroying its great library, with its quarter million books and medieval manuscripts, and killing many civilians. The burning of Louvain horrified the world, galvanized public opinion against Germany, and united France, Russia, and England more irrevocably yet. “The March of the Hun,” English newspapers declared. “Treason to Civilization.” It was an early turning point of the war, doing much to set its tone. Louvain came to symbolize the breakdown of civilization. And now it reached even the “Perplexities” page of Strand.

One Sunday morning soon after the December issue appeared, P. C. Mahalanobis sat with it at a table in Ramanujan’s rooms in Whewell’s Court. Mahalanobis was the King’s College student, just then preparing for the natural sciences Tripos, who had found Ramanujan shivering by the fireplace and schooled him in the nuances of the English blanket. Now, with Ramanujan in the little back room stirring vegetables over the gas fire, Mahalanobis grew intrigued by the problem and figured he’d try it out on his friend.

“Now here’s a problem for you,” he yelled into the next room

“What problem? Tell me,” said Ramanujan, still stirring. And Mahalanobis read it to him.

“I was talking the other day,” said William Rogers to the other villagers gathered around the inn fire, “to a gentleman about the place called Louvain, what the Germans have burnt down. He said he knowed it well — used to visit a Belgian friend there. He said the house of his friend was in a long street, numbered on this side one, two, three, and so on, and that all the numbers on one side of him added up exactly the same as all the numbers on the other side of him. Funny thing that! He said he knew there was more than fifty houses on that side of the street, but not so many as five hundred, I made mention of the matter to our parson, and he took a pencil and worked out the number of the house where the Belgian lived, I don’t know how he done it.”

Perhaps the reader may like to discover the number of that house.

Through trial and error, Mahalanobis (who would go on to found the Indian Statistical Institute and become a Fellow of the Royal Society) had figured it out in a few minutes. Ramanujan figured it out, too, but with a twist, “Please take down the solution,” he said — and proceeded to dictate a continued fraction, a fraction whose denominator consists of a number plus a fraction, that fraction’s denominator can consisting of a number plus a fraction, ad infinitum. This wasn’t just the solution to the problem, it was the solution to the whole class of problems implicit in the puzzle. As stated, the problem had but one solution — house no. 204 in a street of 288 houses; 1+ 2 + … + 203 = 205 + 206 + … + 288. But without the 50-to-500 house constraint, there were other solutions. For example, on an eight-house street, no. 6 would be the answer: 1+2+3+4+5 on its left equaled 7+8 on its right. Ramanujan’s continued fraction comprised within a single expression all the correct answers.

Mahalanobis was astounded. How, he asked Ramanujan, had he done it?

“Immediately I heard the problem it was clear that the solution should obviously be a continued fraction; I then thought, Which continued fraction? And the answer came to my mind.”

From The Man Who Knew Infinity, by Robert Kanigel

I will follow up this post, with a description of how Ramanujan may have solved it, using Pell’s equation.

Follow up:

Prof John Butcher, in his Mathematical Miniatures, has an excellent account of the solution, using Pell’s Equation, entitled “On Ramanujan, continued fractions and an interesting street number”. Check it here.
I am sure Prof Butcher’s page on Mathematical Miniatures and Apologies would also be of great interest!

The Evolution of Co-operation, by Robert Axelrod

Just finished reading this wonderful book by Robert Axelrod. I was first introduced to this book by a scientist from Microsoft Research, who gave a talk at IISc, almost entirely focussing on this book.

The crux of the book is what is known as the Iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma, which simulates the way in which fundamentally selfish agents behave. The heart of IPD is a pay-off matrix, which details the pay-offs for mutual co-operation, as well as defection. This presents a long-term incentive for co-operation as well as a short-term incentive for defection. It fits (casts) several real-world problems as an IPD and discusses very interesting scenarios. One of the scenarios that is indeed striking is when during the World War II, there existed a co-operative tie between warring factions, when the two camps used to fire at each other, but deliberately off-target, both indicating the potential for defection as well as the incentive to co-operate. Several interesting scenarios in biology and trade are also highlighted.

Tit for tat
Of all the computer programs that participated in Axelrod’s contest, Tit for Tat (which works by co-operating to begin with and reciprocating the opponent’s previous move in the rest of the moves) was the winner. There was also a second edition of the contest, with all information about the first one being made public, and (not so?) surprisingly, Tit for Tat finished first again! There is a lot of discussion about Tit for Tat in the book.

The Importance of being Nice(st)
Another observation in the results of the contests was that the nicer rules, i.e. the more forgiving rules, mostly performed better. Coincidentally, there was also a paper in Nature, yesterday that discusses the importance of being nice and ‘non-punishing’.

There is a small summary of interesting findings in the book, which I shall try and update soon…

Overall, it’s an amazing book that you would not want to miss out!

Also see

A funny derivation

Every new scientist must learn early that it is never good taste to designate the sum of two quantities in the form:

1 + 1 = 2                                               \qquad (1)

Anyone who has made a study of advanced mathematics is aware that:

1 = \mathop{ln} e

1 = \sin^2 x + \cos^2 x

2 = \sum_0^\infty \frac{1}{2^n}

Therefore eq. (1) can be expressed more scientifically as:

\mathop{ln} e + \sin^2 x + \cos^2x = \sum_0^\infty \frac{1}{2^n} \qquad (2)

This may be further simplified by use of the relations:

1 = \cosh y \sqrt{1 - \tanh^2 y}

e = \lim_{z->\infty} ( 1+\frac{1}{z} )^z

Equation (2) may therefore be rewritten as:

\mathop{ln}{\lim_{z->\infty} \left(1+\frac{1}{z}\right)^z} + sin^2 x + cos^2 x = \sum_0^\infty \frac{\cosh y \sqrt{1 - \tanh^2 y}}{2^n} \qquad (3)

At this point it should be obvious that eq. (3) is much clearer and more easily understood than eq. (1). Other methods of a similar nature could be used to clarify eq. (1), but these are easily divined once the reader grasps the underlying principles.

Golden Ratio

In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio between the sum of those quantities and the larger one is the same as the ratio between the larger one and the smaller.


\varphi^2 - \varphi - 1 = 0

\varphi = \frac{1 + \sqrt{5}}{2}\approx 1.61803\,39887\dots\

\varphi = 1 + \frac{1}{1 + \frac{1}{1 + \frac{1}{1 + \frac{1}{\ddots}}}}

\varphi = \sqrt{1+\sqrt{1+\sqrt{1+\cdots}}\infty}

Some of the greatest mathematical minds of all ages, from Pythagoras and Euclid in ancient Greece, through the medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa and the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, to present-day scientific figures such as Oxford physicist Roger Penrose, have spent endless hours over this simple ratio and its properties. But the fascination with the Golden Ratio is not confined just to mathematicians. Biologists, artists, musicians, historians, architects, psychologists, and even mystics have pondered and debated the basis of its ubiquity and appeal. In fact, it is probably fair to say that the Golden Ratio has inspired thinkers of all disciplines like no other number in the history of mathematics.

— Mario Livio, The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, The World’s Most Astonishing Number

(Almost all the above information is from wikipedia… I just wanted to populate this article at the moment; the golden ratio has been quite a fascinating constant! I have this Livio book, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet!)