Today is my birthday. I have made it into double figures. In spite of the fact that we use the decimal system it is actually eleven years since the last time my age was indicated by two identical digits. This misalignment began early. I had been alive for a whole year before I reached the age of one. Thinking of this made me wonder about nothing – or zero.
Nothing must have always existed, the concept of not having anything must have been understood even when we ran around in our most primitive state. But, no one really put it to good use until around 500 AD when a guy called Aryabhata, from Northern India, published some really interesting astronomical texts in which he used it in the way we do today. The texts were so interesting that soon everyone who was anyone at that time was talking about them, and zero as a decimal placeholder, soon passed into wider use.
In the photo we have a Bullfinch. At one time they were an agricultural pest. They feed off the flower buds on fruit trees and used to decimate fruit crops. His numbers are down, too, and it does seem to have improved his social responsibility.