While there are some students who would give anything to avoid calculation in school, the same cannot be said for 20-year-old Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash who is said to be the world’s fastest human calculator.
According to a report by CNN, Bhanu is someone who solves things like 869,463,853 times 73 in 26 seconds!
For Bhanu, he is able to calculate so fast because he has done what he calls “structured practice”.
“Let’s say I am doing a multiplication of 8,763 multiplied by eight, I’ll probably multiply: 8,000 by eight which is 64,000, 700 by eight which is 5,600, 60 by eight which is 480, three by eight is 24. And I add all of these. But this requires the human brain to remember all this.
“The methods which I use are very similar to general methods but certain things — basically (it’s) brain optimization. I optimize my methods and make them better than before.
“At the end of the day whatever I call my methods, sometimes it just happens. There’s a certain process, obviously, but since you have trained your brain, it just happens,” he told CNN.
Bhanu’s mind is said to process numbers at an average speed of 12 per second, which is 10 times faster than a regular brain.
The young man might have such a wonderful brain, but he had some challenges while growing up after suffering a life-threatening injury.
When Bhanu was just 5 years old, he fell from his cousin’s scooter when it was hit by a truck, banging his head on the road.
Bhanu fractured his skull and needed up to 85 stitches and multiple operations before doctors put him into a medically induced coma.
When he woke, his parents were told that their son could be intellectually disabled for the rest of his life.
He also got an “ugly looking scar.”
The young Bhanu had to remain bedridden for a year and during his recovery, he learned how to play chess and solved puzzles to keep his brain engaged — eventually progressing to math problems.
“I remember the pain vividly … this is the most traumatic experience I have had in my life,” he recalls. “I couldn’t even go to school for a year. All I had to rely on to get better were numbers and puzzles.”
He was determined to not let the whole accident define him.
“It drove me forward and I knew there’s something that I am good at and I will prove myself there,” he said.
And that was how he went on to finish third in the sub-junior category at a state-level speed arithmetic competition in Andhra Pradesh state.
Bhanu has since secured many wins, including the open category in India’s 2011 National Speed Arithmetic Competition.
And from the age of 13, he’s represented India in international competition and broken four world records for fastest human calculation, power multiplication, super subtraction, and mental math: powers of 2 and 3.
He’s also broken lots of records, earning comparisons with legendary Indian mathematician Shakuntala Devi.
“When I am attempting a world record it’s almost like the world around me slows down,” he said.