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  Science   28 Jan 2018  Newton, Brahmagupta and the Law of Gravity

Newton, Brahmagupta and the Law of Gravity

THE ASIAN AGE. | SURESH SUBRAHMANYAN
Published : Jan 28, 2018, 3:23 am IST
Updated : Jan 28, 2018, 3:24 am IST

We need more ministers like Shri Devnani to let our countrymen, women and children know what a great nation we are.

Of course, everyone knows by now that the Zero was invented in India by Aryabhata, though even here the ubiquitous Brahmagupta stakes a claim.
 Of course, everyone knows by now that the Zero was invented in India by Aryabhata, though even here the ubiquitous Brahmagupta stakes a claim.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727), move over. Your days as the pre-eminent holder of the exalted title ‘Discoverer of the Law of Gravity’ is in grave peril. Enter stage left, Brahmagupta who saw the apple fall from a tree in his garden over 1,000 years prior to Newton's rip-off discovery and went, ‘Eureka, the apple fell from the tree in a straight, perpendicular line, drawn by the earth's core.  I have discovered Gravity’. Now the exclamatory ‘Eureka’, of course, has been credited to Archimedes (287 BC - 212 BC), his bathtub, and the subsequent displacement of water, known as the Archimedes principle of buoyancy.

In his uncontrollable excitement, Archimedes is said to have jumped out of his bathtub, running naked all over the house yelling the magic words, ‘Eureka, Eureka’ . Yes, he said it twice over, and who can blame him. There are those who aver that he only exclaimed those words when he actually got into his bath. But honestly, his running around in his birthday suit makes for damn sight more exciting copy. One last thing about Archimedes. Born 287 BC and died 212 BC, the years reducing with the passage of time? How cool is that?

I digress. Let's get back to Brahmagupta. A mathematician and an astronomer, he would have had to expound his revolutionary theories in Sanskrit or whatever language they spoke all those millenniums ago.  We have all this from an unimpeachable source, namely, the esteemed Rajasthan Education Minister, Vasudev Devnani, the same gentleman who once spectacularly claimed that cows inhaled and exhaled oxygen!  The well-informed Minister has doubtless done his homework, unlike those shameless copycats from the west, and we Indians can hold our heads high at the minister's stunning revelation. About Brahmagupta I mean, not the cows.

Now the obvious question to ask is, why was this kept a closely guarded secret all these years? When the charlatan Newton claimed the gravity discovery as his own, why did not a phalanx of Indian scientists and politicians jump down Sir Issac’s throat and expose him for his chicanery? Couldn’t we have engaged a battery of legal eagles and nailed him on some patent infringement case? That's what I would like to know, as would millions of other patriotic Indians. Now that we know all this, thanks in large measure to Minister Devnani, one must perforce cast doubts on the aforementioned Archimedes’ claim as well. Except that I can’t, for the life of me, work out how a man can be born on a certain date and died on another date well before he was born! Which puts me in an awful quandary in trying to determine whether Brahmagupta was born before or after Archimedes.

I am now inclined to believe all those fables my grandmother used to tell us gaggle of grandchildren sitting round her in our village home, while she gently placed blobs of curd rice in our palms in circular motion. ‘If you know your Ramayana, you will know that India invented the aeroplane, Pushpaka Vimana, piloted by Rama, after that dramatic rescue mission of Sita from Lanka’. So that's why India's first indigenously made aeroplane was named Pushpak. If you are still sceptical, and have three and a half hours to spare, go to YouTube and watch the 1958 epic film, Sampoorna Ramayanam where there's a scene of the flying chariot with our icons cruising through fluffy, cotton wool clouds. That should silence the Doubting Thomases.

Of course, everyone knows by now that the Zero was invented in India by Aryabhata, though even here the ubiquitous Brahmagupta stakes a claim. Just can't keep him out. Again, a host of Europeans, most notably the Italian Fibonacci puts his hand up as another discoverer of the Zero. Much ado about nothing, literally!  However, I think we are all satisfied that everything worth discovering or inventing has been done so, right here in India. The rest of the bearded and whiskered scientists from the west are all merely glory hunters, with an eye to the main chance. Sadly, Indians are known to be modest to a fault, and hence this strange reluctance to take credit where it is clearly due. Any wonder the westerners hogged all the limelight?

We need more ministers like Shri Devnani to let our countrymen, women and children know what a great nation we are. More power to your shoulders, Devnani old chap. If you can't find anything good to suit your political discourse over the past 100 years, better go back a thousand years! Just mind those confusing BCs and ADs. We await more headline grabbing pronouncements from you in the coming months. Directly inspired by you, a bunch of us have done some ferreting around and have come up with a few startling discoveries of our own. I would like to share this with you Devnani Sir, and you can go ahead and spread the good word.

They say Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 in London. Bunkum! Fact: a very bright Malayali nurse in Calicut, Sister Miriam, while treating an English sailor afflicted with venereal disease, came upon the discovery when she was idly experimenting with some antibiotic drugs and their effects on leeches, worms, rabbits and the like. The modest Sister Miriam thought no more about it, but the clever, now cured, licentious sailor made off with a few vials of the drug and handed it over to a hospital in London to which the good Dr. Fleming was attached. The rest is history. Of course, this will be dismissed by the English as mere claptrap, so we are leaving this in the capable hands of our minister to take up with Westminster.

I can go on and on, but the point has been adequately made. Even now, there are strong rumours of a cure having been found in India for the two undefeated Cs - Common Cold and Cancer. May I humbly enjoin upon our Government to act swiftly and patent this before some bright NRI from Sloan Kettering pinches it?

(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket, humour and satire)

Tags: law of gravity, eureka, brahmagupta, newton