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Scientists Trace The Origin of ‘Zero’ to Ancient Indian Manuscript

Scientists have relied on carbon dating technology to determine the world’s oldest recorded derivation of the zero that is now used by people world over

Scientists have now traced the origin of zero to the Bakhshali manuscripts that date from the 3rd or the 4th century. Pixabay

Oxford, September 16, 2017 : The eminent Indian mathematician Brahmagupta has been credited globally for writing the first-ever text that described zero as a number in 628 AD. According to Professor Marcus Du Sautoy of the University of Oxford, the creation of zero has to be credited as the “greatest breakthrough” in mathematics. But carbon dating of an ancient text has pushed the story of zero’s origin back by 500 years!

Scientists have now traced the origin of zero to the Bakhshali manuscripts that date from the 3rd or the 4th century- over 500 years older than previously thought, which makes it the world’s oldest recorded derivation of the zero that is now used by people world over.

The new search results stemming from the manuscript assert an earlier reference to the symbol of zero that is considerably older than the previously known inscription on a temple in Gwalior, India dating the ninth-century.

We present six astounding facts about the symbol ‘0’,

  1. The Bakhshali script is a fragmentary text, inscribed on 70 leaves of the bark of the birch tree and contains material from three different periods- 224-383 AD, 680-779 AD and 885-993 AD. This also raises critical questions about how the text was clubbed together as a single document.
  2. The ancient text was named after the village it was found buried in. The Bakhshali manuscript was first found in 1881 in a village near Peshawar (present-day Pakistan) called Bakshali. The text was discovered by a local farmer, and was later acquired by the indologist Rudolf Hoernle who later submitted it to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
  3. Translations of the Bakhshali manuscript, which was originally written in a form of Sanskrit, reveal that the text was guidance manual for merchants practicing their trade along the Silk Road. The transcript includes multiple practical arithmetic exercises and a proto-type of algebra.
  4. The zero is nowhere used as a ‘number’ having its own value in the Bakhshali manuscript but merely as a placeholder in the system of numeration. This can be better understood by examining the position of ‘0’ in ‘205’ which does not indicate tens. Here, absence of a value, in other words the answer to a problem which is zero is left blank as a way to distinguish 1 from 10 and 100.
  5. Multiple ancient civilizations had evolved an independent placeholder that held no independent value –
  • about 5,000 years ago, the Babylonians made use of a double wedge to denote absence
  • Mayans incorporated a shell to indicate ‘nothing’ in their ancient calendar system

However, the Bakhshali manuscript featured the first ‘dot’ symbol that eventually transformed into the ‘0’ symbol with the hollow centre that is used today.

  1. The Bakhshali script was the first to explore the possibility to use zero as a number- this was later described in a text called Brahmasphutasiddhanta, which had been written and compiled in 626 AD by the great Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta.

The development of zero dramatically changed the field of mathematics, supplementing an implausible range of further work, including the notion of infinity, calculus, digital technology and also some of the larger questions of cosmology about the beginning of the Universe and how its existence might disappear in future.

ALSO READ India Invented Principles of Calculus 250 Years Before Newton. Indian Scholars from a Kerala School Did it

According to a report by The Guardian, the head of the Bodleian Library, Richard Ovenden was quoted as saying that these astounding research results highlight the rich and ancient scientific tradition of South Asia and also draw attention to the Western bias that often left the contributions of these scholars overlooked and ignored.


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Malala plans to study in Oxford University if she secure AAA grade

Malala is now likely to take up a place on the popular Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) course at the Oxford University.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

UK, March 14, 2017: Malala, a Pakistani activist, and youngest ever Nobel prize laureate is preparing herself to pursue further education at the prestigious Oxford University if she obtains AAA grade. The 19-year-old was shot in the head by Taliban and was treated at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital following her attack in 2012. Malala is now likely to take up a place on the popular Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) course at the university.

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She told the head teachers at the Association of School and College Lecturers annual conference on Saturday that “I’m studying right now, I’m in year 13 and I have my A-Level exams coming and I have received a conditional offer which is three As so I need to get the three As that is my focus right now.”She further added when asked about her future plans that,”I have applied to study PPE so for the next three years I will be studying that. But other than that I want to stay focused on my Malala Fund work.”

She further added when asked about her future plans that,”I have applied to study PPE so for the next three years I will be studying that. But other than that I want to stay focused on my Malala Fund work.”

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However, the Nobel prize winner did not reveal which college she had received the offer from but in the past, she did inform that she would be applying for Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, whose alumni include one of her role models, former Pakistani president Benazir Bhutto. Yousafzai was invited to the college – which was the first in oxford to admit women in December 2016 for an interview, which she later expressed as “the hardest interview of my life” appending ‘I just get scared when I think of interview’.

