Is Zero a Number?
Date: 07/05/2003 at 15:37:20 From: Joe Subject: Zero and infinity If infinity is not a number, then is zero really a number? I see that it is not recognized as a real number but as a whole number, integer, etc. It seems as though zero has been accepted as a number and infinity has been accepted as a concept. This question stems from an argument about 1/0 = infinity.
Date: 07/05/2003 at 20:27:30 From: Doctor Jaffee Subject: Re: Zero and infinity Hi Joe, Zero is a number; in fact, it is a real number. It is on the number line right between 1 and -1. You can add, subtract, and multiply with 0 and get real answers. You can divide numbers into zero and get a real answer, zero. You can't say anything like that about infinity. It is not on the number line and you can't do computations with it. Now, consider 1/0. You know that 1/1 =1, 1/0.1 = 10, 1/0.01 = 100, 1/0.001 = 1000, etc... Pick a power of 10 as large as you want and I can find a number larger than 0 that I can divide into 1 and get your number as a result. In other words, as we divide numbers into 1 and those numbers get closer and closer to 0, the quotient gets larger and larger with no boundary. We conclude then, that 1/0 = infinity. However, that is just a shorthand notation. Actually, division by zero is undefined. It is more precise to say that Limit 1/x = oo As x gets closer to zero, the value of 1/x x->0 grows without bound (i.e., approaches infinity) Unfortunately, often people will use the shorthand, without making it clear that this is what's going on. So other people see what they've written, and think that '1/0 = infinity' is an actual statement of fact, when it's not. In the same way, people will often write '1/infinity = 0', instead of the more precise Limit 1/x = 0 As x grows without bound (i.e., approaches x->oo infinity), the value of 1/x gets closer to 0. But '1/infinity = 0' is also untrue. For more about dividing by zero, see the Dr. Math FAQ: Dividing by Zero http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.divideby0.html I hope this explanation helps. Write back if you want to discuss the problem any more or if you have other questions. - Doctor Jaffee, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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