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Wed Sep 13, 2017, 07:31 PM

Much ado about nothing: ancient Indian text contains earliest zero symbol

Source: The Guardian

Much ado about nothing: ancient Indian text contains earliest zero symbol

Exclusive: one of the greatest conceptual breakthroughs in mathematics has been traced to the Bakhshali manuscript, dating from the 3rd or 4th century

Hannah Devlin Science Correspondent
Thursday 14 September 2017 00.01 BST

Nowt, nada, zilch: there is nothing new about nothingness. But the moment that the absence of stuff became zero, a number in its own right, is regarded as one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics.

Now scientists have traced the origins of this conceptual leap to an ancient Indian text, known as the Bakhshali manuscript – a text which has been housed in the UK since 1902.

Radiocarbon dating reveals the fragmentary text, which is inscribed on 70 pieces of birch bark and contains hundreds of zeroes, dates to as early as the 3rd or 4th century – about 500 years older than scholars previously believed. This makes it the world’s oldest recorded origin of the zero symbol that we use today.

Marcus du Sautoy, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, said: “Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and our whole digital world is based on nothing or something. But there was a moment when there wasn’t this number.”

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/sep/14/much-ado-about-nothing-ancient-indian-text-contains-earliest-zero-symbol


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Response to Eugene (Original post)

Wed Sep 13, 2017, 07:42 PM

1. O

my.

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Response to Eugene (Original post)

Wed Sep 13, 2017, 08:40 PM

2. Before the invention of zero the only way to talk about nothing was to shut up.

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