Why Zero Is So Ridiculously Important


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockApr 19 2016, 13:39 UTC
1086 Why Zero Is So Ridiculously Important
The Royal Institution/YouTube

Zero is a strange beast. It took until the 7th century for it to be explicitly recognized as a number in its own right, when the ancient Indians developed a numerical system that expressed zero with its own symbol. Since the development of this number system, which we still use today, zero has been instrumental in our exploration of mathematics.  

The human use of numbers sprang from the practical need to count things, but at the time zero was only used to denote an absence of value. In this light, could it even be considered a number? As human thought progressed, however, and mathematics became more of an abstract process to unravel reality, zero started to prove itself as a very useful tool.


This animated video from The Royal Institution, narrated by mathematician Hannah Fry, tells the story of this winding history, from its role in ancient civilizations to our current world of computer technology, and explains how zero became a mathematical hero.



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