We should not treat zero with such little reverence! Zero is an 'everlasting truth.' It was independently discovered in pre-Bronze Age of mankind - only three times in India and Mayan territories. Any sentient beings out in the universe would not progress from the level of 'basic bronze age' to their 'cyber age' without the discovery of zero; it took nearly 9,000 years for civilised man to comprehend, ascertain and discern it.
Zero is the number around which the negative numbers to its left extend into infinity and the positive numbers to the right do likewise. It is neither positive nor negative. Everything begins with zero and ends with zero. Zero sits in the middle of numbers that are infinite, from the smallest -∞ (negative infinite) to ∞. (Without numbers below zero 'risk 'and 'quantum physics' would remain under shrouds of everlasting mystery.)
Zero helps us to comprehend our origins; this 'nothingness' had a lot of answers. From an electron's mass is about 0.00000000000000000000000000000091093822 kg. in scientific notation, this is written 9.1093822×10−31 kg. to the Earth's mass is about 5973600000000000000000000 kg. in scientific notation, this is written 5.9736×1024 kg. Without zero all this could not be understood or written in a decipherable fashion. The beginning of time and the end of time from all ideas concerning the very early universe (cosmogony) are speculative. But it is 'zero' that can present the extreme limits of infinitesimal and enormous time period to an inquiring mind. There would be no science, no computers. no software, no time and no speed without zero; humans would have lived in a limited spectrum of universe, they would be unable to decode the superior and exceptional mysteries that lie ahead of us. Science exponential growth owes it to 'our' comprehension of miniscule and limitless. Without zero we would be zero.
Persian Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khwarizmi, in his "Keys of the Sciences" and Al'Khwarizmi on the Hindu Art of Reckoning describes the Indian place-value system of numerals based on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0. Zero contributed to the development of calculus. Zero is a game-changer, a distinct value, and the barrier between positive and negative. 100 Greatest Science Inventions of All Time highlights Al-Khwarizmi. who convinced a group of fellow scholars that zero must be a number by demonstrating that zero behaves like a number when subject to common operations. Not only did Al-Khwarizmi thus effectively demonstrate zero as a number, but he also established himself as the founder of algebra.
Zero puts in perspective what is an incomprehensible mystery of creation buried in algorithms of numbers and calculus; from 'Planck epoch' described up to 10–43 seconds after the Big Bang and Inflationary epoch Between 10–36 seconds and 10–32 seconds after the Big Bang to huge googol 10100 or about 2.5×1089 elementary particles in the observable universe.
We need to marvel at such an extraordinary non entity that runs our lives. In ancient India 'enormous numbers' took on special sacred implication, and among all civilizations they were distinctive in having names for many higher powers of ten. The most primitive written records of Indian culture are the Vedas, from between 1500 BC and 800 BC, and these already contain names for powers beyond a billion.
''The names appear in a number of texts and vary significantly, but the best known is from the Lalitavitsara (circa 100 BC), which tells the story of Buddha's life. In this book, Buddha competes with five other suitors for the hand of Gopa, Prince Dandipani's daughter. He defeats them in contests of writing, wrestling, archery, running and swimming, and number skills. Then, Buddha is given a final test by the mathematician Arjuna, who asks "O young man, do you know the counting which goes beyond the koti (107) on the centesimal scale?" Buddha's response begins, "Hundred kotis are called ayuta, hundred ayutas niyuta, hundred niytas kankara" and continues to tallaksana, which is 1053. But this is only the first count, and Buddha continues with eight more counts of 23 names leading to 107+9x46, which is a one followed by 421 zeros, a truly transcendent number.''
The first recorded zero is credited to the Babylonians in the 3rd century BC. In spite of the invention of zero as a placeholder, the Babylonians never quite discovered zero as a number. On an accounting tablet recording the distribution of grain there is a notation at the end of a column of numbers that reads “The grain is exhausted.” Another example from the same era is a description subtracting 20 from 20: “twenty minus twenty…you see.”
Mayans, halfway around the world in Central America, independently invented zero in the fourth century CE. Though earlier than that in 130 AD Ptolemy was using a small circle with a long over-bar to represent a zero; this symbol was used by itself in some cases and not just as a placeholder and is perhaps the first documented instance of the number zero being used in the Old World; however zero was used only as a fractional part of a number and not as an integral part of the number until later years when it was added into the letter that meant 70. By 525 the zero was being used in Roman numerals, with the first recorded user being Dionysius Exiguus; at the time there was no symbol to represent the number however, just the word ‘nulla’ which means nothing.
India's independent invention of zero is set around the middle of the fifth century. Some say that Babylonian astronomy, with its zero, was passed on to Hindu astronomers but there is no absolute proof of this, so most scholars give the Hindus credit for coming up with zero on their own. Brahmasputha Siddhanta wrote the first set of rules for using the number zero. The oldest known text to include a zero is the Jain text of India from 458 AD; even more than Buddhism, the Jainist religion was interested in gigantic numbers. In the Anuyogadvara-sutra from the first century BC, the total number of human beings in the world is given as 296, which has 29 digits. the first known use of a symbol representing zero was a stone inscription from India, dated 876 AD.
