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Facts about the number 0

The symbol for 0 originated in Greece.
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0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are the ten numbers that make up every other number! Although zero is usually associated with “nothing” it is actually an extremely important number because, without zero, there could be no 10s, or 100s, 1000s or even 1,000,000! Sometimes zero is used as an empty place indicator in our place-value number system. For example, in a number like 1804, the zero is used so that the positions of the 1 and 8 are correct (because 184 obviously means something much different).

The name “zero” is derived from the Arabic word and number “sifr” which also gives us the word "cipher" which means “code.” This is especially interesting since most codes—including computer codes—are made up of numbers. In fact, some computer codes are created using only 1s and 0s! Currently zero is symbolized by the circular figure 0. This icon is actually “omicron,” which is the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet. This is fitting for zero since omicron is the first letter of the Greek word “ouden” which means “nothing.”

Zero is often defined as being “that number which, when added to any number, leaves the latter unchanged.” The introduction of zero into the decimal system is considered to be one of the most significant achievements in the development of a number system.

Below are five facts about the number 0:

Zero in Science
Zero in Science Gareth Fuller - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Zero in Science

Although zero is associated with mathematical concepts it has helped other subjects too. For example, including zeroes in the number system made calculations with large numbers feasible and this directly helped nurture important scientific fields like astronomy, chemistry and physics.

The Ancient Greeks Lacked 0
The Ancient Greeks Lacked 0 Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The Ancient Greeks Lacked 0

Although the symbol for 0 is routed in Greek language, the lack of the number zero was a serious drawback in early Greek mathematics. Luckily, modern day Greeks use the number zero just like the rest of the world does.

Zero Goes To Europe
Zero Goes To Europe Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Zero Goes To Europe

It is believed that the number zero was introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages by the Arabs who obtained it from the Hindus. There is also historical proof that suggests that the Maya peoples of Central America and the Babylonians also invented zero in their numerical systems

Zero and the Temperature
Zero and the Temperature Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Zero and the Temperature

When the number system was extended to include both negative and positive numbers, zero became the name for the position on the scale that integers between -1 and +1. Generally, zero is used in this sense when one is speaking of the degrees on the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature scales. Hence, “absolute zero” is a term used by physicists and chemists to indicate the lowest possible temperature.

Zero Means Zero
Zero Means Zero Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Zero Means Zero

When added to or subtracted from any number zero leaves the number unchanged. Any number that is multiplied by zero gives zero and when zero is multiplied or divided by any number the result is still zero. However, in division zero is undefined which means that there is no number that is the same value of a number that is divided by zero.