Zero is not one of the counting numbers yet our number system would be incomplete without it. It is extremely important as a placeholder. It makes the difference between 11 and 101, or between 101 and 1001.
I cannot imagine life without zero in any number system. Sadly that was the case in earlier times. Imagine a Roman schoolboy figuring out LDVII multiplied by C. Don’t you pity that poor child. I would have left school and joined the army. I am sure that would have been easier. Of course, That is assuming the Roman military accepted school dropouts.
Isn’t it easier to multiply 557 times 100. Just add the two zeros and we have the answer. For those who like to put everything on a calculator then use that. Life is easier with zero. Just ensure that you enter the correct digits because you must remember BS in and BS out.
What about our Babylonian friends? They didn’t have it easier than the Romans. Consider the schoolboy, only this time he is not Roman but Babylonian. He has to multiply by . Poor suffering child. Is it just me or are there others like me who prefer to do simple arithmetic like 40 times 50. That is easy! Multiply 4 times 5 and add two zeros. Zeros again!! What is the deal with these zeros?
Zeros never bothered the Romans or the Babylonians, so why are they all up in our face. The answer is that we cannot do without them. Our dollars use a lot of them. The metric system loves them. (Given the the chance, I would banish yards, feet and inches. Along with them should be pints, quarts and gallons). I look forward to your comments on this.
These are just some thoughts on that mysterious symbol called zero. It was quite baffling to ancient mathematicians. However, today it has assumed extreme importance, both as a placeholder in our number system and as a symbol of Nothingness. But is there absolute Nothingness? What about zero’s cousin, Infinity? These thoughts continue to give me much concern. I will continue this thought process in another blog.
In the meantime send me your comments.
PS. Shout out to Prof Marvin Kohn. Best wishes to you, Sir.