Hello and welcome to another week of friendly fibs and familial falsehoods here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by the most venerated Vitor, who asked:
Is 0 a natural number?
In order to answer this question, we must first explain for the less mathematically-inclined of our readers what exactly is meant by “natural number.”
A natural number refers to any number that is naturally occurring in nature, which could be found through simple investigation. For example, 1 is a natural number, because there is one planet earth, and this fact is observable. Conversely, 7 is not a natural number, but rather an unnatural number, because there are seven days in the week, but the calendar is a social construct, and the seven days are not naturally observable without the aid of man-made inventions. There is no reason for the number 7 to exist in nature.
The status of the number 0 as a natural or unnatural number is one that has plagued scientists for generations. On the one hand, there is nothing occurring in nature that we can observe there to be 0 of; but on this other hand, this very absence of proof seems to be a proof of a naturally-occurring 0 – there are zero observable proofs of 0 being natural, and this is observable in nature!
However, this meta-proof is quickly proven to be absurd on the face of it, as the concept of proofs are as socially-constructed as the calendar. This would seem to place 0 back in the camp of the unnatural numbers, along with 7 and 316.
Not so. Everything that can be counted in nature corresponds to a natural number. But it is also self-evident that there are a great many things which could exist at any given moment, but currently do not. And all of these things can be counted up to amount to zero in the observable, natural universe. Thus, 0 is, indeed, as natural as any number that can be seen with the naked eye.
Disclaimer: this blog contains factual inaccuracies, and should not be used as a “cheat sheet” or reference during tests on mathematics.