Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for zero

I have finally come to the end of the A to Z challenge. So I'll conclude with a strange concept, which produces wonderful imagery. It is the concept of zero.

Zero might be seen as negative or it might be seen as positive. It might be seen as nothing or everything. Zero might be seen as a number, or maybe it is not a number. Zero is amazing. I am fascinated by numbers, despite the fact that I was probably the world's worst math student when I was in school half a million years ago (no, I can't count that high).

Zero can be seen as the black hole that gobbles everything up. It absorbs everything and lets nothing go free. This is true when you multiply any number by zero. No matter the size of the number, once you multiply it  by zero, it becomes zero. Whether your number is 856 trillion or two, multiply it by zero and the answer is always zero. You could say that it makes everything equal, everything the same.

You may say that equality and identity are not the same thing. And you would be right. In Madeleine L'Engle's book, A Wrinkle in Time, the main character, Meg, is trying to rescue her little brother, Charles Wallace, who is trapped on a planet, Camazotz, where everyone is alike. The world is controlled by a powerful computer, IT, that truly does not understand human nature. It tells Meg, "Everyone is happy here. They are all alike and they are all equal." Meg says that, no, equality is not identity. We can be different and we can be equal, at the same time. Meg struggled with being different in school, and she came to realize that her differentness was her strength.

Camazotz is completely under a dark cloud. It has given in. Its fight is over.

The Earth is fighting the cloud. Are we winning? I don't know. Neither, I suspect, did Madeleine L'Engle.

Zero takes away identity and creates uniformity when any number is multiplied by it. But that doesn't have to be. Instead of multiplying, try adding. Add zero to any number and the answer is the original number. In addition, zero acts as a mirror. You look in the mirror of zero (which is round like many mirrors), and you see yourself. A dancing 2 or a marching 10 or a big train 234,987,561 can see itself, being itself in the mirror of zero. 

Here are some more interesting facts about zero.
  •  In the BC/AD system of numbering years, there was no year 0.
  • When you start counting things, you don't start with zero, you start with one. If you started with zero, you'd always have the wrong number. 
  • Fibinacci numbers, on the other hand, start with zero and they build from there. You start adding: 0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8, 5+8=13, 8+13=21, and onward.
  • Pine cones, apparently, do mathematics. They are good at Fibinacci numbers. The pine cones grow in spirals. Apparently, that is a great demonstration of Fibonacci numbers.
  • Zero is neither positive nor negative. It is just zero.
  • What would happen if you multiplied zero by itself, or tried to take its square root?
Ooops, I just strained my brain! 

Do you have a favorite number? If so, what and why?


Martha DeMeo said...

Great ending to a fun blog challenge! I actually have 2 favorite numbers. One is 7 because I have 7 grandchildren and the other is 13. I have no idea why 13, but it's always been my favorite.

Dawn Kotzer said...

Love Fibonacci. Now I love how you've shared the mysteries and magic of Zero with us as well. Spot on. dawn

Anna Jeanine said...

That was so interesting!! I loved everything you said about zero, especially the way it is a mirror for other numbers when added, and the fact that it absorbs other numbers into itself if you do anything else. It has been so great hanging out with you here at this blog. I'll have to come back to see what follows the alphabet challenge.

Alana said...

The number "17" has been instrumental in my life for various reasons. I was born on that day, as was my son, and my parents were married on the 17th. And sadly, my best friend from childhood, and a dear aunt, both died on the 17th.

Arlee Bird said...

Congratulations on making your way to Z! Zero was an apt ending to your April posts--I'll be thinking about this concept for a while now.

Good job and thank you for joining us in 2016.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
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