“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. The 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 generations of English schoolboys to learn about the figure zero.”
For zero means nothing, but, combined with other numbers, can represent an incredible size, e.g., a one, followed by a zero (10), or two zeroes (100), or many more. Helping to work 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).
To provide the best experiences, we use technologies like cookies to store and/or access device information. Consenting to these technologies will allow us to process data such as browsing behavior or unique IDs on this site. Not consenting or withdrawing consent, may adversely affect certain features and functions.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.