For publication in “The Letters Column,"
Of all News-media, from now to Y3000++.
Most certainly I will not survive for 1000 years, but perhaps some newsmedia could. Unfortunately, there is a topic of public debate that may continue for that duration.
My request is that this letter of mine is published in your newsmedium, on the initial day, of the initial month, of the initial year of each decade, century and millennium, in perpetuity. Or until the date for the commencement of each decade is widely accepted to be the rational number 00/00/XX00.
Most certainly some relic of the human race will survive to Y3000, and the decimal number system will also, perhaps no longer on planet Earth, maybe somewhere in space. Now follows the debate which may continue in perpetuity.
We note that numerically a millennium could span from Year 1 to Year 1000, or equally from Year 000 to Year 999. But which of these milennium schemes has greater merit?
The latter scheme, starting at year zero, has the great merit of according with every other kind of measurement used on this planet.
Note that weighing machines start at zero kg, not at one kg, nor anything similar.
When measuring length, tape measures and odometers commence at zero metres, not one metre, one cm, nor any variation on those unit starting points.
Clocks start at zero, because 12:00M is equated to 00:00:00AM, not 1:00AM, nor 12:01AM, nor 12:00:01AM, or any like error.
Does anyone want Olympic events to commence at: 1kg, 1metre, 1second?
So why should decades, centuries, milennia, or babies ages’, commence at Year 1?
Thus the fundaments of the universe, Mass, Length, Time, Temperature, Current, and Radiation, all originate with zero. And new bank accounts begin at zero, not at one cent, nor one dollar.
This fact is NOT rebutted by talking of ordinal and cardinal numbers.
The former scheme, counting from Year 1 to Year 1000, is said to accord with history. Indeed this is true, for in 525 Dionysius Exiguos (Dennis the Small) was asked by Pope John I to formulate the AD system of dating. So Dionysus accurately went forward in time, and when going backwards, he correctly counted down to Year 100 (“C”), then Year 10 (“X”), but he lastly WRONGLY counted to Year “I”, not to year zero!
Dionysius’ error occurred because the digit zero had yet to be invented - by Muhammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, c.750 - 850. Dionysius’ new AD scheme was thus constructed IN MATHEMATICAL ERROR, an error that too many wish to perpetuate.
It cannot be gainsayed that the true 10 digits of the decimal system are zero to nine, not one to ten. Can anyone report seeing the units scale of any measuring device count 1 - 10? Where does this double digit 10 fit into the single digit scale of the units column?
One now has to ask: For how many more milennia must mankind perpetuate Dionysius’ enormous error, made 1500 years ago?
Since we have sensibly adopted decimal currency, and metricated units, why not accept a proper decimalisation of each milennium, starting in a zeroth year of 000, as our watches already do?
Further, I wish here to put the proposition that the so called “natural numbers” are not necessarily natural, and definitely not the best set of numbers for measuring anything naturally. The natural numbers (counting on your fingers) cannot represent zero, cannot represent negative numbers, and cannot represent fractions.
To those opposed, we could ask them to use their fingers to count 10 biscuits on a table. No doubt they will commence on one hand with a thumb, then a forefinger, and so on, until they have 10 fingers held up in the air. This is undoubtedly how the counting numbers arose, so many milennia ago, and why this number system earned the title of “natural numbers.” However, these natural numbers are recommended to be made obsolete.
Now sweep all the biscuits off the table, and ask your victim to count the biscuits on the table with their fingers. Some may be non-plussed. Some may hold two empty fists in the air. BUT, they now have invented a contradictory eleventh symbol for a decimal system, which should need only ten symbols. Thus we ask: “Where in the natural (counting) numbers does this zero symbol exist ?” The answer is: “Nowhere”, for counting numbers can only use the symbols 1 to 10.
If we ask: “Where in the ‘natural world’ of measuring mass, length, time, temperature does zero exist?” The answer is, everywhere. Quick concrete demonstrations will suffice.
For length, take a 20cm rule (not a “ruler”, your majesty), and measure off +10 cm to the right; then rotate the rule over the zero end, and measure off –10cm to the left. Clearly a zero exists right there, naturally, at the point of rotation.
For temperature, take a thermometer. No matter what temperature scale is used, there will always be a zero of temperature, above which the numbers are positive, below which they are negative. And the zero exists right there naturally.
For time, take a clock, or a watch. When midnight approaches, the time crawls past 11:59:99 and the very next number on the dial is 00:00:00. A zero naturally exists here also, though some may allege that this is a man-made time. So if we think of when the big-bang spawned our universe (there is little scientific doubt about this big-bang model nowadays), there was spawned not only mass, but time and distance as well. Before that birth, there was no time, no mass, no anything but a foam of hyper-strange particles ever present in a quantum vacuum, if the temporal term “ever present” can make any sense in this mess. So there was never any negative (real) time on a cosmic scale. However, we humans interpret negative time as yesterday, or yesteryear, etc.
For mass, even if there is no real quantity such as negative mass, we can easily perceive that there naturally exists a zero in mass.
Thus the counting numbers do not adequately represent the abundant nature which surrounds us. It is a mistake of human arrogance to picture the natural world only in human terms of ten fingers, as the two-toed sloth and the eight-armed octopus would quickly attest, if they could.
There’s got to be a better way of choosing a useful natural number system from the variety about. And there is. It happens to be have the mathematical title of “the rational number system,” which counts from 0 to 9, and attaches the corresponding ordinal labels as the “zeroth” to “ninth”. It also includes fractions. There exist superior number schemes with the titles of “real number system,” “imaginary number system,” and “quaternions,” but they are mostly for use in higher mathematics, science and engineering.
Thus given a child of age 0years11.999months, note that in the “years column” the digit zero occurs, not the digit one. Hence the initial year of life is the “zeroth year”, not the “first year”. The child must be described as zero years old (albeit with some months to his/her credit).
At some time in the future, I can only dream that the everyday world becomes rational too, and newspapers begin to publish the initial calendar date at the beginning of every decade as 00-00-XX00.
I rest my case, but the debate may never rest.