Some foolish men declare that a Creator made the world. The doctrine that the world was created is ill-advised, and should be rejected. If God created the world, where was he before creation?... How could God have made the world without any raw material? If you say He made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression... Know that the world is uncreated, as time itself is, without beginning and end. And it is based on principles.
Theories of the creation of universe are present in almost every culture. Mostly they represent some story portraying creation from mating of Gods or humans, or from some divine egg, essentially all of them reflecting the human endeavour to provide explanations to a grave scientific question using common human experience.
Hinduism is the only religion that propounds the idea of life-cycles of the universe. It suggests that the universe undergoes an infinite number of deaths and rebirths. Hinduism, according to Sagan, "... is the only religion in which the time scales correspond... to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of the Brahma, 8.64 billion years long, longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang" [See 5]. Long before Aryabhata (6th century) came up with this awesome achievement, apparently there was a mythological angle to this as well -- it becomes clear when one looks at the following translation of Bhagavad Gita (part VIII, lines 16 and 17), "All the planets of the universe, from the most evolved to the most base, are places of suffering, where birth and death takes place. But for the soul that reaches my Kingdom, O son of Kunti, there is no more reincarnation. One day of Brahma is worth a thousand of the ages [yuga] known to humankind; as is each night." Thus each kalpa is worth one day in the life of Brahma, the God of creation. In other words, the four ages of the mahayuga must be repeated a thousand times to make a "day ot Brahma", a unit of time that is the equivalent of 4.32 billion human years, doubling which one gets 8.64 billion years for a Brahma day and night. This was later theorized (possibly independently) by Aryabhata in the 6th century. The cyclic nature of this analysis suggests a universe that is expanding to be followed by contraction... a cosmos without end. This, according to modern physicists is not an impossibility.
And here is how -- a few billion years ago, something known as the Big Bang happened and it is believed that the universe, as we "know" it, came into existence; one that is continually expanding after the Big Bang. That the galaxies are receding from us can be proved by showing Dopler shifts of far off galaxies. Common belief is that it happened from a mathematical point with no dimension at all. All the matter in our universe was concentrated in that miniscule volume. Although we know that we are living in an expanding universe, physicists are not sure whether it will always be expanding. This is because it is not known whether there is enough matter in the universe such that there is enough gravitational cohesion in it that the expansion will gradually slow down, stop and reverse itself resulting into a contracting universe. If we live in such an oscillating universe, then the Big Bang is not the beginning or creation of the universe, but merely the end of the previous cycle, the destruction of the last incarnation of the universe in the very way suggested by Hindu philosophers thousands of years ago!
A brand new theory -- that of a "CYCLIC MODEL",
developed by Princeton University's Paul Steinhardt and
Cambridge University's Neil Turok, made its highest-profile
appearance yet in April 2002, on Science Express, the Web site for the
journal Science. But past incarnations of the idea have been
hotly debated within the cosmological community from 2001.
A jist of the claims can be found here.
The PDF preprint of the entire paper can be downloaded from
The Hindu belief that the Universe has no beginning or end,
but follows a cosmic creation and dissolution can be found
It is my contention that because of the scientific nature of the
method of pronunciation of the
vowels and consonents in the Indian languages (specially those coming
directly from Pali, Prakit and Sanskrit), every part of the mouth is
exercised during speaking. This results into speakers of Indian languages
being able to pronounce words from any language. This is
unlike the case with say native English speakers, as their tongue
becomes unused to being able to touch certain portions of the mouth
during pronunciation, thus giving the speakers a hard time to speak
certain words from a language not sharing a common ancestry with English.
I am not aware of any theory in these lines, but I would like to know
if there is one.
The ancient Greeks were beginning their contributions to mathematics around the time zero as an empty place holder was being popularized by Babylonian mathematicians. The Greeks did not adopt what is called a positional number system, a system that gave a value to a number because of its relative position in the set of numerals. This is because the Greeks' achievements were based on geometry. This resulted into firstly, Greeks relating numbers with lengths of line segments, and secondly, decoupling numbers from any potential abstract interpretations. It is commonly thought that in Greek society numbers that required to be "named" were not used by mathematician-philosophers, but by merchants and hence no clever notation was needed. Thus even the eminent mathematician like Ptolemy used the then recent place holder "zero" more as a punctuation mark than any serious numeral. Although a few Greek astronomers began using the symbol "O", the symbol more familiar to us now, to denote place holders, zero was not thought of as a number by the Greeks.
