Helping to working on my daughter’s homework, I get to rediscover centimeters to meters (100), milliliters to liters (1,000), and grams to kilograms (1,000).

“Only [India] introduced a symbol, 0, and treated it as if it was a normal digit just like all the others from 1 to 9. Invention of the number zero was possibly the greatest conceptual leap in the history of mathematics.

“But why did the Indians make this leap and not China or Babylon? …

“India made another contribution to world culture as well as zero: the idea of nirvana, the transcendent state of “nothingness”, when you are liberated from suffering and desires.

“In fact, the word used in philosophical texts to mean nothing, or the void, is “shunya”, the same word later used to mean zero.

“For George Gheverghese Joseph, a maths historian at the University of Manchester, the invention of zero happened when an unknown Indian mathematician about two thousand years realized that “this philosophical and cultural concept would also be useful in a mathematical sense.” …

“In the modern world it is common to see religion and science as always in conflict. Yet in ancient India, one cannot untangle mathematics and mysticism.”

I read Thinking in Numbers, On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math by Daniel Tammet this autumn. He wrote about Shakespeare’s Zero, how the Bard wrote a lot about nothingness, and was “one of the first generation of English schoolboys to learn about the figure zero.”

For zero means nothing, but, combined with other numbers, can represent incredible size, e.g., a one, followed by a zero (10), or two zeroes (100), or many more. Helping to working on my daughter’s homework, I get to rediscover the relationship of centimeters to meters (100), milliliters to liters (1,000), and grams to kilograms (1,000).

Of course, we often make a big deal about a birthday or anniversary when it contains a zero in the ones place, and more so when it’s in both the ones and tens place. Read the Wikipedia piece about zero.
*** The Myth of ‘I’m Bad at Math’

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.
View all posts by Roger

26 thoughts on “Z is for Zero”

Zero is magical. I like the article on hard work helping mathematical skill. I believe a major component of becoming great in math isn’t “intelligence,” it’s the ability of the individual to deal with frustration, including the willingness to admit he’s wrong and the resiliency to try again.

“including the willingness to admit he’s wrong” – that requires a certain amount of intelligence, or at least experience, that lots of people don’t seem to possess.

twenty years ago, in New Zealand, they say OH for 0. Now, they changed it to zero , because migrants mistake OH for four. You just gave me this idea for my post this week.

Fascinating background on such a little number! And if that quote is true, I may be the smartest woman on the planet.

Lisa- undoubtedly true!

There’s a great kids’ book “Zero Hero”….helps kids appreciate the power of Zero.

I have a new outlook on Zero. Math is not my best subject but I find it fascinating as it relates to so many other activities I love – music, weaving…

And your post has nothing to do with the weather?
Just a wee bit nippy out there today!
Yikes!!!

Martha – it IS nippy. But I wrote the piece three or four weeks ago, when it wasn’t near zero!

Oh my, the Zero in my age really makes me old.
Very interesting information on nothing…

Interesting post and new information for me.

Now, do you know if zero is a prime or composite number? Trick question – lol

Leslie
abcw team

Leslie – actually, my daughter CAN answer that question!

It is nothing! 🙂

Aryabhatta (476-550 A.D.), one of the world’s greatest mathematician-astronomer introduced ZERO among many other things.

Very interesting post, zero is actually a lot!!

this is definitely one Z I researched on a lot too:)

Very interesting information about the zero. The most hated by students!

Zero means nothing yet it is so important! Nice take on ‘Z’.

Great choice and narrative. Wish our temperature would creep closer to zero! Kate, ABC Team

As my team was beaten six – nil at the weekend, its a number that has been talked about a lot by the fans this week.

I know three math teachers, and after reading your article, I think I better not bring up this subject of zero:)

I also once wrote about 0, and came to the conclusion that I only like zero with a few numbers before the 0 !

That was so interesting. I knew it was Aryabhatt who discovered the zero. It’s amazing how maths and philosophy come together.

Hi Rog,
I am glad to read your post. Your post make me feel proud for being an Indian.
Keep on sharing such excellent stuff 🙂

Zero is magical. I like the article on hard work helping mathematical skill. I believe a major component of becoming great in math isn’t “intelligence,” it’s the ability of the individual to deal with frustration, including the willingness to admit he’s wrong and the resiliency to try again.

“including the willingness to admit he’s wrong” – that requires a certain amount of intelligence, or at least experience, that lots of people don’t seem to possess.

twenty years ago, in New Zealand, they say OH for 0. Now, they changed it to zero , because migrants mistake OH for four. You just gave me this idea for my post this week.

Fascinating background on such a little number! And if that quote is true, I may be the smartest woman on the planet.

Lisa- undoubtedly true!

There’s a great kids’ book “Zero Hero”….helps kids appreciate the power of Zero.

I have a new outlook on Zero. Math is not my best subject but I find it fascinating as it relates to so many other activities I love – music, weaving…

And your post has nothing to do with the weather?

Just a wee bit nippy out there today!

Yikes!!!

Martha – it IS nippy. But I wrote the piece three or four weeks ago, when it wasn’t near zero!

Oh my, the Zero in my age really makes me old.

Very interesting information on nothing…

Interesting post and new information for me.

Now, do you know if zero is a prime or composite number? Trick question – lol

Leslie

abcw team

Leslie – actually, my daughter CAN answer that question!

It is nothing! 🙂

Aryabhatta (476-550 A.D.), one of the world’s greatest mathematician-astronomer introduced ZERO among many other things.

Very interesting post, zero is actually a lot!!

this is definitely one Z I researched on a lot too:)

Very interesting information about the zero. The most hated by students!

Zero means nothing yet it is so important! Nice take on ‘Z’.

Great choice and narrative. Wish our temperature would creep closer to zero! Kate, ABC Team

As my team was beaten six – nil at the weekend, its a number that has been talked about a lot by the fans this week.

I know three math teachers, and after reading your article, I think I better not bring up this subject of zero:)

I also once wrote about 0, and came to the conclusion that I only like zero with a few numbers before the 0 !

That was so interesting. I knew it was Aryabhatt who discovered the zero. It’s amazing how maths and philosophy come together.

Hi Rog,

I am glad to read your post. Your post make me feel proud for being an Indian.

Keep on sharing such excellent stuff 🙂