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Friday, November 19, 2010

52 Ways to Become a Zero Hero

Not too long ago, even the Catholic Church banned the use of zero, blaming it as some Godless number. Today, in some religious or philosophical quarters, zero is still associated with some abyss, hell, or nothingness. And in mathematical circles, it took a while for mathematicians and scientists to treat zero just like the other nine numerals – indeed, zero was the last one to gain its rightful citizenship in the number system.

Despite zero’s early struggle to be recognized before it was eventually immortalized, how could we, mathophiles and mathophobes, play our part in promoting the idea that zero is not nothing, but something?

Here are some yearlong activities you may promote and pursue to elevate Zero to a Hero. Who knows? You may turn out to be a zero celebrity!

52. Buy a lottery with the four digits 0000, thus increasing your chances of probably being the sole winner.

51. Solve some math problems with zero clothes (in the privacy of your home), and get to share your aha! moments with your mature students.

50. Be part of a “Zero Tolerance Week” – no complaining or swearing for 24/7.

49. Solve the zeros (or roots) of some quartics (polynomials of degree 4) at a fast-food outlet, or while you are lining up in a supermarket.

48. Write some graffiti about zero, which would likely be a talking-point among geeky pedestrians during lunchtime or at pubs.

47. Call a dozen people with a phone number containing five or more zeros, and unearth any possible correlation between choice of digits and superstition.

46. Work out how many seconds you have left to live in standard form, and make every second count, before your last heartbeat.

A DIY Shirt
45. Wear a T-shirt with the words, “Zero is my hero!” and jot down the facial expressions of onlookers.

44. Tweet or blog about a stereotype on zero: “The rich are dispensers of zeros!”

43. Depict the imagery of some imaginary zero god, drawing people to “zero worship” instead of “hero worship.”

42. Write a novelette entitled, “The Naked Zero” or “A Tale of Zeros.”

41. E-mail a proverb or aphorism about zero to 100 friends, such as “Nothing ventured nothing gained,” and summarize their common responses in a pie.

40. Review 10 books on or about zero, and compile them into an e-book, entitled The Savage Truth About Zero, to be downloaded free of charge.

39. Write an anti-virus program that afflicts PC users with dates ending with a zero.

38. Count down to everything, NASA-style – from praying to playing to paying.

37. Call anyone you meet in the street a zero – a Zero Ridicule Day.

36. Create an optical illusion or random-dot stereogram about the number zero.

35. Imagine a world sans zero and write about its potential benefits.

34. Be a zero-schizophrenic, by zeroing on anything with nil, nought, and naught.

33. Be an advocate of the Zero Defect Movement – zero accidents, zero casualties, and so on.

32. Sponsor obituaries of strangers with zero heartbeats, who left zero savings for the family.

31. Give or ghostwrite eulogies of people with zero heartbeats, who used to issue or give away checks with no fewer than five zeros.

30. Send a month of problems to the Mathematics Teacher with all answers zero.

29. Give away a million seconds of your time to charity every year (about 34 days of 8 hours) at zero costs.

28. Google “zero,” and compile a list of most-visited sites, which reveal some odd behaviors of the numerical troublemaker.

27. Borrow some books on “Nothing” or “Nothingness” and annotate them to lure readers to borrow one of them.

26. Write a features article on a football match that ended in a 0-0 bore-draw.

25. Imagine what would happen if there were a zero year: 1 BC, 0, 1 AD.

24. Meditate on nothingness, then compose some Zen-like inspiration messages.

23. Publish a book with all blank pages – a revised edition of The Nothing Book for the third decade of the new millennium, or create a cottage industry with zero-texts titles such as “What Men Know About Women,” What Men Know about Aliens,” and the like. 

22. Popularize a series of Christmas lectures, christened Zero-Lite, to an often-innumerate or mathophobic public.

21. Compose jaws-dropping limericks and haikus about the number zero.

20. Write and mail checks of zero dollars to 100 friends, then expect the unexpected from them.

Shot taken from a train's ad
19 Organize a Zero Festival to humanize the beauty and power of zero. 

18. Run a campaign to educate the public about corporations and retails outlets, which are out to lure the public into falling into the "zero syndrome” trap: zero interests, zero down payment, zero fats, ....

17. Plan a Math Carnival with Zero as the theme for the month.

16. Explain to an eight-year-old why a point has zero dimensions.

15. Persuade decision makers in your faculty to add a few zeros to the budget for “zero” research, such as on the Zero Option, to commemorate or recognize the contribution of zero to humankind.

14. Recount the aftermath (pain, casualties, atrocities) of the Cambodian people when Kherme Rouge changed the calendar back to Year Zero, as part of a Multicultural Math elective in a college quantitative literacy course.

13. Preach on the costly or deadly consequences of disobeying the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not divide by zero!

12. Come up with ten creative ways to help a mathematically challenged public for often mistakenly taking the letter “O” for the numeral “0.”

11. Set up a Facebook page for fans of the “Zero Fiends.”

10. Advocate a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and debts among disadvantaged kids and hardcore gamblers in poor neighborhoods.

9. Conduct public talks to the young that they and their offspring wouldn’t be paranoid of millennium years: 2000, 3000, ….

8. Promote the idea of zero pets at food courts and shopping malls as a sign of good hygiene.

7. Be a Carbon Hero, by embracing a “carbon zero” lifestyle, by using public transport and ordering e-books.

6. List down no fewer than ten sociological or psychoanalytical uses of zero.

5. Set a 2020 goal of achieving near-zero innumeracy as an educational goal among elementary school students.

4. Start a Zero Digest zeroing on the mathematical, philosophical, and spiritual zero, and place advertisements as a way to reduce the price to $0.00.

3. Come up with a number of rebuses related to the number zero or expressions about zero.

2. Campaign for a zero-situational-ethics working environment.

1. Follow K C Yan on Twitter as @Zero_Math and share your “zero” tweets with the zero-math brethren.

© Yan Kow Cheong, November 17, 2010