Saturday, April 02, 2011

Dangerous Zero - Nol yang Berbahaya

Inilah kisah tentang angka nol,dari saat kelahirannya di masa kuno hingga perkembangannya di Timur, perjuangannya agar dapat diterima di Eropa, pengaruhnya di Barat, serta ancamannya terhadap fisika modern.

Inilah kisah orang-orang yang berjuang mencari makna sebuah angka misterius. Kisah para pelajar, ahli nujum, ilmuwan, serta para pemuka agama yang terus berusaha memahami angka nol.

Dan inilah kisah tentang usaha dunia Barat yang gagal melindungi dirinya dari ide Timur. Tentang paradoks yang diajukan oleh sebuah angka yang lugu tanpa dosa. Angka yang membingungkan pemikiran paling waras abad ini serta menyimpan ancaman serius yang mampu membongkar rahasia seluruh kerangka pemikiran ilmiah.

[from Chapter O, page 2-3]

The original title is Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, which more politically correct because the book focused on how this Zero -with all its idea, dangerous and destructive, and all its consequence- was invented, rejected, welcomed, worshiped, considered as heresy, forced to be accepted, became an object of study, used to explain a natural phenomenon and in the same time voiding those explanations. The embodiment of Zero's idea hurdling when science try to explain about universe black holes in Einstein's common relativity theory, and its back to visibility on atomic dimension in the form of infinities of energy on quantum mechanic’s theories (ok..., for you who want to have more scientific read, go to this awesome review). But other than scientific realm, turns out that Zero come to our everyday life quite often, like these few interesting facts:

0. There was no Zero year in calendar system we usually used (the Anno Domini calendar). Because of this matter, one second before 1 Jan 1 is 31 Des 1 BC. The year sequence according to this calendar system is:
..., 3 BC, 2 BC, 1 BC, 1 AD, 2 AD, 3 AD,....
So supposly a baby was born in 1 Jan 3 BC, how old was he at 1 Jan 3 AD?
3 - (-3) = 6 years young? Yup...great mistake.
This is how to count, at 1 Jan 2 BC the baby was 1 year, 1 Jan 1 BC he was 2, (then remember, there was no Zero year here), 1 Jan 1 AD he was 3, 1 Jan 2 AD he was 4, so at 1 Jan 3 AD he was 5 years young.
The Zero year did not counted, it even did not existed!

1. Still about the calendar, most people did welcoming the new millenia or the 21st century at the wrong time.
If the calendar started at 1 Jan 1, so a year later was 1 Jan 2, 10 years later was 1 Jan 11, 100 years (century) later was 1 Jan 101, and 1000 years (milenia) later was 1 Jan 1001. This means... 2000 years later was 1 Jan 2001, not 1 Jan 2000. Wheeuu...

2. 0 is the number before 1, not a number after 9. Then why all computers keyboards place it at the right of the number 9, and the phone and atm place it at the bottom keys with (#) and (*)?

3. Realist art painting used the concept of Zero to draw a vanishing point in 3 dimentional drawing technic, it means the objects which are closer to the observer look the largest whereas objects in a distance view are smaller and smaller, and finally collapse at one point (void, and at the same time, infinite). Introduced by Italian Architech Filippo Burnelleschi in 1425 and perfected by Leonardo DaVinci.

4. The word Zero origin from Hindi Sunya which means "empty" (remember the word "sunyi" in indonesian), absorbed to Arabic to sifr then to Latin zephirus. The word sifr also the original of ciphers and the word in French: chiffre.
The word algorythm taken from the name (Muhammad ibnu Musa) al-Khawarizmi, first Baghdad mathematician who also wrote al-Jabr wa al-Muqabala (basic of equation solutions) which in turn become the word Algebra.

5. Zero did not come single. He brings his twin, the infinite, and they play along with the imaginers (i dan -i). i is the number to represent √-1.
How great is Maths, it can count the number that not even exist. :p

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
Cyn's Review at

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