The Story of “0”

“ZERO had a long history. The Babylonians invented the concept of zero; the ancient Greeks debated it in lofty terms (how could something be nothing?); the ancient Indian scholar Pingala paired zero with the numeral 1 to get double digits; and both the Mayans and the Romans made zero part of their numeral systems. But zero really found its place about AD 498, when the Indian astronomer Aryabhata sat up in bed one morning and exclaimed, “Sthanam sthanam dasa gunam”—which translates, roughly, as “Place to place in 10 times in value.” With that, the idea of decimal-based place-value notation was born. Now zero was on a roll: It spread to the Arab world, where it flourished; crossed the Iberian Peninsula to Europe (thanks to the Spanish Moors); got some tweaking from the Italians; and eventually sailed the Atlantic to the New World, where zero ultimately found plenty of employment (together with the digit 1) in a place called Silicon Valley.”

Ariely, Dan. “Predictably Irrational.”

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