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By Staff | Feb 18, 2009

This story is about the world of numbers that surrounds us each day. Numerical symbols help to give our lives order through information and guidance. My curiosity drove me to better understand how numbers began and about their journey through history.

The use of numbers dates back nearly 5,000 years to the early Egyptians and Babylonians. Over time early civilizations began to better understand numbers as they evolved in an ever increasingly complex world.

The first numbers man used are called natural numbers. They were used simply to count different items. Early Babylonians used them to count casks of wine they made to sell on their trade routes. Later in history the zero symbol was first used as a way to indicate when you had nothing. The wine maker’s friends may have drunk the wine and he was left with nothing to sell on his trade route. He had zero to sell.

Later in history negative numbers came into use. A wine dealer may have bought a cask of wine from its maker on credit. He now had a debit amount owed to the wine maker until he sold the wine. You may say he ran a tab until he made a sale.

Today the study of numbers requires understanding and intelligent comprehension of numbers’ effects on each other in a numerical world. To be able to work with numbers you must first understand terms such as rationales, irrationals, base, propositional, logic, and integers. If I had paid more attention in Ms. Pansy Rife’s summer algebra class I may have a better understanding of these numerical terms today.

For those gifted individuals who understand numbers and these terms, it is said all things may be answered logically with numbers. If I remember correctly Mr. Spock also made a similar statement to Captain Kirk in episode 19.

Every day each of us operate devices that use complex chips to function. Our cars, TV, iPods, phones, and computers all use electronic brains that reduce every complex function down to 1 and 0’s.

To most of us numbers in our lives hold value when we assign them to represent something. The number one by itself is meaningless. Apply it to money and you have one dollar or 10 dimes or 100 pennies. By giving a number a value we give it meaning in our lives.

Stop for a moment and look at the world of numbers that affects you each day. The time we go to work or school is numbers on a clock that we have given to the passage of time as its value. The speed at which we drive our car is a number that we have given to movement from one destination to another. Our age, which is the measurement of our life, is a number that increases each day and we sometimes wish we could slow its progress.

I will present to you a list of numbers; try and place a value on each of them: 19, 2,689, 643, and 137. Individually these seem to have no value to each other or to us. In order to find the value of these numbers we must first define what they represent.

The number 19 is the age of a young soldier on night patrol in the cold mountains of Afghanistan. 2,689 is the number of soldiers injured or wounded since soldiers were first sent to fight terrorism. 643 are the number of lives lost in that far away country. And finally what is 137? It is the number of days until the young soldier comes home to America.

All of these numbers have a profound meaning to the soldier and his family. They should also have value and a meaning to each of us.

With only the thought of ourselves on world’s numbers each day we sometimes forget about those fighting far from home. The rising numbers in the price of gas. The lost numbers in our retirement account we counted on. And our hopes the high numbers in the cost of the economic stimulus package works to help our country’s economic problems.

We seldom see the numbers that are the cost of war for thousands of American families. The nightly news seems to have forgotten the numbers of the American soldiers.

Newspapers print the numbers of war on the bottom of page eight of the evening paper. And for families of those far from home in a place of peril, the war is much more than a brief image on the seven o’clock news.

In mathematics there is no value in the number zero, but for those fighting to preserve our country’s freedoms the number zero has the greatest value of all. The day when zero soldiers die and when zero soldiers are injured, zero will have real value. And finally when in zero days the soldier’s family welcomes him home to America.

Numbers have value when we define what they represent. Today they represent a 19-year-old soldier who comes home in 137 days. Remember his sacrifices and all Americas service personnel today. There is value in zero when we look for it Thru the Lens.