Unfortunately I cannot credit the source of this speculation as I forgot where I read it. But I find it interesting and hope you might as well.

The form of "0" might perhaps have derived from early systems of counting. If stones or pebbles were placed in the soil or sand while counting baskets of lentils or whatever, lifting a stone to indicate the absence of one item through bartering or other loss would leave a hollow impression in the earth...

A delicious candy bar that's hovered at the very outer fringes of candy popularity for over eighty years. It was created in 1920 by Hollywood Brands, Inc., the company run by the candy impresario Frank Martoccio, founder of the F.A. Martoccio Macaroni Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Zero became part of the Hershey family in 1996.

Zero candy bars are known for their white chocolate coating, succulent nougat and caramel filling, and distinctive silver and blue wrapper. Hard to find, but well worth the effort. Ask at your favorite confectioner!

Mmmm, nougat.

Suppose a function f of the complex variable z. A zero of f is any value of z for which f(z)=0. If function f is only evaluated on the real axis, real zeros of f cause it to be null, whereas complex zeros only cause dips in its absolute value. See also pole.

This is my geometry term paper about the number zero.

When asked to count to ten, a person would usually sound like this: one, two, three, four... et cetera; the chances are very unlikely that a person would start with zero, which is not considered a counting number. Zero is usually seen as just another number, and that a story of zero would simply have the length and value of the number itself. Despite what one would think, this one numeral was invented, or discovered, as some would consider it, and has an extensive history of its several names and the common "0" symbol. The well-disputed properties of it are unlike any other number. This is mainly because the concept of nothing as a number is hard for most humans to be able to understand. After all, can nothing be given a name and accepted as something?

History of the Modern Number Zero

The Egyptians used different hieroglyphs about 3500 B.C. to represent numbers using a decimal system. There were glyphs to represent 1, 10, 10^2, 10^3, 10^4, 10^5, and 10^­6. These glyphs were written in descending order additively to show different numbers. If a category of numbers was missing, as in the number 207, this was easily visible by the glyphs that were used for the 2 and 7. The 2 would be shown with the symbol for 10^2, and the 7 with glyphs for 1. This was a very hard way to write numbers, as they would become very long, and the amount of numbers that could be written were limited to nine million. Though, at the time, Egyptians had no use for numbers as large as that. (Gullberg, p.34) The Egyptians did use a form of zero for the reference point during construction guidelines and as the answer to a number subtracted from itself. (Origin of a Formal Fallacy...)

The Sumerians, from around 3200 B.C., used a decimal system for everyday counting and a sexagesimal system, base 60, for astronomical calculations. Both did not include a number for zero. There were symbols for numbers 1 - 9, and 10 - 90 by tens, 60^2, 10x60^2, and 60^3. A group of symbols would signify multiplication. A subtraction symbol was sometimes used to make it simpler to show long numbers. This system used many different symbols for numbers, and had a limit of numbers that could be named. (Gullberg, p.35)

When the Babylonians came to power around 2000 B.C., their sexagesimal system became the most commonly used. This was the first counting system to use place value. Because there was no zero, differentiating 6001 from 61 or from 6100 was very confusing to read, and often a blank space was left. Around 4 B.C., a symbol came into use to show a void that looked like a triangle with a long tail. This symbol acted as a placeholder, like the modern zero, but it was not considered a number. (Gullberg, pp.56 - 57)

In Greek mathematics, as in Roman, there were words to show the absence of all numbers (nothingness). The Greeks and Romans used a decimal counting system too, and used the 24 letters with special notation to show numbers. The first ten letters were the first ten numbers, the eleventh letter was the number 10, the twelfth letter was 20, and so on. With one myriad totaling 10,000, larger numbers were sometimes shown as myriads of myriads. (Kaplan, pp.17 - 19, p.31)

