Non-mathematicians, such as myself (and maybe you), may have thought that zero was a logical extension of any numerical system, but that isn’t so. Mathematics is an all-too-human construct. And the concept of zero — that is, nothing — had to be constructed.
It turns out that this construction comes from India, according to Mariellen Ward, writing for the travel section of the BBC website.
The invention of zero was a hugely significant mathematical development, one that is fundamental to calculus, which made physics, engineering and much of modern technology possible. Source: BBC – Travel – India’s impressive concept about nothing
If you enjoy thinking about things you’ve never thought about — things you didn’t even know you could think about — this is a highly interesting and readable article. Like this bit:
But equally interesting are the reasons as to why the zero wasn’t developed elsewhere [other than India]. One theory is that some cultures had a negative view of the concept of nothingness. For example, there was a time in the early days of Christianity in Europe when religious leaders banned the use of zero because they felt that, since God is in everything, a symbol that represented nothing must be satanic.
Like some of our math teachers, as friends of mine might claim.
The future of English in the U.S.
A couple of weeks ago, I recommended an article where the writer claimed the English language was a “bully,” elbowing out other languages and dialects. While I don’t agree with the descriptor “bully,” I did think the writer made some interesting points and had a good take on the issue.
Here’s another article about the position of English in the world — and what effect it has on people (like me) who speak only English. Writing Bryon Lufkin, writing for the BBC website says:
. . . over the last century, the English language has been the currency of global trade and communications. A 2013 Harvard University report found that English skills and better income go hand-in-hand, and that they lead to a better quality of life. Adults and children all over the world spend years, and invest a lot of money, in studying English as a second language.
The problem for those of us who speak English from the cradle is that we forget how easy we have it. Source: BBC – Capital – What is the future of English in the US?
While most Americans have never felt a need to learn another language, the future may see something differed, Lufkin argues. The changing demographics of America will probably mean that there’s an economic and cultural advantage to those who have at least a passable understanding of something other than English.
Some companies have ramped up the search more than others – a full third of job openings posted by Bank of America in 2015, for example, were for bilingual workers who could speak languages like Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic. The report noted that the fastest growth in bilingual listings were for “high prestige jobs” like financial managers, editors and industrial engineers.
Lufkin makes some other valid points that are worth considering.
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