The first notions of zero as a number and its uses have been found in ancient Mathematical treatise from India and thus India is correctly related to the immensely important mathematical discovery of the numeral zero. This concept, combined with the place-value system of enumeration, became the basis for a classical era renaissance in Indian mathematics. Indians began using zero both as a number in the place-value system of numerals as well as to denote an empty place (place holder). Obviously, the use as a number came later. Aryabhata devised a number system what has no zero yet a positional number system. There is however, evidence that z dot has been used in earlier Indian manuscripts to denote an empty position. Also contemporary Indian scriptures also tend to use zero in places where unknown values are registered, where we would use x. Later Indian mathematicians had names for zero, but no symbol for it. Aryabhata used the word "kha" for position and it was also used later as the name for zero.
The oldest known text to use zero is an Indian (Jaina) text entitled the Lokavibhaaga ("The Parts of the Universe"), which has been definitely dated to 25 August 458 BC [See 4] An inscription, created in 876AD, found in Gwalior, acts as the first use of zero as a number. Zero is not a "natural" candidate for being a number. It is a great leap from physical to abstract that one needs to bridge when dealing with zero. With zero also comes the notion of negative numbers and along with all these comes a series of related questions about arithmetic operations on natural numbers, both positive and negative and zero.
The development of the notion of zero began, in my opinion, when mathematicians tried to answer these questions. Three Hindu mathematicians, Brahmagupta, Mahavira and Bhaskara tried to answer these in their treatise. In the 7th century Brahmagupta attempted to provide rules for addition and subtraction involving zero.
The sum of zero and a negative number is negative, the sume of a positive number and zero if positive, the sum of zero and zero is zero. A negative number subtracted from zero is positive, a positive number subtracted from zero is negative, zero subtracted from a negative number is nagative, zero subtracted from a positive number is positive, zero subtracted from zero is zero.Brahmagupta also says that any number multiplied by zero is zero. But problems arise when he tries to explain division. While he is unsure about what division of a number by zero means, he wrongly gives zero divided by zero to be zero. Brahmagupta's is the first attempt from any mathematician to explain the arithmetic operations on natural numbers and zero.
In the 9th century, Mahavira updated Brahmagupta's attempts at defining operations using zero. Although he correctly finds out that a number multiplied by zero is zero, but wrongly says that a number remains unchanged when divided by zero.
The next valiant attempt came from Bhaskara in the 11th century. Division of zero still remained an illusive mystery.
A quantity divided by zero becomes a fraction the denominator of which is zero. This fraction is termed an infinite quantity. In this quantity consisting of that which has zero for its divisor, there is no alteration, though many may be inserted or extracted; as no change takes place in the infinite and immutable God when worlds are created or destroyed, though numerous orders of beings are absorbed or put forth.This, in its face value seems correct, by suggesting that any number when divided by zero is infinity, Bhaskara suggeted that zero multiplied by infinity is any number, and hence all numbers are equal, which is not correct. But Bhaskara did correctly find out that the square of zero is zero, as is the square root.
The Indian numeral system and its place value, decimal system of enumeration came to the attention of the Arabs in the seventh or eighth century, and served as the basis for the well known advancement in Arab mathematics, represented by figures such as al-Khwarizmi. Al-Khwarizmi wrote Al'Khwarizmi on the Hindu Art of Reckoning that described the Indian place-value system of numerals based on numerals 1 through 9 and 0. Scholars like ibn Ezra and al-Samawal used the notion of zero from al-Khwarizmi's work. In the 12th century al-Samawal extended arithmetic operations using zero as follows.
