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    Cambodia Museum to Exhibit World’s First Zero Inscription

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    This month the National Museum of Cambodia is set to exhibit what experts believe is the world’s oldest zero symbol.

    The sign of zero wasn't just invented to represent vacancy: it is also an amazing tool for calculations that makes the current base-10 numeric system so efficient compared to, for instance, the old Roman letter-based system.

    An important archeological discovery made in the end of the 19th century by French archaeologist Adhemard Leclere in Cambodia's Kratie province helped lift the veil on the symbol's origin. The artefact was a 5-foot-by-3-foot stone slab that used to be part of an ancient temple and had an inscription carved in it in Pre-Angkorian Old Khmer language.

    "The Chaka era has reached the year 605 on the fifth day of the waning moon," the inscription — later labeled K-127 — said, which helped scientists date the artifact exactly to the year AD 683.

    "The Cambodian stone inscription bears the first known zero within the system that evolved into the numbers we use today," late US mathematician Amir Aczel wrote in his book "Finding Zero: a mathematician's odyssey to uncover the origins of numbers."

    The importance of the discovery cannot be overstated, as it makes it highly unlikely that the zero as we know it originated in Europe or Arabia and then traveled east, and not vice versa.

    On Monday, the director of Cambodia's National Museum told press that the stone inscription has been restored and is ready to be displayed in the museum.

    "We hope to raise money to fund Amir's dream of seeing this stone beautifully installed in Cambodia's National Museum in a permanent display to highlight the role of the Khmer zero in the history of mathematics," Aczel's family wrote on a gofundme page dedicated to raising money for the scientist's Fund for Mathematics.

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    Tags:
    ancient, discovery, archeologists, United States, Cambodia
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