July 13, 2008
A Short History of ZeroBy Lawrence Murray
Ancient Greek Philosophers, those who gave us the Pythagorean theorem, Euclidian Geometry and the basics of Number Theory did not ever consider zero as a number.
Greek Christian clergy considered every species had an essence. An elephant has its essence and a bacterium has its. By extrapolation, each of their cells held that essence. Thus a zero elephant and a zero bacterium by not owning an essence were physically the same and indistinguishable.
In 300 BC the Olmecs in Vera Cruz, Mexico invented zero but they considered it a starting point, not a number [that is clear on written Mayan monuments].
Then just before 800 A.D. the Syrian Arabs [around the time of Haroun al-Rashid] learned of a Hindu number that was heard of from China, called zero. The Muslims called it cipher and made it a real number. And so came our Arabic number system and, along with it, came the classic freethinking Muslim writers like Averroës [Ibn Rushid], Avicenna [Ibn Sina] and Algorithm [Al Khwarizma]who spread forgotten Roman and Greek books into schools.
Those Muslim scholars fell out of dogmatic favor in the eleventh century, but Europeans later picked up their cudgel and introduced zero as an everyday real physical number [rather than a metaphysical mathematical one].
And since 1 divided by 0 had to be infinite, infinity also came into being as a number, not just a metaphysical or mathematical concept. With infinity came transfinite numbers [e.g. infinity squared or infinity cubed] and imaginary numbers.
There were of course problems in physics: its inverse square laws developed infinite forces when two things got completely together, so Gauss put an infinitesimally small sphere around the point of zero. And Nobel Prize winning physicists normalized zero out of their equations and the Standard Universe was born.
So when zero was ignored, Physics works. Metaphysical Zero, like metaphysical Superstring Theory is a fine thing
Which explains a famous paradox this old boy from Brooklyn has been considering since Ebbets Field was real. I became certain I was correct when the last of Physics' measurable zeros, neutrinos, turned out not to have zero mass at all.
2500 years ago Zeno of Elea stated that Apollo's Arrow could not reach a tree because it had to travel an infinite number of half distances to get there: but it does. Since then, the paradox has been philosophically debated without resolution.
The answer is quite simple: there is no physical zero [just a metaphysically mathematical one]. Physics has only three fundamental measurables: Time, Distance, and Mass. There is nothing in physics that has zero time of existence, nor any zero distance. As for Mass, every particle: electron, proton, quark, photon [it is energy with a rest mass E=mc2] and neutrino has mass. There is no zero mass particles. In Physics there is also Planck's Limit, so that anything before 10-42 sec or anything with less than 10-34 cm lies beyond the reality of Physical Law. Thus, by the time Apollo's arrow reaches the ultimate distance of 10-34 cm from the tree, it has gone just an infinitesimal half steps of Zeno's long flight. It landed in the tree.
I could go on for hours boring you with no need for Standard Theory normalizations:
- Calculus not needing to neglect higher order terms;
- time and space being properties of matter;
- if there's no zero, there's no infinity.
Or does this have an effect on the dark energy at the edges of space and the preponderance of positive matter 10-42 sec after Creation?
But I won't: that's for people interested in winning a Nobel Prize.