29 November 2023

Shakuntala Devi is a mathematics savant

This video mashup is quite old and of marginal quality, but it demonstrates her capabilities.  Wikipedia has some examples{
Examples of the problems presented to Devi included calculating the cube root of 61,629,875 and the seventh root of 170,859,375. Jensen reported that Devi provided the solution to the above-mentioned problems (395 and 15, respectively) before Jensen could copy them down in his notebook. Jensen published his findings in the academic journal Intelligence in 1990.

In 1977, at Southern Methodist University, she gave the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds. Her answer, which was 546,372,891, was confirmed by calculations done at the US Bureau of Standards by the UNIVAC 1101 computer, for which a special program had to be written to perform such a large calculation, which took a longer time than for her to do the same.

On 18 June 1980, she demonstrated the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers – 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779. These numbers were picked at random by the Department of Computing at Imperial College London. She correctly answered 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730 in 28 seconds. 
Apparently there is a movie about her life story.

1 comment:

  1. I knew a guy in college who could do this sort of thing. I asked him how, and he said, "the same way you do, only faster". This made me realize the trick was the ability to hold the different parts of the problem in short term memory, rather than understanding the algorithm required or being able to do the broken down parts of the problem particularly quickly.


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