Today the sort of counting system we use is the base ten system, or the decimal system. Zero is used as a starting number and as a placeholder. As a placeholder it serves after our number nine is used, the numbers start over again at one, in the "tens" position, with a zero after it to show that there are no "ones." Without a digit there, if a space was used instead, fast calculations would become very difficult and mistakes would be commonplace. It is used in this manner to show the "absence of countable or measurable magnitude whose precise nature is determined by the context;" or in other words, zero is an adjective that is used to show none of the noun is there. (Black, p.770)

History of the Name and Symbol for Zero

The Hindus are most credited to the invention of the symbol 0 and the true usage of positional notation. This is because they have well documented use of it just like a real number. In 876 A.D., the number 270 was written as 27° on a stone tablet that was for an order of flowers for a temple of Vishnu. The symbol was likely to have been used long before this, but the real question is why the empty circle symbol was used. Some consider this a Greek discovery, because on a drawing of a counting table an O was used where the 0 would be. This was most likely because the symbol looked like the first letter of the Boetian alphabet, the "Obol," which also was a coin that was considered to be worth almost nothing. (Kaplan, pp.23, 31)

There is no real evidence of where exactly this symbol could have come from first, but there are many different ideas of where it might have originated. In Sanskrit, the ° symbol was used to show a word or letter being omitted, like an apostrophe. The counting boards that were used by both the Greeks and the Indians were dusted with sand, most likely to catch errors in calculations, and the depressions left by markers in the sand resembled an empty circle. Also, the pebble counters that were used on these boards looked like dots, so the absence of one could have been an empty dot. (Kaplan, pp.23, 24, 43, 48, 50)

The names for zero has many different possible origins, most derived from Hindu words like sunya, meaning empty, and kha, once used in a book for the word "place" in place value (empty value). The Arab merchants that often used Indian math used the Indian sunya but it evolved to sifr and as-sifr. By the time this name had gotten to Venice, it had evolved into "zero." (Kaplan, pp.43, 44, 93)

Zero in Algebra

More important than the name for zero or its origin are the properties that sets zero apart all other numbers. Zero is often considered the identity of numbers because of the Law of Addition. Similar are its properties with multiplication. Dividing by zero is cause for questionably the most common math question. What may be even worse, is zero in exponential value.

The Law of Addition states that any real number added to zero is itself. Any real number subtracted from zero is the opposite of itself. ("Numerals," Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000) Because the original number will repeat itself in this way, the laws of addition are very similar to the Identity Property, also called the Reflexive Property of Equality. The Reflexive Property of Equality states that for any real number a, a = a. Using the Transitive Property of Equality, for any real number a, a + 0 = a + 0. This is why zero is often considered the identity of numbers.

By the Laws of Multiplication, any real number multiplied by zero equals zero. ("Numerals," Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000) Zero is the only real number in which everything multiplied by it equals the same thing. Multiplication is seen as taking a number and putting it into a certain number of groups, for example: if there were three bags with four apples in each, how many apples are in all the bags added together? (12). If there were five bags, with no apples in each one, how many apples are in all the bags added together? If there were no bags, and there were five apples sitting where the bags would be, how many apples are in the bags? The answer to both of these questions is no apples, or zero. So anything multiplied by zero ends up with nothing in those groups, or with an answer of zero.

Division, like multiplication, is also best described by groups. If there were 18 bananas, and you put them into 3 boxes, how many bananas would be in each box? There would be six. If there were no bananas and you put nothing into 3 boxes, how many bananas would be in each box? The answer would be no bananas, so this shows how zero divided by anything equals zero. What if there were 18 bananas; how many bananas would be in each box if there were no boxes? If the boxes were there, could we tell how many bananas would be in them if we don't know the total number of boxes? It is most commonly considered "undefined," because we don't know enough information to say how to divide the bananas up. A better way to look at this problem is by using an example from division's cousin, multiplication. 10/2=5 because 5x2=10, 9/3=3 because 3x3=9, but 4/0=?? Nothing times zero can equal four, because everything times zero equals zero. (Dr. Math FAQ...)

