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Rick & Euan (fail to) Save The World by Richard Whitehead
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Euan Keith
Euan

Brenda E. Teufel
Brenda

Thomas Potte
"Tosh"

Eta Leufelia
Eta

Arthur "Arri" Soleman
"Arri"

Igvarts Loberman
Igvarts

Lotte Essendorf
Lotte

"Acey" Bates
"Acey"

Richard Whitehead
Rick
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Billionaire's Corner Questionnaire
Billionaire's Corner
Lifestyle Questionnaire

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University Fees button
University Fees and Debt
Who is the main beneficiary of university education, the student, the employer or the nation?

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Infinity button
Infinity
Units of measurement and the end of space.

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Euan Keith's      
Pollution Solution Part One button
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part One:   "Flowers In The City"
brighten our cities with many tiny garden?


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Euan Keith's      
Pollution Solution Part Two button
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part Two: "The Transformation of Waste"
Instead of landfill, waste could be a valuable resource.

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Atlantis Revisited button
Atlantis Reinvented
Hidden blueprints for the new cities of the sea.

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Arabian Mights & Maybes
Plans for the future carefully copied by Brenda.

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Arabian Might May Raise The Sea
Desalinated reverse rivers powered by nature

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The Unpublished Manuscript
A hint as to what may lie in the future.

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Planets Alive
A curious twist to the laws of perception.

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The Slop House
an alternative to the traditional public house

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You Are A Winner
A willing victim is the best victim.

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Prison
Maybe our prisons are not as wonderful as all that.

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The Bright New Pants Manifesto
The hilarious solution to invevitable change

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The Hullabalo
A raging argument is discovered

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    MEET THE CREW    

My mate Euan, Sir Keith's nephew and my assistant, got me the job as sound recordist.

Others on set include Brenda, Lotte, Eta, Tosh and Arri (so called because it is short for Arthur and also reflects his love of the Arriflex cameras).

Sir Keith funds the entire operation, or so he would have us believe.

His friend and business partner, Saleh el Moharbi undoubtedly has a lot to do with it as well.

Then there's Acey, Ed and Igvarts Lobermann from Lithuania or some other country, I think he's from a place I've never heard of.

That's us, sometimes we get together outside work, often we pass each other in the course of our work and barely exchange more than a greeting.

Euan and I stumbled across evidence that pointed us towards a bizarre plot. Our two benefactors, Sir Keith and Saleh el Moharbi, are heavily implicated as being at the centre.


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“Zero Is Not A Number”

            the biggest mistake, zero is not a number at all.     (2,000 words)

 

We sat back to back and face to face, each of us hunched over a desk or a formica-topped table.

Outside, the rain pelted down in sheets and waves, the wind seemed like it would break in at any moment. No work for us until the sunshine returned.

Lotte had handed round her puzzle magazines and books. Euan and I hadn't yet finished the Sunday papers.

We'd been at it for a while and silence prevailed.

I had reached the stage where my brain hurt, well, sort of, if you know what I mean. I stared at the page and nothing was happing upstairs, in here.

"Look," said Acey, "I've got eleven fingers." He held up his hand and began to count. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six," he changed hands, "one, two, three, four, five. Five plus six makes eleven. See? I've got eleven fingers." Acey gave us his famous 'mischief' grin.

Brenda and Euan gave me a funny look, I had let out a sigh like a gasp of relief, I was glad of the excuse to take break.

"That reminds me," said Arri, "mathematicians and scientists are wrong."

I laughed, shook my head and turned back to my newspaper.

"They've made a fundamental error" Arri continued, "in the way they handle calculations."

"If that were true," said Acey, "the results of their calculations would be conspicuously wrong."

"Correction," said Arri, " I should have said, 'in the way we count'. Our numbers are wrong."

"If that were the case," Acey said, "everyone would see that there is a fatal flaw."

"Not necessarily," Arri stood up and stretched his shoulders and neck, he walked round to face us. "The numbers we use are mere tokens, markers if you like. What we call the digits hardly matters. As long as our tokens, markers, whatever, match up, everything fits together and works."

"Coherence," said Lotte.

The Bottom Line

"As long as the digits add up," Brenda grinned. "It's called, 'The Bottom Line'." Brenda beamed.

Eta entered with a tray of drinks and biscuits, not a moment too soon.

We were holed up in a rambling mansionhouse several miles outside Ardnamurchan on Scotland's West Coast. Across the water, when the weather was fine, we could see the Isle of Mull.

Eta frowned and looked at each of us in turn as she carefully put down her tray.

"Mathematics," Lotte said.

"More like primary-one 'Learn To Count,' class" said Tosh

Eta pulled a face, "hmm", she said.

Cup after cup whizzed under my nose and missed my grasping hand as Eta dutifully allocated the drinks.

"You're weird," Igvarts, slide-rule in hand, tried to return to his drawing but Arri exuded such confidence he put down his slide-rule, scrunched his ginger snap and listened.

