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22 September 2017

When did zero begin?

You might not have thought about this before, but mathematicians are really interested in when people first started using 0. Mathematicians thought the first known use of 0 was in the year 876, from a carving on a wall in India.

But now a document in an Oxford University library showing a zero has been dated to the third or fourth century.

The document was found in Pakistan over 100 years ago, and historians think it is a training manual for people who bought and sold goods. In it, zero is shown as a dot, not the 0 we use now. It will now go on show at the Science Museum in London as part of an exhibition on the history of science in India.

The Oxford professor who asked for the document to be dated, said it was a difficult decision to make because the test involved burning a little of it, but it had shown it to be much older than people had thought. "Everyone was deeply shocked by how old this is. There was so much mathematics going on in this region.

"Zero is one of the most important numbers, but it had to be invented. Why do you need a number to count nothing? This was quite a shock for Europeans." He said having zero meant that ordinary people could keep count of things and make a record for themselves.


Lizard or sock?

In the UK we have a charity which we can call if we are concerned about an animal we see – it's called the RSPCA. This week, a family in the city of Coventry called the RSCPA because they thought there was a lizard under their teenage daughter's bed.

The inspector saw something sticking out from under the bed, but the room was not light enough to see so she used the torch on her phone.

With extra light, she realised it wasn't a lizard – but a pink, stripy sock.

"The sock had obviously been there quite a while. It was a typical teenager's bedroom I suppose," said Vic. The family was very embarrassed by the mistake.


Do your grandparents like your name?

In the UK, a new survey has shown that one in five grandparents doesn't like the names given to their grandchildren.

Why? Some say the name is too difficult to say. Other say it's because the name is too odd, too made-up or too old fashioned. Sometimes they are cross that the name they wanted hasn't been used, or that a family name has been ignored, or think the name is ugly. Almost ten per cent of grandparents didn't use the name, and the same proportion used a shortened version instead.

What names did the grandparents hate? The most hated were Charlotte, Jack, Sally, Aurora, Elijah, Lindsay, Noah and Finn.


Huge fatberg under London

Do you know what a fatberg is? It is what you get in underground waste pipes when fat, wet wipes and nappies mix up.

Lots of major cities have had fatbergs in the sewers, but the London one is one of the biggest ever found. It weighs the same as 11 double-decker London buses and is as long as two football pitches – and if it hadn't have been found, part of London would have flooded.

Eight workmen with shovels and jets are working to break up the fatberg, which they say is "like concrete" The water company says "it's a total monster" and is asking people not to flush wipes, or put fat down the sink.

Meanwhile, the Museum of London wants to have a piece of the fatberg to put on display. 

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