In 628 for example the sum of zero and zero is zero, the sum of zero and a positive is positive, and several others, now many years later, the same rules are applied and the zero is an irreplaceable number in the numerical system. A striking note about the Hindu zero is that, unlike the Babylonian and Mayan zero, the Hindu zero symbol came to be understood as meaning “nothing.” This is probably because of the use of number words that preceded the symbolic zero.
From India 0 moved into China. China independently invented place value, they didn’t make the leap to zero until it was introduced to them by a Buddhist astronomer by way of India in 718. In 976 AD the Persian Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khwarizmi, in his "Keys of the Sciences", remarked that if, in a calculation, no number appears in the place of tens, then a little circle should be used "to keep the rows". This circle the Arabs called صفر ṣifr, "empty". That was the earliest mention of the name ṣifr that eventually became zero.) From ṣifr also came French chiffre = "digit", "figure", "number", chiffrer = "to calculate or compute", chiffré = "encrypted". According to Ifrah, "in thirteenth-century Paris, a 'worthless fellow' was called a '... cifre en algorisme', i.e., an 'arithmetical nothing'." Khwarizmi book contained a combination of Greek and Hindu knowledge as well as an explanation on using the zero. Middle East also got their zero from Indian scholars. Arab mathematicians created a new form of writing numbers—the Arabic numerals.
When Europe and the Middle East began trade on a large scale, Europe adopted Arabic numerals and abandoned counting boards. Zero finally reached western Europe in the 12th century. In the 'Dark Ages' mathematics in the West was held back by the Roman's traditional numbering system. Leonardo Fibonacci, was a merchant's son, studied the work of Euclid and other Greek mathematicians. He moved to the Muslim city of Bugia, in North Africa where he got an education in Arabic culture as he traveled around the Mediterranean to Constantinople, Egypt and Syria. He recognized the veracity of Hindu-Arabic numerals, were superior to the Roman numerals. The Italian mathematician is credited with introducing the decimal system to Europe, he used the term zephyrum. This became zefiro in Italian, which was contracted to zero in Venetian. Indian culture was brilliant in its use of huge numbers, and it is amazing how long it took western culture to clinch a number system that could surpass even the millions. In Greek and Roman times, greater numbers were unavailable because they were never or hardly ever needed. The Coliseum, held 55,000 spectators. A good pillaging voyage could net millions; there was no need of counting a billion.
With advent of age of knowledge/ science came the need of large numbers. Archimedes, legendary for his feats of engineering, and considered one of the supreme mathematicians in history, was fascinated with counting grains of sand. Though the Greek enumeration system stopped at the myriad, (The myriad is 104, or 10,000.) Archimedes' treatise Sand Reckoning blows away all preceding records and earns him the crown for king of big numbers. He proceeded to estimate the number of grains of sand that would make up the universe. In contrast to his feats of number naming, this estimate comes out to less than 1064. Archimedes was not, in fact, mainly interested in number of grains of sand in the universe, but wanted to exhibit that such a number is easy to express and also easy to exceed.
Archimedes' 1064 was astronomically large -- it comes from astronomy! More current astronomers put the number of particles in the universe at somewhere between 1072 and 1087, while the age of the universe is estimated at a mere 10 to 20 billion years. Only with 9 i.e. (1-9) numbers universe could not be decoded, zero brought the sizes of nuclei, viruses and galaxies into a realm where our small human minds could make comparisons and continue their indescribable search for that 'Grand Unified Theory,' a vision of a physics theory that can combine three of the four fundamental forces the Strong Nuclear Force, the Weak Nuclear Force, the Electro-Magnetic Force, and the Gravitational Force into one single equation. 'Zero' has helped us with our rendezvous and acquaintance with our nemesis our limitations of comprehension; our shortcomings in interpreting all the truth out there, may be our universe is organically designed/evolved such that there is no simple model, only semi-close approximations.
Zero stretched the human ability to understand and decipher the mysteries of the universe. Imagine 10100 an exorbitant number in earlier times were beyond the sphere of counting, because there simply weren't 1087 things in the universe to add up. This was named a "googol" by the 9-year-old nephew of a mathematician, around 1940. (In 1938, Edward Kasner's nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, coined the term googol, then proposed the further term googolplex to be "one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired".)
In the PBS science program Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Episode 9: "The Lives of the Stars", astronomer and television personality Carl Sagan estimated that ''writing a googolplex in numerals (i.e., "10,000,000,000...") would be physically impossible, since doing so would require more space than the known universe provides. Moore's Law, dictates that the number of transistors on a square inch of a microprocessor will double about every 18 months. Between 1980 and 2000, hard disk sizes increased from about 10 megabytes (1 × 107) to over 100 gigabytes (1011 bytes). A 100 gigabyte disk could store the given names of all of Earth's six billion inhabitants without using data compression. But what about a dictionary-on-disk storing all possible passwords containing up to 40 characters? Assuming each character equals one byte, there are about 2320 such passwords, which is about 2 × 1096.
It is also questioned now whether with the help of Moore's Law we could answer all the mathematical problems one day, no matter how complicated. This is not the case. Computers are fundamentally limited by the constraints of laws of nature. We are wayward gamblers who need to keep gambling with the thoughts of 'nothingness' on sands of times; it all is destined to be washed away one day. Rumi summed it up for me:
blessed is the gambler
who has lost everything
except the desire