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The History Of Zero Essay

949 words - 4 pages

Zero is usually recognized today as being originated in two geographically separated cultures: the Maya and Indian. If zero was a place-holder symbol, then such a zero was present in the Babylonian positional number system before the first recorded occurrence of the Indian zero. If zero was represented by an empty space within a well-defined positional number system, such a zero was present in Chinese mathematics a few centuries before the beginning of the Common Era. The absence of a symbol for zero in China did not prevent it from being an efficient computational tool that could handle solution of higher degree order equations involving fractions.
However, the Indian zero was a symbol, a ...view middle of the document...

On the other hand, geometry was the natural study for oligarchies for it demonstrated the proportions within inequality.
Evidence relating to Pre-Columbian Maya civilization comes from three main sources: four screen-fold books called codices, a large number of stone monuments and thousands of ceramic vessels. Piecing together these different strands of evidence, it is possible to construct an account of the social context in which the Mayan numerals and especially the Mayan zero emerged around the beginning of the Christian era. The Mayan system of numerical notation was one of the most economical systems ever devised. In the form that was used mainly by the priests for calendar computation as early as 400 BC. It required only three symbols: a dot was used for one, and a bar for five; and a symbol for zero which resembles a snails shell. With these three symbols they were able to represent any number on a base 20. However, there was an unusual irregularity in the operation of the place value system. This anomaly reduces the efficiency in arithmetical calculation.
For example, one of the most useful facilities in our numeration system is the ability to multiply a given number by 10 by adding a zero to the end of it. An addition of a Mayan zero to the end of a number would not in general multiply the number by twenty because of the mixed base system employed. This inconsistency also inhibited the development of further arithmetical operations, particularly those involving fractions. To understand this curious irregularity in Mayan numeration, it is important to appreciate the social context in which the numeration system was used.
Returning to the curious irregularity in the Mayan place value system, the general view is that it is tied to the exigencies of operating three different calendars. The first...

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