April 12, 2007 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I had been out of sorts for sometime now and my imagination was dry as the summer days here in Hyderabad.  We have not yet completely settled down here in Charlapally, though Raju and Rupa are into the groove and are driving to office on all five working days.  Rupa has taken a Learners’ Driving Licence.  The three of them, Raju, Rupa and Chitra are more regular with their Blog Posts, Raju’s being the most professional closely followed by Rupa’s posts.  For Paplu (Chitra) Blog Posting is a kind of recreation and relaxation and respite from studies.  That leaves me to vegetate in my own stew.

I keep going back to my nostalgia and pathos anytime I apply ink to paper.  So I laid off for sometime.  Paplu suggested that I write a Post and suggested Numbers as a topic.

 I am no Math man and Arithmetic scares me, though I am good at simple addition, subtraction.  Yet I thought I would stake out in an untrodden path today. So here it is.  I start with a weblink suggested to me by Paplu.  This is it:                                             

My numbskull brain went blank trying to make out anything I can say on the subject of the above link but I gave up the attempt.  So I will restrict myself with what I can understand.  By saying this, in no way I am passing opinions, simply because I am an absolute zero as far as mathematics is concerned.

Now, I will quote selectively from Wikipedia:

History of Numbers

It is speculated that the first known use of numbers dates back to around 30000 BC, bones or other artefacts have been discovered with marks cut into them which are often considered tally marks. The use of these tally marks have been suggested to be anything from counting elapsed time, such as numbers of days, or keeping records of amounts.

The earliest known example is from a cave in Southern Africa. [1].

Tallying systems have no concept of place-value (such as in the currently used decimal notation), which limit its representation of large numbers and as such is often considered that this is the first kind of abstract system that would be used, and could be considered a Numeral System.

The first known system with place-value was the Mesopotamian base 60 system (ca. 3400 BC) and the earliest known base 10 system dates to 3100 BC in Egypt.

History of Zero:

The use of zero as a number should be distinguished from its use as a placeholder numeral in place-value systems. Many ancient Indian texts use a Sanskrit word Shunya to refer to the concept of void; in mathematics texts this word would often be used to refer to the number zero. [3]. In a similar vein, Pāṇini (5th century BC) used the null (zero) operator (ie a lambda production) in the Ashtadhyayi, his algebraic grammar for the Sanskrit language. (also see Pingala)

Records show that the Ancient Greeks seemed unsure about the status of zero as a number: they asked themselves “how can ‘nothing’ be something?”, leading to interesting philosophical and, by the Medieval period, religious arguments about the nature and existence of zero and the vacuum. The paradoxes of Zeno of Elea depend in large part on the uncertain interpretation of zero. (The ancient Greeks even questioned that 1 was a number.)

The late Olmec people of south-central Mexico began to use a true zero (a shell glyph) in the New World possibly by the 4th century BC but certainly by 40 BC, which became an integral part of Maya numerals and the Maya calendar, but did not influence Old World numeral systems.

By 130, Ptolemy, influenced by Hipparchus and the Babylonians, was using a symbol for zero (a small circle with a long overbar) within a sexagesimal numeral system otherwise using alphabetic Greek numerals. Because it was used alone, not as just a placeholder, this Hellenistic zero was the first documented use of a true zero in the Old World. In later Byzantine manuscripts of his Syntaxis Mathematica (Almagest), the Hellenistic zero had morphed into the Greek letter omicron (otherwise meaning 70).

Another true zero was used in tables alongside Roman numerals by 525 (first known use by Dionysius Exiguus), but as a word, nulla meaning nothing, not as a symbol. When division produced zero as a remainder, nihil, also meaning nothing, was used. These medieval zeros were used by all future medieval computists (calculators of Easter). An isolated use of their initial, N, was used in a table of Roman numerals by Bede or a colleague about 725, a true zero symbol.

An early documented use of the zero by Brahmagupta (in the Brahmasphutasiddhanta) dates to 628. He treated zero as a number and discussed operations involving it, including division. By this time (7th century) the concept had clearly reached Cambodia, and documentation shows the idea later spreading to China and the Islamic world.

With this, I stray off from Wiki.

If you are inquisitive to know what is special about numbers, please go to the following link which lists them exhaustively:

If by a remote chance anyone wants to learn the number names in 2,000 languages, they may open the following weblink:

I will close this post by introducing Dr. Math to you.  I am certain that Dr. Math will be of use to undergraduate students and to the general public from all walks of life:

If my mind doesn’t wander I shall continue to post more on this subject. Till we meet again, have a nice time.

P.S:  Here is a bonus.    

This weblink is about the book, LIBER ABACI.  This book gave numbers to the western world.  This is a very interesting article on this 800 year old book. Read it and I hope you will like it.


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