Adinkras: The new Avatar

These are visual symbols, originally created by the Asanté, that represent concepts or aphorisms created from the collected wisdom of ancient people and are used extensively in fabrics and pottery in the day to day life of the people living around the region of Côte d’Ivoire in western Africa. These symbols have a decorative function as well as act as the visual art that convey traditional wisdom, history, beliefs, philosophy, aspects of life and the environment. They mostly have rich proverbial meaning and the use of Proverbs is considered as a mark of wisdom in this culture. Some symbols depict human and animal behavior, plant forms and shapes of objects.



Adinkra also means ‘farewell’ in Twi, the language of Asanté tribe of the Akan ethnic group.



The legend has it that Adinkra was the king of the Gyamaan,a medieval state, located in around Côte d’Ivoire. At the end of the 1818, Adinkra was defeated and captured in a battle by the Asantés for having copied the “Golden Stool” (Sika ‘dwa), which represented absolute power and tribal cohesion. He was finally killed and his territory annexed to the kingdom of Asanté. The story goes that Adinkra wore patterned cloth, which was interpreted as a way of expressing his sorrow on being taken to Kumasi the capital of Asanté tribe. It has therefore been the tradition of the Akan especially the Asante to wear cloths decorated with Adinkra symbols on important occasions especially at funerals of family relations and friends. This is to signify their sorrow and to bid farewell to the deceased.

Now, we come to the part, where I asked my blog readers to actively participate and interpret the images in the previous post. I made some observations:

1) People are in a hurry to press the like button. (I also indulge in such act at certain times.)

2) Active participation is needed to maintain a healthy outlook on the part of the blogger and reader. Maybe, we are too absorbed in getting our internet traffic that we forget the communication thing. Mostly, we either write comments in praising the blogger or just reinforcing his belief without giving an alternate perspective of things. 

3) We impose our own ideas and interpretations of visual things and hence a doubt of the validity on the interpretations of historians, of things related to the remote past of human existence. 

In theoretical physics, there has been a remarkable discovery made by the Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland in College Park, Prof. S. James Gates, Jr. and his team of researchers. They have tried to depict the complex interplay of the physical formulae in a pictorial format and the various manipulations of the edges and vertices of the graphs lead to the deeper understanding of the equations involved in the working of the universe and its bizarre connection to the theory of error-correcting codes in the field of computational sciences called Coding theory.  An error-correcting code is an algorithm for expressing a sequence of numbers such that any errors which are introduced can be detected and corrected (within certain limitations of computational techniques and available resources) based on the remaining numbers. Most intriguing conjecture they make is that it may even contain hints of something more profound — including the idea that our universe could be a computer simulation, as in the Matrix Trilogy.

He suggests that “…like their forebears, mathematical adinkras also represent concepts that are difficult to express in words.”

Something along the visual lines was done a few decades earlier by the Nobel Laureate U.S. physicist Murray Gell-Mann and Geroge Zweig was widely used and known as the Eight-fold way of particle representation. This method beautifully reduced the unkempt zoo of particles to an ordered and symmetrical representation. Shown below is the diagrammatic representations of the family of Baryon supermultiplets with their spins and quark content. [U = up quark, C= charm quark, S=strange quark, D= down quark etc.]

Their work is based upon the concept of space-time symmetry ubiquitous in nature, but on a more technical level involves a higher notion in an extended space. This extension then takes into account those ideas of symmetry that are inaccessible to the senses, for instance, in the Standard Model of particle physics, the set of equations used to describe the physics of quarks (Sub-nuclear particles), leptons (Fermions (half-integer spin) like electron) and force-carrying particles i.e. Bosons (integer spin) like the photon (carrier of the electromagnetic force) is also largely determined by symmetry groups.

The theory of supersymmetry takes the idea of symmetry a step further. In the Standard Model there is a dichotomy between leptons and quarks i.e. “matter particles” and “force-carrying” particles like photons and Gluons etc. All matter particles are fermions, particles with half-integer quantum spin that obey the Pauli exclusion principle. All Force-carrying particles, in contrast, are bosons, which have integer spin and can violate the exclusion principle. This means that boson are all free to possess any allowed quantum numbers in composite systems.

All physics Adinkras are constructed by starting with squares, cubes and their higher-dimensional generalizations; these structures provide a “skeleton” that is then “decorated” by additional operations. Each of these decorations has a mathematical significance. For the moment, let us just concentrate on building a simple adinkra.


Manipulating the Adinkra graph to generate topologically equivalent structures. (Photo. Physics WorldVol. 23, No. 6 (2010))

We begin by placing a white dot at one vertex. Then the two line segments connected to the white dot must have black dots at their opposite ends. This means that the final unpopulated vertex is connected to “black dot” vertices, so it must be populated by a white dot.We assign directions (colours) to each line segment, or link to the dots. All links that point in the same direction are assigned the same colour, and links that point in different directions are assigned the different colour. 

Unlike Gell-Mann’s depiction, these are not just pictures but are in certain ways mimic the Feynman diagrams, which are the series of line drawings used to describe calculations in quantum electrodynamics.  But while Feynman diagrams describe cross-section calculations for particle behaviour, adinkras are connected instead to mathematical objects known as Clifford algebras and super-differential equations.  These involve both the ordinary derivative operator and a newer type of operator called a “super derivative”( violate the usual product rule for derivatives), invented in the mid-1970s by the mathematician Felix Berezin and then elaborated on by the physicists Abdus Salam and his student John Strathdee in creating the theory of super-space. These super dericvatives are denoted by capital D and are represented  by the colored links in an adinkra. The Fermion or the matter fields are represented by the symbol Ψ and the Boson or the force fields are denoted by the Φ in the picture.

Adinkra by Gregory D. Landweber
Multi-dimensional representation of the Adinkras. (Photo Phys. World Vol 23 No 6 2010)

Modern communication technologies require accurate data  transmission with high by sending a continuous string of ones and zeros (called bits) written in long sequences called “words”. When these computer words are transmitted from a source to a receiver, there is always the chance that static noise in the system can alter the content of any word, thereby creating a fault in the information being transmitted. The part of science that deals with the transmission of data is called Information theory.  The author askes-The four-colour adinkras that can be separated into two smaller adinkras with the same number of colours; adinkras with more than four colours also possess this property of separability. But why does this occur only for four or more colours? The field of topology comes in as the Chromo-topology, when we try to bend the structures to obtain a new adinkra with same topology but different shape and this led them to a completely unrelated field of computer codes.

Getting IT from the bit.


Is our observable and unobservable universe is a huge computer simulation like the one depicted in the Movie matrix? Is\Are there a programmer\s for such a sophisticated simulation? Somewhere in this line of questioning Science, Philosophy and religion melt away into a sense of wonder that arises out of not knowing. However, before one jumps to a faithful conclusion, one must keep in mind that this is just an interpretation of the results they obtained. Sometimes, we transgress the limits of reason and sound judgment for the lure of excitement and of something abstruse and bizarre. As the author himself admits “..It is certainly possible to overstate mathematical links between different systems: as the physicist Eugene Wigner pointed out in 1960, just because a piece of mathematics is ubiquitous and appears in the description of several distinct systems does not necessarily mean that those systems are related to each other…”This whole thing is still a hypothesis and outside of media populism hasn’t gained much acceptance in the String and Supersymmetry community of High energy physics. The experimental physics cannot as of yet verify the claim and hence the notion of falsifiability remains unattached.

For further Information on the relationship of coding theory and particle physics visit:

There are many different symbols with distinct meanings of Adinkras can be found here:




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