If we subtract a positive number from zero the same negative number remains, ... if we subtract a negative number from zero the same positive number remains.Zero also reached eastwards from India to China, where Chinese scholars Chin Chiu-Shao and Chu Shih-Chieh made use of the same symbol O for a places-based system in the 12th and 13th centuries respectively. From the time of Han (206 to 220 BC), Chinese scholars used a place-value system called the suan zi ("calculation using rods") that was a regular system that used horizontal and vertical lines that used to denote the nine numerals. Ifrah says that "Thus one could be forgiven for assuming that following the links established between India and China at the beginning of the beginning of the first millennium BC, Indian scholars were influenced by Chinese mathematicians to create their own system in an imitation of the Chinese counting method." [See 4] He goes on to argue that in suan zi, the zero appeared at a much later date. Thus the notion of zero helps one to recognize the originality of the Indian mathematicians vis-a-vis their Chinese counterparts. Ifra also establishes that the Chinese scholars overcame the difficulties the absence of zeros caused in trying to represent numbers like 1,270,000 often either using characters of their ordinary counting system (a non-positional system that did not require the use of a zero) or simply by empty spaces. After providing a sequence of clues, [in 4], Ifrah continues "It was only after the eighth century BC, and doubtless due to the influence of the Indian Buddhist missionaries, that Chinese mathematicians introduced the use of zero in the form of a little circle or dot (signs that originated in India),...".
Zero reached Europe in the twelfth century when Adelard of Bath translated
al-Khwarizmi's works into Latin [See 1].
Fibonacci was one of the main mathematicians who accepted the concepts
of zero in Europe. He was an important link between the Hindu-Arabic
number system. In his treatise Liber Abaci ("a tract about the
abacus"), published in 1202,
he described the
nine Indian symbols together with the symbol O for zero, but it was
not widely accepted until much later. Significantly, Fibonacci spoke
of numbers 1 through 9, but a "sign" O. Although he brought the notion
of zero to Europe, it is clear that he was not able to reach the sophistication
of Indians like Brahamagupta, Mahavira and Bhaskara, nor of the Arabic
mathematicians like al-Samawal. The Europeans were at first
resistant to this system, being attached to
the far less logical Roman numeral system (notably the Romans never
propounded the idea of zero), but their eventual adoption
of this system arguably led to the scientific revolution that began
to sweep Europe beginning by the middle of the second millennium.
However, it was not until the 17th century that zero found widespread
acceptance through a lot of resistance.
Evidences of using very large numbers have been found in the
Vedas which are ancient Hindu scriptures. Vedas are the most
ancient written texts written in any Indo-European language. They
were written in Sanskrit from around 500BC, although traces go back to
2000BC [See 4]. In the Taittiriya Upanishad, which
is a part of the third
Veda, Yajur Veda, there is a section (anuvaka), that
extols the "Beatific Calculus" or a quasi-mathematical relationship
between bliss of a young man, who has everything in the world to the
bliss of the Brahman, or "realization".
Translated roughly as follows, summarized from one done by Max Muller,
firstly it says that fear is all-pervasive. It continues by assuming
that a young, good man who is fit, healthy and strong, and has all
the wealth in the world, is one unit of human bliss. The anuvaka
provides a precise calculation of a series of multiplications
by 100 to give number 10010 units of human bliss that can
be had when one attains Brahman. The previous anuvaka exhorts the
aspirants to be fearless and strong, as only such a person may realize
the absolute within.
 B. V. Subbarayappa. "India's Contributions to the History of Science" in Lokesh Chandra, et al., eds. India's Contribution to World Thought and Culture. Madras: Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee, pp47-66, 1970.
 G. G. Joseph. The crest of the peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics. Princeton University Press, 1991.
 B. van Nooten. "Binary Numbers in Indian Antiquity" in T. R. N. Rao and Subhash Kak, editors. Computing Science in Ancient India, pp. 21-39.
 G. Ifrah. The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer. Translated from French to English by David Bellos, E. F. Harding, Sophie Wood and Ian Monk. The Harvill Press, London, 1998.
 C. Sagan. Cosmos. Ballantine Books, New York, 1980.
 R. Kaplan. The Nothing that Is: A Natural History of Zero. Oxford University Press, 2000. Bibliography and notes: click here.
 C. Seife. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. Viking, 2000.
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