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Technology requiring a zero

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    Hello folks! Got a bit of a weird question here. I watched an episode of Stargate where they encountered alien technology. They've tried translating the alien language for numbers, starting from 1 and going up, but they keep getting a passcode wrong. Eventually they realize that they missed out translating the zero when one of the characters said "technology this sophisticated would require a zero". My question is why would advanced technology require a zero? The best explanation I could come up with is that every other number is an absolute of a specific amount whereas zero denotes nothingness, and that that is significant someone, but I couldn't figure out why. Am I even on the right lines?
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    (Original post by Bart1331)
    Hello folks! Got a bit of a weird question here. I watched an episode of Stargate where they encountered alien technology. They've tried translating the alien language for numbers, starting from 1 and going up, but they keep getting a passcode wrong. Eventually they realize that they missed out translating the zero when one of the characters said "technology this sophisticated would require a zero". My question is why would advanced technology require a zero? The best explanation I could come up with is that every other number is an absolute of a specific amount whereas zero denotes nothingness, and that that is significant someone, but I couldn't figure out why. Am I even on the right lines?
    0 is the additive inverse so without it you can't properly define addition.
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    Numbers came from counting objects. 0 is a term vital to that counting. 'We have 0 apples so we're going to starve'. 'I have 0 money to pay you'. Its a pretty basic function of an organised society. And we're assuming it takes an organised society to make such technology.

    The alternative would be a world where numbers were conceived of later on in a purely hypothetical sense and they go straight from 1 to -1. Its possible i guess, but highly unlikely to come about in a practical sense.
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    (Original post by msmith2512)
    0 is the additive inverse so without it you can't properly define addition.
    Not quite...0 is the additive identity
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    (Original post by Bart1331)
    Eventually they realize that they missed out translating the zero when one of the characters said "technology this sophisticated would require a zero". My question is why would advanced technology require a zero?
    Where would binary be without a zero? Unary, not the best counting system for a computer (viz. technology).

    Sometimes, not infrequently, they dumb down a bit of science, just for the sake of making an obvious discover. I suspect it's to show how clever one of the "science officers" is, or to pad out the programme to make the required length for it's scheduled slot.

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Updated: October 12, 2012
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