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What is the value of zero?

Monday, May 19, 2014
Science and Society

The language of science and technology is mathematics. Just like in everyday life, if we are unable to communicate our thoughts and ideas to others, they can be neither understood nor developed; similarly for science and technology. So mathematics is essential for the growth and development of S&T and arguably, the tipping point in its evolution was the acceptance of the number zero.


It is rather ironic that the western world, which rose to pre-eminence on the strength of its progress in S&T, initially refused to accept the concept of zero, which was put forward by ancient Indian mathematicians. 



But scientists and mathematicians are also human and therefore may display hostility and recalcitrance to new ideas that run counter to their religious and social/historical norms. In fact, the numeral system used as a standard worldwide is based on the one developed by the Indians, including the symbols for the numbers. The Arabs adopted it and transmitted it to the Europeans.