Friday, July 7, 2017

Ifá Mathematics and Quantum Computing

The Ifá Divination system, which originated in West Africa, utilizes a system of binary Mathematics to retrieve answers to life’s questions and solutions to life’s problems, from a book of knowledge called the Odús of Ifá.  There are 16 major Odùs of Ifá, or “Books of Knowledge”, and within each book is contained 16 chapters, for a total of 256 chapters believed to reference all situations, circumstances, actions and consequences in life.  Orunmila, the Orisha of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, is the Orisha associated with Ifa divination system, and is identified as the Grand Priest of Ifá.  Performing Ifa divination is done by a "Priest"/Mathematician called a Babalawo.  The system of binary mathematics used by the Babalawo to select one of the Odús of Ifá occurs in this fashion.  The Babalawo may uses a divining chain called an Opele, on which there are 8 cowry shells.  The 8 cowry shells on the Opele chain are used as an 8-bit random number generator.  In Computer science, 8 Bits, or Binary Digits, is called a Byte.  The open side of a cowry shell on the Opele chain corresponds to binary digit of 1, and the closed side of a cowry shell on the Opele chain corresponds to a binary digit of 0.  In binary mathematics and computer science, there are 2^8 = 256 different possible values that can be represented by 8 bits or 1 Byte.  To randomly select one of the 256 values, the Babalawo throws the Opele chain in the air, allowing the 8 cowry shells are able to spin freely on the Opele chain.  When the Opele chain lands on the ground, each cowry shell on the Opele chain would have landed with either the open side facing up, indicating a binary 1, or the closed side facing up, indicating a binary 0.  The Babalawo then writes the 8 Bit binary number indicated on the Opele chain, in 2 4-bit columns on a wooden divination tray called Opon Ifá, and proceeds to read from the corresponding book.

Understanding how bits, or binary digits, are generated in the Ifá Divination system also provides us with an analogy to understand how Qubits, or Quantum Binary Digits, operate in Quantum computing.  First we must understand that the word Quantum refers to the smallest quantity of something.  In Quantum Physics, Quantum Particles are the subatomic particles, the smallest particles in nature: Quarks, Electrons, and Photons.  Whereas classical computers use the flow of electrons, or electricity, in states of High and Low voltage to electronically create digital binary digits, Quantum Computers are able to use the quantum mechanical properties of the electron itself.  As an electron spins, it creates a North and South dipole.  The direction that an electron spins will determine which direction the electron’s north dipole is pointing.  Let us use a single cowry shell on the Opele chain as an analogy for an electron, and let’s have the open side of a cowry shell represent the north dipole of an electron.  As you can see, in three dimensional space, the north dipole of our cowry shell electron can have an infinite number of positions.  Just as we previously defined before, the open side the cowry shell pointing up corresponds to a value of 1, and the closed side of the cowry shell pointing down corresponds to a value of 0.  But as our cowry shell electron spins, it can also have an infinite number of statistical probability values that when it lands it will have a value of 0 or 1.  While our cowry shell electron is spinning in the air, we can think of it as being in a quantum superposition state of both 0 and 1 at the same time, and we will not know its final value until it is measure, i.e. lands on the ground.  Although it is somewhat paradoxical and counter-intuitive, this is the way Quantum Binary Digits, or Qubits work.  Just like classical computer use Logic gates to create digital circuits which use Binary Digits, Quantum computers use Quantum gates to create Quantum circuits which use Qubits.  Quantum computers utilize the infinite number of superposition states of an electron to perform parallel or simultaneous computing operations exponentially faster than classical computers, which improves the efficiency of processing and managing big data.

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