About Nothing

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein

Infinity is more than the  misspelled name for a car.  It is a number that is the sum of all numbers.  It is a time that is forever and then some.  In cosmology, it is used to define a singularity, or black hole.  In golf, it the odds of my making a hole in one – theoretically possible, but never going to happen.

Galileo was perhaps the first to say that “mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe,” or at least that history records.  There are sadly, however, too many who espouse that the language of God was English (presumably the American dialect) and that his only message was captured in the Bible.

Although not quite the point of this post, the thing that makes humor most funny is how closely it resembles the truth.  Humor often highlights the distinctions between truth and what we believe.  Sometimes though, it reveals the absurdity in our beliefs.  It was a particularly pedantic version of this sense that cost Socrates his life.

One interesting insight into history is the discovery of nothing, or at least how to account for it.  Many books haves been written about nothing and a few about the invention or discovery of zero and how to represent it.  I recommend Who Invented Zero?, by Jesse Szalay.  The Sumerians used a symbol for it as a placeholder in counting to distinguish 2 from 20, which the Babylonians picked up, trade being the beginning of the only true common language – mathematics.

Some time later, the Mayans independently created their version the same placeholder, perhaps to denote the rough date of their invention – 350 C.E.  (Note my rough consistency with the reference to English above.)

Perhaps a few years earlier, Hindus in India appear to have begun using words to reference nothing.  There began the use of nothing as a true number.  From there the concept spread, although the Italians banned it out of suspicion for a time.  In the end, or at least until now, it became elemental and essential in base two, which is the binary system by which all current computers operate.

I am sure I could continue on into how all this equates to existential nihilism, but I’ve come to think that  nihilism is itself a placeholder for one seeking for meaning that we fundamentally need.

Instead, I hint at a topic for another day – “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  This one may new the question that links religion, cosmology and physics into one as yet Gordian knot.  Pray, consider and calculate.

 

 

 

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The Last Word

After all is said and done, more is said than done.

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