If this is true, then isn't 0/0 undefined? But also, any number divided by itself is one. For example, if there were nine ducks and you put them into nine boxes, that's one duck in each box. But if there were no ducks and you didn't put them into any boxes, then there would be nothing that you didn't put into anything. Isn't that just zero? Because there are too many questions about this function also, it too is "undefined."

Zero has caused many fears and confusion, especially during the Middle Ages because it was thought of as almost satanic. Zero is associated with darkness and nothingness and pretty much evil in Western civilization. In Eastern cultures, zero is associated with in-between, balanced, Nirvana, and other blissful things. Zero has more emotion attached to it than any other number. It is a number that hurts your mind when you try to understand its properties. And yet, such a number is necessary to do mathematical calculations with ease. Nothing is necessary to make something. Does zero even exist? In a perfect world there would be an answer to this question.


  • Black, Max. Encyclopedia Americana-International Edition. Vol. 29. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Incorporated, 1993. p.770.

  • Dr. Math FAQ; Dividing by Zero. http://forum.swarthmore.edu/dr.math/faq/. November 19, 2000.

  • Gullberg, Jan. Mathematics - From the Birth of Numbers. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. Pp.34, 35, 56, 57.

  • Kaplan, Robert. The Nothing that is - A Natural History of Zero. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1999. Pp. 17 - 19, 23, 24, 31, 43, 44, 48, 50, 93 - 95.

  • "Numerals," Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000. Microsoft Corporation.

  • Origin of a Formal Fallacy: Dividing by Zero. http://ubmail.ubalt.edu/~harsham/zero/ZERO.HTM. November 19, 2000.

  • Wojcik, Daniel Noel. "Millennium," Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000. Microsoft Corporation.
zen = Z = zero-content

zero vt.

1. To set to 0. Usually said of small pieces of data, such as bits or words (esp. in the construction `zero out'). 2. To erase; to discard all data from. Said of disks and directories, where `zeroing' need not involve actually writing zeroes throughout the area being zeroed. One may speak of something being `logically zeroed' rather than being `physically zeroed'. See scribble.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

An incredible computer magazine that was unlike anything that came before. Published by Dennis Publishing and edited at launch by Gareth Hendrincx. The first issue went on sale in November 1989. It covered the 16-bit home computers (Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and IBM PC) and acknowledged that the users of these machines were mostly adults.

As well as game reviews (which eschewed pseudo-scientific scoring systems, and reviewed each format's version of a game seperately) and extremely in-depth previews, there were regular columns on computer graphics, music, coin-ops, adventure games, consoles and "Stuff" (which covered books, gadgets, comics, etc.). Whereas a dull mag like PC Format would cover MIDI with a load of snoozy diagrams and a demo of Cakewalk, Zero would go out and interview Tim Simenon or Captain Sensible. This emphasis on coolness and immediacy might sound trite today, but it was carefully judged and backed up with well-written and informative content.

The back pages contained the Yikes! celebrity interview (phone interviewing such icons as Jeremy Beadle, Bob Holness and Bungle the Bear) as well as the Black Shape letters page and the Highest Joystick in The World. Regular contributors included Duncan MacDonald, David McCandless, Marcus Berkmann, Tim Ponting, Mike Gerrard, Paul Lakin, Sean Kelly and Matt Biebly (a veritable games journalism 'supergroup').

Zero ran for about 30 issues and won the 'European Magazine of The Year' prize, before folding. Game Zone, and its successor PC Zone, carried the torch, although most of the original staff have moved on. A large number of Future Publishing magazines shamelessly aped Zero over the years, the ill-fated Mega being a prime example. Only Super Play (edited by ex-YS and Zero bod Matt Biebly) managed to come close, but even that was a bit full of itself.

In the financial world a "zero" is a bond that offers only capital gain in the form of a single future payment at maturity (i.e. no coupon payments). A zero would sell at a discount in a market with a positive interest rate.

