What does zero mean to you? Me? Well it was a familiar grade when I got my home work back from the teacher! But, do you think it's just "nothing"? Yeah, me too until I realized what our world would look like if you took away zero just for a day! And if you like a good math challenge, stick around till the end to help me solve the most impossible task out there!
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– A World Without Zero
You might be surprised to learn that zero hasn’t been around forever. Yes, we used to live in a world without it! Well, an understanding of the concept of zero, at least. It was invented in India during the 5th century. And here, it’s closely connected with the ancient culture of this region: Nirvana is what they call absolute calmness, the absence of anxieties and desires! So, they came up with a circular symbol denoting this "Nothing." They called it "Shunya." The image of zero itself symbolizes the lifecycle or, as it’s also called, “The Snake of Eternity.” Yes, for them, zero also meant infinity! (We’ll come “full circle” to this idea later on!) This new revolutionary concept was eventually picked up by the Arabs and included in their numerical system, which we all use to this day. But why did it take humanity so long to understand something as basic as “Zero”?
Well, think about it: it’s not exactly something you can observe every day. You can see those 3 birds perched on a tree branch or those 2 bees flying around your 1 can of soda. But zero? The absence of something? You never see it, never think about it because it’s not there for you to perceive! Yet zero is so incredibly important…
– Life Today Without Zero
We’ve come a long way since the 5th century. Like 16 more Centuries. Zero now has countless uses, and a modern world stripped of this basic concept would look very different indeed… Your first thought might be that we could no longer count higher than 9 or lower than 1. I mean, 10 has a zero in it, right? Sure, there would be no counting, but “No” means NONE! Fractions, like .804, are lower than 1. And 9.01 is higher than 9! The entire system of counting and measuring would break down without zero. From there, you can say goodbye to computers! All your social media, online games, YouTube videos – you won’t get to enjoy them in this zero less dystopia. The foundation of any computer program is binary code. And this code consists of zero and one. While you’re at it, forget about TV, charging your gadgets, reheating food in the microwave, even just turning the lights on! (Oh, wow, we’re already in the Dark Ages? That was quick.) Without zero, we couldn’t calculate electricity. No more Bond movies or cinemas for that matter. Movie theater projectors work by showing 24 frames per second – you’ve gotta count that from zero!
Hey, look on the Healthy Mind - Think Big! Like we’re always telling you to! cNo more stepping on that scale and hoping the number will magically go down on its own! Clothing sizes and counting calories won’t exist either! On that note, how will doctors do physicals? There won’t be an understanding of height and weight. All that electronic equipment in hospitals wouldn’t work either. MRIs, X-rays, electrocardiographs – we wouldn’t even be able to count a person’s pulse rate! Without zero, there’d be chaos with transport. You wouldn't be able to fill up your car, speed limits would mean nothing – they measure how much higher you’re going than 0 mph, right? The Prime Meridian (that’s 0° longitude on the globe) won’t be a thing, which means modern navigation goes with it. Without it, planes and ships will be rendered useless. GPS – gone. How can it measure the distance between two places without a starting point? It wouldn’t even get that far without satellites! Yep, they wouldn’t work either since they use binary code. If people can’t travel, then towns will become isolated. We’d probably even go back to horses and buggies and paper maps! Hmm, looks like we could use another “Cup Half-Full” Example (although, can’t really measure the contents of that cup without zero!). At least your alarm clock will never ring again! And you won’t need to go to work – schedules and money now mean nothing! Oh, wait, but then grocery stores won’t be able to stay open. Price tags, inventory, and, of course, the freezers and refrigerators that store perishables! You’ll probably need to beef up your farming skills and become completely self-sufficient because in a world without zero, entire economic systems will cease to be! Modern mathematics, geometry, physics, and other exact sciences would disappear. In fact, we wouldn’t be able to measure time itself! There would be no dates or years – you wouldn’t even be able to celebrate your birthday or know how old you are! And that brings me to my final point…
– The Philosophical
In numerology, zero is the beginning, the source of all numbers – it practically symbolizes the root cause of everything. “Yeah, but what about negative numbers?” Hey, I hear you – and they go back from zero! Without this oh-so critical starting point, you can’t move in time or numerology either way! Every atom, substance, and molecule in the universe came from something, and that something is zero. Time is measured from it, right? The universe started with a bang, and space-time has been expanding from there. Without time, there is nothing. No planets spinning on their axes and revolving around stars. No constellations or galaxies. It all goes… Well, zero is a little more than “nothing” now, isn’t it? Of course, don’t expect any “zero apocalypses” to ever happen – this is all purely hypothetical! But even though the absence of this number is downright terrifying, zero is still incredibly fascinating. To understand what I'm talking about, you need to immerse yourself in mathematics! Like in a hot tub of math!
– The Impossible Equation
Image by MichaiÅ‚ Nowa from Pixabay |
You can add zero, subtract it, and multiply by it, but you CANNOT divide by zero. You might remember your math teacher stressing that point, but did you ever wonder why that is? I mean, it works the other way around - you can divide zero by another number. For example, you have 0 pieces of gum (your pack’s empty - bummer!), and your 5 friends each ask you for a piece. That’s 0 ÷ 5, which equals 0! Everybody gets no piece of gum because there was none from the start. But if you switch that around and punch 5÷ 0 into a calculator, what do you get? Error! It’s a little confusing, I know. So let's find out what’s so impossible and senseless about dividing by zero with a fun little project! Grab a pen and piece of paper and draw a horizontal number line. The beginning of the line is zero, and then it goes 1, 2, 3, and so on. Now you need to refresh some knowledge from your school days – namely, what inverse numbers are. These are two numbers whose product is equal to unity.
I’ll explain with an example. Look at number 2. Its inverse will be one half: 1/2. The same goes for any other number: the inverse of 5 is 1/5, 6 is 1/6, and so on. In short, we divide the unit by the main number(1, 2, 3…) and get its inverse. It doesn’t matter what the original number is - 2 vs. 1/2, 10 vs. 1/10, 500 vs. 1/500! - the inverse will always be closer to zero. It’ll never fall below 0, and it won’t go above 1. As for zero, this inverse number equation will never work with it! Now for my favorite part: The further any number is from zero (3, 32,192, 500), the closer to zero its inverse gets (1/3, 1/32, 1/192, 1/500). And the closer the inverse number is to zero, the further down this number is from the starting point (0) in our number line.
Now imagine this starting point. Can you create the number whose inverse is equal to zero? Zero is less than any positive number, so its inverse should be greater than any positive number. Which number is greater than ANY number? The answer is infinity! This is why you can’t divide by zero. The result is infinity, which is something our brains just can’t grasp. Zero and infinity, two seemingly opposite concepts, come hand-in-hand and are equally incomprehensible. We might not entirely understand zero, but one thing’s for sure: we can’t live without it! Well, that sure wasn’t plenty of nothing now, was it? Aren’t you happy we zeroed in on that. Aren’t you sick of these jokes?
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