AD/BC debators

mike shupp (ms44278@HUEY.CSUN.EDU)
Sat, 25 May 1996 14:43:03 -0700

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 25 May 1995 01:48:30 -0700
From: Timothy Jones <skozicki@UCR.AC.CR>
To: Multiple recipients of list ANCIEN-L <ANCIEN-L@ULKYVM.LOUISVILLE.EDU>
Subject: The Discovery of Zero

I am a fiction writer, and I am researching and speculating upon the
origin of zero in Western mathematics. It seems this is a very obscure
area. The concept of zero did not appear until the ninth century AD when
it was introduced to Arab culture from India. The Sanskrit word sunya,
meaning emptiness was translated into Arabic as safr, which became cipher
and zero. What I am interested in is the notable absence of zero in the
complex systems of mathematics in the ancient world. One can understand
how zero wouldn't be immediately intuitive in primitive counting systems,
but why didn't it occur to anyone later on ? It seems to have appeared
only in India, China and among the Mayans. Is a fundamental shift in
consciousness necessary for the concept of zero to become intuitive? If
so would the shift in consciousness have implied a kind of philosophical
pessimism? Could the absence of zero in ancient thinking have something
to do with polytheism? The introduction of zero revolutionized
mathematics, but does it imply a shift in consciousness of equal
magnitude? If anyone in this discussion group has any ideas about this,
or could point me to something written on the Web, I would be most