The number zero is probably the strangest of all mathematical numerical and symbols. The importance of zero in mathematics has perplexed many over the ages, the main question being how something that amounts to nothing can be so instrumental.
It is difficult to pinpoint an exact time when zero came into existence, but we can narrow down the scope to some crucial points in history: from Pingala, the Sanskrit scholar who used binary numbers and refereed to zero as sunya, Aryabhatta who used zero as a digit in the value notation of a decimal place, down to its usage by Chinese, Egyptian, and Italian scholars at later dates.
Some variation of zero was used at even earlier dates, although they differed considerably from what we know as the zero at present times.
The zero’s presence in texts from ancient times shows that t was invented in order to fulfill some crucial purpose, which seems paradoxical considering that it, at face value, constitutes of and symbolizes literally nothing. In this essay, we will try to analyze why zero holds pride of place in mathematics even today.
Pivotal in Measurements
Zero is either the pivotal or the origin point for measurements, because integers (negative and positive numbers) on the number scale stretch to infinity on both sides of the zero. For instance, when you measure weight, height, length, or breadth, your measurement stats from zero; that is, if something weighs 59 lbs, it is 59 lbs more than 0 lbs.
When you measure temperature, zero is the pivotal point with temperatures ranging on both sides of it; for instance, water boils at 100 degrees more than zero, while temperatures often drop to -20 degrees, or 20 degrees less than zero.
Zero is crucial for denoting value. This value can be of anything, from a monetary unit to a set. For instance, your bank account depletes completely if your balance becomes zero, and if charges are deducted from the bank account when it has no money in it, you are running on negative balance hat is, you have less than zero amount. Similarly, a set containing nothing in it has a value of zero.
Acts as a Placeholder
Zero has a very important position as a placeholder. Numbers would look very different if zero had not bent ere and calculations would always be inaccurate. For instance, if you bought 204 apples, without a zero, you would never be able to denote it, and you would instead be getting 24 apples, which would be completely different from what you had paid for.
Concept of Infinity
The whole number system, in fact, would look very different; it would be stuck from 1 to 9 instead of stretching to infinity, and the fields of architecture, physics, finance, and astronomy would be hopelessly inadequate at explaining concepts and practical applications. Each number exists as a symbol that signifies its relation to zero; if zero had not been there, it would become very difficult to assign value to most numbers. In fact, each mathematical operation denotes zero’s limits and functions with whole numbers by properties.
Crucial in Calculations
Without the concept of zero, it would be impossible to take into account any data that has no numerical value, that is, stands at zero. For instance, if you were to find the average of a certain number of students, and one of those students did not score anything, there would be no specific formula you could follow.
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It would become practically impossible to determine whether or not to take into account that certain student while calculating the average score. Similarly, you would be stuck if you were to subtract nothing from a certain number; for instance, if you have 15 apples and none is taken from you, what would you have left? Such calculation would become impossible without the concept of zero.
A host of other mathematical functions would be impossible without the zero, such as expressing fractions as decimals. Its most important function, is, of course, to add value to other whole numbers. There is a very big difference between 3 and 3000, and it is all because of a few zeroes added after 3.
The very fascinating part about zero is its seeming nothingness and immense power. It quantifies the abstract term of ‘nothing’, enabling it to be given consideration in mathematical functions; at the same time, it acts as a placeholder and adds value to whole numbers.