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16 curiosities about the number zero

16 curiosities about the number zero

March 20, 2023

Let's count to ten. Or up to twenty. Or up to a thousand. By what number have we started? Surely not by zero.

Nowadays it may seem normal, everyday and we use a lot of elements of our life. But nevertheless, zero is one of the most special numbers that exist .

Because, in fact, we are dealing with a non-number, given that numbers serve to indicate the existence of a quantity of something (we are referring to measuring how many elements, or the degree to which a certain property exists), while zero it means his absence. In order to improve the understanding regarding this strange number, below you can see a series of 16 curiosities about the number zero .

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16 curiosities and aspects linked to the number zero

Below you can see a part of everything that makes the number zero something so fascinating in the field of mathematics. If you know any other, feel free to share it in the comments area.

1. Zero has two basic functions

We frequently use zero in our daily life. However, we do not usually think about its functions. Mainly two can be highlighted.

First, zero as such is representative of nothing , of the non-existence of a characteristic, property or object. However, the existence or non-existence of nothingness is one of the philosophical unknowns that historically have awakened greater discussions. Can there be something that by definition consists in the fact of not existing? In fact, this theme goes back at least to the time of the pre-Socratic thinkers, especially Heraclitus and Parmenides.

The second of the functions is to serve as a positional element to mark a position that allows to pass to the next decimal, which implies establishing a discussion about when to move from one decimal to the next. Theoretically, everything can be divided infinitely.

2. Zero as such is a relatively recent invention

Although today we find something normal and current, zero as such has not been formulated as a mathematical concept until around the 5th century . Cultures as advanced as Greek or Roman did not possess a spelling for the concept of nothing, considering the idea of ​​mathematically conceptualizing non-existence as unnecessary and even illogical.

Hindu mathematician Aryabhata is attributed his application , although some pre-Columbian cultures like the Maya also used similar concepts (it was symbolized, for example, in the form of a shell). It is important to bear in mind that what is meant is that what is novel is the use of zero as a mathematical element, since the concept of nothingness has been taken into account since antiquity.

3. In ancient Babylon there was already positional zero

Although, as we have said before, a large number of ancient cultures did not have a specific spelling to represent the absence of something, in some cases if there were elements to indicate the presence of relatively large quantities, such as 505. In ancient Babylon there was no I had a graphic to talk about the vacuum, but in order to distinguish between quantities (it is not the same 505 as 55) they used two small wedges with which to separate the numbers .

Although in this case we can think that we are indicating an amount in which we have hundreds and units but not tens, a certain amount is being expressed in the fund, with which said substitute of zero would be merely positional. Also in the Sumerian civilization they had a mechanism that they used as positional zero, leaving an empty space between the symbols that represented the numbers.

4. Some animals are able to understand the concept

Although understanding the concept of nothing requires a high level of abstraction, it has been demonstrated through several experiments that the human being he is not the only one to be able to take it into account . Other primates and even some birds such as parrots have shown sufficient cognitive ability to recognize when there is not something.

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5. It has properties that make it difficult to classify

Although this aspect may be widely known by the majority, zero has a series of mathematically curious properties. For example, can not be classified or among the positive or negative numbers , because it is only indicative of emptiness. Nor is it odd or even. However, it does fall within the rational and natural numbers, being obtainable mathematically.

6. Although mathematically calculable and obtainable, it has particular properties

In the mathematical aspect, carrying out operations with this figure reflects aspects that may seem strange. For example, adding or subtracting zero from something does not have any kind of effect (although at the logical level it may seem normal, the fact of adding or subtracting mathematically should imply some variation).

Multiplying by zero is always going to give nothing as a result, and dividing by this figure supposes a mathematical indefinition (in general, resulting in infinite). Likewise, raising any amount to zero will result in unity .

7. His name comes from Arabic, as does the word code

The concept of zero has reached our culture through the Arab mathematicians , who spread the concepts elaborated by the Hindus. The word zero arose from the Arabic word sifr (which means to be empty), which would eventually derive in our zero and which, in the same way, would give rise to the word number. The word sifr, likewise, would be taken from Sanskrit shunya, which means nothing.

8. In our calendar there is no zero year

The calendar that a large part of the western population uses today is called the Gregorian calendar. According to this calendar we are currently in the year 2017 after Christ. The starting point of said calendar, then, is the approximate date in which it is calculated that it would be born.

However, this starting point is not the year zero, but in the calendar it is passed directly from year 1 a.C. to year 1 d.C. This is because we order time from ordinal elements, from the first to the most recent.

9. Time, in general, does not contemplate the existence of a zero

Taking into account the previous point, we can realize that, in fact, time is something fluid that we are not able to stop at any time. Although perhaps it is possible, we do not know any period in which there has not been time. Therefore, zero as a symbol of nothingness it could not be applied to elements such as time unless we refer to aspects such as the direct start of an activity or event.

10. Zero in computing

In a world that is increasingly technologically advanced, the computer language is increasingly known by all. This language is based on the binary code, which uses only the 0 and the 1. However these figures are not representing a quantity, but rather act as indicators of the opening or closing , or true or false. In principle, any other symbol could be possible.

11. Absolute zero

It is very likely that we have heard of the term absolute zero. This concept is linked to the world of thermodynamics . It would be referring to the lowest temperature that can exist, which corresponds to -273 degrees Celsius or 0 degrees Kelvin ..

However, this temperature is theoretical, not having been reached experimentally.

12. Gravity ... zero?

We usually consider zero gravity as the absence of seriousness , as it happens with astronauts in space or in situations of weightlessness. However, the force of gravity is not zero in any of these cases, although it is lower than usual. Weightlessness is achieved when the environment that surrounds us and we ourselves are attracted with the same acceleration towards gravitational bodies.

13. The Fool's letter

One of the major arcana, the Loco, is a tarot card that is usually considered the arcane zero due to the need of what it represents to be a person. And is that for something to have had to not have it. It represents the unconscious, the madness, the impulsiveness, the irrational . It is also a reflection of innovation and the ability to dream and create, as well as the spiritual.

14. The zero would appear in Europe

The decimal base numbering system that we currently use, of Arabic origin, was introduced in Europe by Fibonacci. However, if Leonardo of Pisa (real name of Fibonacci) would also introduce zero, I would not consider it as a number , considering that these started from one.

15. Worthless banknotes

Corruption is a widespread phenomenon among the ruling classes of many countries. In some cases, some associations have proceeded to issue zero-value tickets as a sign of protest . An example is the zero rupee note issued by The Fifth Column in India.

16. It supposes a high level of abstraction

At a mathematical level, zero tends to describe the non-presence of something. Existence and non-existence have been part of the concerns, thoughts and idiosyncrasies of all or almost all civilizations that have existed. But this somewhat philosophical conception it requires an effort and greater mental capacity of what at first sight may seem. Thus, the concept of zero, nothing, implies a high capacity for abstraction and cognition that the human being takes years to achieve.

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