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Technology requiring a zero Watch

1. 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?
2. (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.
3. 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.
4. (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
5. (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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