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Aaditya and Me by Aditya Joshi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Disclaimer: An original post like all others in this blog. This one's, however, VERY vague. After writing the post, I just realized that it had become a mini-research paper.

'Shoonya' (Zero) is what India boasts of having given the world. And rightly so.

The concept of 'Shoonya' in itself is very profound. I am trying to explore it here in my own small way.

The digits 1..9 are cardinal numbers that help us count items. 'Shoonya' counts items in a different way - it counts absence of items!

How did the world live without a zero?

Now this one is a guess. Here, I am trying to explain why the people before 'Shoonya' were satisfied with what they had. (numbers 1..9 for counting.)

The counting system must have essentially been based on the weighing balance. In a weighing balance, the two plates are loaded with things and the balance is brought to an equilibrium.

The situation above is essentially what we call an 'equation' (a mathematical equation, perhaps.) In the weighing balance situation, people were never required to 'equate to zero' - they never had to keep stuff in one plate of the balance and perform some comparison with the other plate of the balance empty.

This is why the world was Ok with no zero because they had not thought of using it for calculations at all. The comparison with nothing must have been an unexplored concept.

How did Shoonya revolutionize things?

'Shoonya' is a symbol that represents absence. Shoonya indicates the 'presence of nothing'. Now this is a very contradicting statement yet Shoonya ably takes the responsibility of indicating 'nothing'.

It is not surprising at all to see how Shoonya appears in all scientific and mathematical calculations.

While my accountant friends try to get all numerical figures to a shoonya when they work on balance-sheets, my engineer colleagues come up with new equations and values all thanks to the equations which heavily use this Shoonya.

In introspection...

Count anything from apples to stars, from the number of times you've been to a restaurant to the number of days you have lived. The counting always starts with a shoonya.

When the equations and multiple numbers are balanced, what we get again at the end is a shoonya.

Shoonya aka absence, as we see, is the beginning and the end.

This means... Absence lies at the beginning and the end of existence...

If that's the case, if everything comes and ends with a zero, where does it come from? Where does it go?

1 comment:

  1. just came across this blog.. must say.. wonderful post, specially the last 2 lines! and a mighty impressive blog, including the introduction.. nice use of words there..
    well done :)