When Zero is a Hero. Why we need the Nought.

The way to signify nothing has always been a bit of philosophical conundrum. You might think that maths is all cold hard logic and just numbers and amounts “doing their thing” multiplying or subtracting. However for our ancient Greek and Chinese Ancestors this was a bit of a bone of contention. First of all, how could you make a symbol for nothing? As soon as you did then you ended up making it something and sort of defeating the object of it. This was hard for the logical Greeks but not for the Chinese whose philosophy of balance enables them to have a midpoint between the positive and the negative. Where does the idea of Zero come from? Accounting is difficult for us now, let alone back then and if you need Accountants in Cheltenham then searching for a professional company is your best bet. Randall and payne are accountants in cheltenham and can help with a variety of accounting needs.. They certainly understand the concept of Zero.

Image credit

The first real use of Zero dates right back to the ancient Egyptians. They had already decimalised themselves and the symbol “nfr” starts popping up in their accounting and architecture calculations. It means beautiful and you’ll see it as an illustration of where the base of a pyramid was and the measurements out from it.  One thousand years later in 700BC the Babylonians start to get the idea as well. The first we know of is where the writer Bel-Ban-Aplu puts in three hooks to indicate a Zero. Before that they just left a gap between their numerals. It was not a true Zero you had to know what the text was about before you could understand what the position of the three hooks meant. This made it a very specialist operation.

Image credit

The ancient Meso-American civilisations like the Olmec’s, Toltec’s and the Maya were more than happy to have a zero. It was easy to spot as it was a gap in the knots on a cord that they used for counting and measurement. It was not so over on the other side of the Atlantic and down the far end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Greeks decided that zero shouldn’t have a digit because if it  did then it would be something and this was absurd.  If you went back and told them that we now follow the Chinese and use negative numbers, oh and by the way, zero is an even number they would have pulled up the togas and lost it with you. Luckily for western civilisation the Romans were quite happy to put in a zero going with the Latin nulla or nihil for nothing and using the letter N in Roman numerals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *