Tuesday, September 1, 2020

another Maths Wizard from India ~ Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash

Recently I posted on Mathematics and on a great mathematician of 20th century -  Nicolas Bourbaki. Largely unknown today, Bourbaki is likely the last mathematician to master nearly all aspects of the field. A consummate collaborator, he made fundamental contributions to important mathematical fields such as set theory and functional analysis. He also revolutionized mathematics by emphasizing rigor in place of conjecture.  .. .. … b u t  -  factually –  Nicolas Bourbaki   never existed !!!  : Bourbaki - mathematician

To the modern day student who is not studying mathematical tables and the like – every function is fulfilled by gadgets -for simple calculations too, be it addition or subtraction, one is inclined to look for a calculator, mostly on the cell phone. Can the mind be faster than a calculator- yes, if you are !!

The Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO) is an annual international multi-disciplined competition and festival for games of mental skill and mind sports. The inaugural event was held in 1997 in London with £100,000 prize fund and was described as possibly the biggest games festival ever held. The MSO was the first event of its kind celebrating mental skills and awarding gold, silver and bronze medals for each event and was highly influential on the mind sports movement and competitions that have followed since. The main MSO tournament has been held every year in England.   In 2020, for the first time, the entire MSO tournament was held online.

Fastest human calculator in the world: After winning gold for India in the Mental Calculation World Championship at Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO), 20-year old Neelakanta Bhanu Prakash has become the fastest human calculator in the world. Neelakanta Bhanu Prakash is a student of Mathematics (Hons.) who is currently studying at Delhi University’s St Stephen College and he holds world records along 50 Limca records for his fastest ever Mathematics calculations.

A report by news agency ANI citing Bhanu Prakash said that his brain is capable of calculating quicker than the speed of a calculator. These records were earlier held by Math maestros like Scott Flansburg and Shakuntala Devi and Bhanu Prakash believes that he has done his bit to take India to the global level of mathematics. He said that at MSO, London 2020 that was held on August 15, India for the first time won a gold medal. It is to note that the MSO is considered as the most prestigious international competition designed for mental skills and mind sports and is held annually in London.

The great news is : Neelakanta Bhanu Prakash, a 21-year-old Hyderabad boy, has become the world’s fastest human calculator after winning the first gold for India in the Mental Calculation World Championship at Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO) in London.  According to a report by Times Now, the championship was held on 15 August. He also holds world records and 50 Limca records for being the fastest human calculator in the world.

As per a report by Bangalore Mirror, Neelakanta won the event that was held virtually with 30 participants in the age group of 13 and 50 years. Participants from 13 countries including UK, Germany, UAE, France, Greece and Lebanon took part in the contest. Neelakanta was miles ahead of the Lebanese contender, who came second with a massive 65 points difference. The third place was secured by a contestant from UAE. A graduate in Mathematics from St. Stephen’s College, Neelakanta had enrolled himself for the SIP Abacus program when he was just 5 years old and completed nine levels of Abacus. He has even won the International Abacus Champion '13 and National Abacus Champion '11 and '12.

Math prodigy Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash Jonnalagadda (20) is a final year B.Sc student of Delhi’s top-ranked St. Stephen’s College. He is also founder of Exploring Infinities (EI, estb.2018), a proprietary firm promoted to boost children’s cognitive development and popularise speed mental arithmetics and games through workshops and year-long courses in schools. Newspeg. EI is offering gamified learning modules on mobile apps to enhance cognitive abilities such as memory, sensory precision and mental computation skills. It is all set to roll out its first gaming app, which NBPJ says will banish maths phobia of class I-XII students. The app’s design is the outcome of data and feedback from students of several government and private schools with which the firm has been interacting over the past three years.

The first son of Hyderabad based couple J. Srinivas (a food processing company promoter) and J. Hema Shiva Parvathi (a businesswoman), NBPJ suffered an accident when he was five, in which he sustained severe head injuries and was bed-ridden for almost a year. During his convalescence, his doting parents introduced arithmetic puzzles and mental exercises to distract him and ease his pain. Soon Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash Jonnalagadda developed a passion for complex mathematical calculations. At age 12, he was crowned national math champion in Bangalore (2011) and Pune (2012). The following year he won an Arithmetic Prodigy Championship 2013 in Singapore, and went on to break five math world records and 50 Limca Book of Records in mental math racing past math maestros like Scott Flansburg and Shakuntala Devi. While a student of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Public School, Hyderabad, young NBPJ began conducting math learning classes for students and corporate executives. At age 15, he co-founded Iscreamers Frozen Kingdom, an ice-cream startup.

“Mathematics is an exact science which greatly speeds mental growth. Regular practice greatly improves decision-making skills, efficiency and memory. Arithmetic exercise is the key to unlock the infinite potential of the brain,” says this maths wunderkind.

Bhanu - as he's known - "thinks about numbers all the time" and is now the fastest human calculator in the world. He compares mental maths to sprinting, saying nobody questions people who run fast, but there's always questions around the point of mental maths. "We celebrate someone like Usain Bolt when he does a 100 metre sprint in 9.8 seconds," he tells BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, "but we don't say what's the point of running quickly in a world with cars and planes.""It's about inspiring people that your body can do something unimaginable - and it's the same with calculations and maths."

Bhanu has been helping people in rural India connect with maths during lockdown. He says coming from a middle-class family in India, the aim is usually to settle for a good job or open a business, and not go into a niche field like maths. But given his flair for numbers, Bhanu is about to complete his degree in Mathematics. Winning championships and records, he doesn't "formally practise" as much each day; instead he relies on "unstructured practise where I keep thinking about numbers all the time". I practice with loud music on, talking to people, catching and playing cricket, because this is when your brain is being trained to do multiple things at the same time." He demonstrates this by reciting the 48 times table in the middle of this interview. "I will just add every taxi number which passes by me. If I'm talking to someone I'm just going to count how many times they blink - creepy as it may sound - it keeps your brain functioning."


'It's about inspiring people'.. .. For Bhanu, his aim is not just to keep breaking records - though he likes doing that too. "The records and calculations are just a metaphor for saying that the world needs mathematicians. And math has to be fun for us to say that this is a subject we love." His ultimate mission is to "eradicate maths phobia", as he says lots of people are afraid of numbers.

Another Indian making the Nation proud.


With regards – S. Sampathkumar



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