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Search for the world's first zero leads to the home of Angkor Wat

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Search for the world's first zero leads to the home of Angkor Wat Empty Search for the world's first zero leads to the home of Angkor Wat

Post by Guest on Tue 2 Dec 2014 - 11:15

US-based mathematician, Amir Aczel, made it his life’s work to find the world’s first zero. Having already discovered the first magic square inscribed on the doorway of a 10th-century Indian temple, this ‘mathematical archaeologist’ had come to know of K-127 - a stone stele first documented in 1931 that clearly held the inscription “605”. Dated to AD 683, it’s the oldest known representation of zero - a numeral that Aczel describes as the most significant of them all.

He writes at The Huffington Post:

"Zero is not only a concept of nothingness, which allows us to do arithmetic well and to algebraically define negative numbers, but it is also an important place-holding device. In that role, zero enables our base-10 number system to work, so that the same 10 numerals can be used over and over again, at different positions in a number. This is exactly what makes our number system so efficient and powerful. Without that little zero we would be stuck in the Middle Ages!"

Until fairly recently, anthropologists believed that the Western number system took hold as late as the 13th century, when Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa (or Fibonacci) had taken what he’s learned from Arab traders and introduced it to the Europeans. Before then, the zero-less Roman system had been the standard. "With the exception of the Mayan system, whose zero glyph never left the Americas, ours is the only one known to have a numeral for zero,” Aczel writes for the Smithsonian Magazine. "Babylonians had a mark for nothingness, say some accounts, but treated it primarily as punctuation. Romans and Egyptians had no such numeral either.”

It was thought that the Arabic nations had themselves borrowed that number system from ancient civilisations on the Indian subcontinent, because of the discovery of a 9th-century zero inscribed in the Chatur-bujha temple in the city of Gwalior in India.


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