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Yousafzi had also applied to the London School of Economics (LSE), Durham and Warwick universities. All the other institutions require an A or AA, conversely, the entry requirement to study PPE at Oxford is AAA and thus making it a promising destination.

Malala rose to fame as a global campaigner for girls’ education. Yousafzai has voiced an ambition to return to Pakistan and become a politician.”My goal is to make sure every child, a girl and a boy, they get the opportunity to go to school. It is their basic human right, so I will be working on that and I will never stop until I see the last child going to school,” the activist said at the conference.

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It has been deciphered that degrees in Oxford’s PPE course had been a prolific factor for political careers in Britain including those of David Cameron and the Labour leaders Michael Foot and Harold Wilson.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram, Twitter @Nainamishr94

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Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA) in Michigan to Display Hindu Puranas Manuscript in “Expressions of Faith” Exhibition

Bhagavatha Purana (representative image), Wikimedia

Michigan, Dec 7, 2016: An 18th century manuscript in Sanskrit, which is an extract from the sacred Hindu text Puranas, will be exhibited at the Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA) from December 8, 2016 to February 12, 2016- in the “Expressions of Faith” exhibition.

According to, a museum announcement said, “Expressions of Faith combines the written and printed word with the visual arts to examine the impact that religious faith has made on artists.” It also mentioned, “in giving visual form to religious figures and stories, artists shaped how believers perceived their faith, and in doing so influenced the evolution of the religion itself.”

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US based Hindu religious leader Rajan Zed said that art has had a long rich tradition in Hinduism and archaic Sanskrit texts also talked about paintings of deities on wood or cloth. Zed, the President of the Universal SocMichigan museum for displaying the Hindu Puranas, encouraged major art museums around the world like Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay of Paris, Uffizi Gallery of Florence (Italy), Los Angeles Getty Center, Art Institute of Chicago, Prado Museum of Madrid, Tate Modern of London, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, etc., to organize Hindu art exhibitions often to share the art heritage of Hinduism with the world.

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Established in 1912, MMA, which has won many accolades claims to have a “world-class collection of visual art” is “committed to fostering the lifelong study and appreciation of the visual arts”.

The Puranas are exceptionally important and popular in Hinduism which is the oldest and third largest religion in the world with around one billion followers with “moksh” or liberation as their ultimate goal and around three million residing in the United States of America.

-prepared by Shivam Thaker of NewsGram. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker

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Digital Learning to Change the Face of Education? Study of Oxford University Proves app EasyPeasy actually Works

The research was jointly funded by Sutton Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn foundation

A Child Using Tablet, VOA

November 19, 2016: A study at the Oxford University proves that the app to become a better parent actually works. The study was conducted with 144 families, with kids from age 2 to 6, from Bournemouth who used the software EasyPeasy that includes games designed to encourage child development.

The success of the test suggests that schools and local authorities should encourage parents switch to digital education to improve school readiness among children.

According to the professor of Educational Psychology at the Oxford University, Kathy Sylva, “Although there are many parenting programs, there is still limited evidence that they are effective at improving children’s learning or their capacity to make a strong start at school.”

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According to the Guardian, In Yummy Strawberries, one of the tasks from the app, both parents and child would hold a strawberry in a hand while watching the game’s explanation for one minute before eating it. The task was to ask the child to distract themselves from eating the strawberry.

A previous study, known as “marshmallow experiment”, suggested that children who resisted the treat kept in front of them showed more signs of positive personality traits.

The results on EasyPeasy are promising and suggest that we can affect the personality of a child through educating their parents.

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The parents involved in the study reported significant improvements in their child’s behavior. The children were becoming more independent in making decisions and unrelenting in completing more difficult tasks.

The research’s findings supported the experience of parents. The statistics of the study were significant despite the small sample size.

Although the results from the study were moderately successful, the low delivery cost of the app, £35 per child, makes it cost effective and can be easily expanded.

The study stated, “The low cost, digital nature of the intervention provides an innovative route forward for providing parenting support and preschool learning to families of any background.”

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The Guardian stated that the research was jointly funded by the Sutton Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn foundation. The EasyPeasy app originated from a competition in 2014 by the Guys and St. Thomas’s charity and the Design Council.

According to the founder of Sutton trust, Sir Peter Lampl, to improve social mobility in the society, it is important to decrease the gap between the richest and poorest students. We need to break the cycle of disadvantage and tackle this difference.

Prepared by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53