Zero is the addition identity meaning given any number a, a + 0 = a.
Zero has the property that 0 * a = 0. Proof
a = a
a*1 = a
a*(1 + 0) = a
a*1 + a*0 = a*1
a*0 = 0

Also, we must have that zero be diffferent then the multiplication identity, 1 (where a*1 = a). Otherwise we would have all numbers equal to 0. Since a*1 = a and a*0 = a, if 1 = 0, then a = 0 for all a.
More generally, zero is the name given to the addidtive identity in an abelian group. Also in any ring, if one and zero are the same then the ring only has one element, namely zero itself (some then define a ring as having zero different from one).

Zero is Jack Skellington's dog in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Zero seems to be a ghost dog because he is sort of translucent and hovers through the air.

The concept or meaning of zero strikes me as having, in some sense a positivity or substantiveness that is empirically verifiable. For starters, zero is big enough to be divisible by any natural number A since A x 0 = 0, so it must have some substance or size.

When we say we have zero dollars in our pocket, we mean we have absolutely nothing in our pocket- but do we?

Zero is more than absolutely nothing, i.e, absolute nothingness.

If a young lad has five quizzes and gets the following grades: 80, 90, 100, 70 and 60, His average grade is (80 + 90 + 100 + 70 + 60) / 5 = 80,

If his five quiz grades are instead : 80, 90, 100, 70, and zero, his average grade is (80 + 90 + 100 + 70 + zero) / 5 = 68

If getting a zero meant getting absolutely nothing on a grade and 'absolute nothingness' is considered to be the deepest form of nothing which is

absolute nothingness = negative infinity
then his average grade would instead be (80 + 90 + 100 + 70 - infinity) / 5 = roughly negative infinity. But of course he does not sink to a grade of roughly negative infinity after getting a zero on one of five quizzes.

In a similar way if you have a fuel economy guage on the dashboard, and you idle at zero miles per hour, all the positivity of gas mileage you gained on the highway does not just get swallowed up in the few moments of some infinite nothingness of speed. Instead the decline in fuel economy is gradual as you sit there idling. You actually see this behavior on the guage and this seems to be empirical verification of a substantiveness of zero that is greater than absolute nothingness equal to negative infinity.

In other words zero is, in an empirical, experiential and verifiable sense, something greater than an "absolutely nothing" equal to the our most extreme mathematical expression of nothingness (negative infinity). There are obviously gradations of nothingness far more impressive than zero; and, if negative infinity is at the bottom of the scale of gradations of nothingness then the negative numbers also have some empirical substantiveness and are not just artifacts invented to keep track of debits and help balance checkbooks.

Why is this important? Because scientists are wondering where all the dark matter in the universe is hiding of course.

Ze"ro (?), n; pl. Zeros (#) or Zeroes. [F. z'ero, from Ar. &cced;afrun, &cced;ifrun, empty, a cipher. Cf. Cipher.]

1. Arith.

A cipher; nothing; naught.


The point from which the graduation of a scale, as of a thermometer, commences.

Zero in the Centigrade, or Celsius thermometer, and in the R'eaumur thermometer, is at the point at which water congeals. The zero of the Fahrenheit thermometer is fixed at the point at which the mercury stands when immersed in a mixture of snow and common salt. In Wedgwood's pyrometer, the zero corresponds with 1077° on the Fahrenheit scale. See Illust. of Thermometer.


Fig.: The lowest point; the point of exhaustion; as, his patience had nearly reached zero.

Absolute zero. See under Absolute. -- Zero method Physics, a method of comparing, or measuring, forces, electric currents, etc., by so opposing them that the pointer of an indicating apparatus, or the needle of a galvanometer, remains at, or is brought to, zero, as contrasted with methods in which the deflection is observed directly; -- called also null method. -- Zero point, the point indicating zero, or the commencement of a scale or reckoning.


© Webster 1913.

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