Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The concept of zero

  1. Jul 6, 2009 #1
    what exactly is the number zero?

    I mean, the number 0 seems to negate the absence of meaning in the digital world just like God negates it in the analog world.

    any ideas?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2009 #2
    Whadda you mean?

    In the field of real numbers zero is the identity element of addition.
  4. Jul 7, 2009 #3
    can you elaborate on identity element of addition??
  5. Jul 7, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Identity element: 0 is the number such that a+0=a for all real numbers a. There are a bunch of other ways to define 0, but that's a good one. Since this is in the number theory section, a similar definition regarding natural numbers may be more appropriate. Regardless of choice though, it's hard to tell what your post about 'meaning in the digital world' and 'God in the analog world' have to do with 0
  6. Jul 7, 2009 #5

    zeros in a digital world are kind of essential when the digital world is comprised mainly of ones and zeros...

    and i wouldn't go bringing god into anything. praise science.
  7. Jul 7, 2009 #6
    How is the statement, "there are zero apples in a bowl" any less useful or less real than the statement, "there are four apples in a bowl" ?
  8. Jul 7, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Indeed, "The bowl contains zero apples" is also quite distinct from "The number of apples in the bowl is undefined".

    Or let's make it more relevant.

    You are on your way to bed after a campfire. Your friend stops and tells you one of two things:
    "Your tent contains zero ravenous grizzlies."
    "Your tent contains an undefined number of ravenous grizzlies."
  9. Jul 7, 2009 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The way I like to put things is that the concept of zero is so important that language has evolved to include specialized grammar to convey it.
  10. Jul 7, 2009 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    And an engineer would want the tent to contain a negative number of grizzlies - just to give them a safety margin.
  11. Jul 7, 2009 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Did you hear the one about the ancient Greek mathematician, who was running down the street shouting:
    "Eureka! Eureka! I've just discovered zero!"

    His mate asks him: "What's that?"

    The answer: "Oh... nothing."
  12. Jul 10, 2009 #11
    a symbol that denies the absence of meaning...the meaning that's necessitated by the delineation of one system from another...in analog, that's god, and in digital..it's a zero.

    this quote is from GHOST IN THE SHELL SAC episode 15 1st GIG.
  13. Jul 10, 2009 #12
    thanks, that makes more sense than anything else...so far...
  14. Jul 10, 2009 #13
    I don't know if I'd trust cartoon shows to teach me about math.
  15. Jul 11, 2009 #14
    Precisely. One the money cheers2.gif .
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook