On our glorious past

Written on 2021-09-14

If you've been on the interwebs for the past decade, you've probably come across a post about our glorious past, sometimes about mythical planes and sometimes about the cryptic calculation of speed of light in Vedas.

If you know me at all, you've probably found me arguing against that crap. By now, you've probably also added a mental filter to remove this from your feed as such baseless claims of grandeur are usually made for compensating and rarely with any scientific interest.

But we did have a glorious past

Maybe, we didn't have mythical planes but we did have a glorious past! Just like many other countries. To list few examples:

Technology degrades and eventually fades away

That's right, any civilization that fails to pass on the knowledge will eventually lose the progress made. There are many examples of this, and India isn't an exception here.

Why is this so popular then

I've spent way too much time trying to find sources of popular inventions from our grand pasts. I've usually found some wacky journal articles or blog posts as source of the myth. While the original piece is often intended to spark a conversation and investigate further, such articles usually result in pop-science articles and then devolve into WhatsApp forwards, at which point they've lost all the scepticism that was present in the source material.

This quote perfectly sums it up:

Some nationalists take these statements to mean the literal scientific truth, which claims is ridiculed by their political opponents who then use this broad brush to tar all Indian science.

-- Subhash Kak, Indian Foundations of Modern Science



This is largely inspired by Jonathan Blow's talk "Preventing the Collapse of Civilization". Though that talk is mostly about software engineering, if you liked this post, you'll probably love that talk!