"Reality is weird," Arri countered.

I clasped both hands around my hot cup as I supped.

Nonsense

"First of all," Arri continued, "we write our numbers backwards." Arri stopped to see our reactions. Igvarts frowned as only Igvarts can.

Arri suppressed a smile.

"We say, 'Four-Teen' yet we write, 'One-Four'. Arabs write from right to left."

A draught of cold air told us someone had just come in from outside. It was Saleh el Moharbi, rarely did he grace us with his presence.

"We adopted their numerical system," Arri said, he looked at Saleh as he quietly closed door. "We adopted Arabic numbers without reversing the written order, as we should have, according to our left-to-right protocol."

"Protocol," Acey mimicked, "ge’in’ pre’y technical here." [getting pretty technical here]

"That's nonsense." Tosh waved his hand in dismissal.

"Now now, children, let's not get personal about this," said Brenda, "professor! Explain thyself."

We laughed.

Saleh el Moharbi quietly made himself comfortable in the darkest corner, his glasses glinted.

Arri held his ground, "logic says we ought to have the units on the left building up to thousands and millions on the right."

"He has a point," said Euan.

"Well so what, that's no big deal," Tosh said.

Arri maintained his professorial stance.

"Second mistake," he continued, that mischievous look in his eye once more, "our numerical sequences are a nonsense." Arri looked pleased with himself.

"A, 'Nonsense'? Who the devil are you to make a pronouncement like that?" Tosh scowled at Arri.

Nutter

"You're the 'Number One Nutter', ha ha ha." Acey could be a bit cruel at times.

"Patience, please, we've got two hours till dinner time," Eta used her school teacher tone, it was highly effective.

"Seriously, children," Acey put on a falsetto voice, "let the loony splutter!"

There was a trickle of laughter, he was funny but Arri was not.

"You must excuse our scepticism,"  Lotte said, "but you have to admit, it's a bit of a tall order to expect us to accept your proposal without a hint of question or challenge."

Several of us nodded in agreement.

Arri smiled, unpeturbed.

Tosh rose and, with a flourish of his hand, said, "prey, continue, my dear friend."

"One," said Arri, finger raised. Acey interrupted him, he raised his middle finger, again we laughed in spite of ourselves at his rude variation.

Arri, like a pro, stuck to his guns; "is the first in the sequence, not 'Zero'."

Arri held up four fingers and tapped the tips as if counting.

Misnomer

"Our number 'Ten'" he continued, "is a misnomer."

Arri perched his forefinger on his raised pinkie.

"Ten is not the last in the sequence," he moved his forefinger to the empty air above a non-existent finger, " it is the first of the next sequence."

"Meaning what?" said Tosh.

"Meaning," said Arri, wide eyed, "we - do - not calculate to 'Base-Ten' but to 'Base-Nine." he paused. "That is a big error."

There was a moment's silence.

"Rubbish," Igvarts, the nearest to an engineer among us, twanged his slide-rule against the desk. "Everybody knows we work to base-ten."

Arri shook his head, confidence intact.

"Base nine," said Arri, "we are missing a digit."

Arri looked Igvarts in the eye.

"Ten is Zero-One," Arri continued, "or, 'One-ty', the start of the Teens." He waved his finger in the empty air beside his raised fingers.

"And it's wrong?" said Eta.

I think I heard a sound from Saleh, I could barely see more than his specs.

"We don't count to base nine or to base ten," Arri said, "we're out of sync. One to nine, then, ten to nineteen. Whoever heard anyone start counting with, 'zero, one, two'? It can't happen because our first digit, nothing, is exactly what it says, nothing. 'Not there', 'no thing'. Geddit?"

Arri beamed.

Brenda smiled, "the first sheep doesn't exist."

Eta rose, she clasped her hands like a school teacher about to address her children.

 

 


 

TWO SCOTSMEN AND A TAXI

Eta's Joke

"Two Scotsmen," said Eta, "met up for the first time after twenty years. They talked and drank until the small hours. The host said to his guest, 'when you go outside you'll see two taxis. Take the second one, the first isn't there.'"

Eta smiled.

We laughed.

Eta sat down.

"Is that called 'counting from 0'?" Brenda asked.

"There we have it," said Tosh, "alcohol is the 'Patron Saint' of the number zero."

"Shouldn't that be," said Igvarts, "the number zero is the 'Patron Saint' of alcohol?" he looked at Tosh.

"Sorry," said Acey, "neither 'Patron', nor 'Saint' nor alcohol," he grinned, we looked at him. "Zero no longer exists."

Acey looked at Arri, Arri raised the corner of his mouth but said nothing.

 


 

 

No Years Old

"In China," said Euan, "a new-born baby is 'one', here, a newborn is 'none', no years old."

I was about to speak, "look," said Arri.

Like a magician, he produced a rolled-up chart. He pressed it against the wall. "It's easier if you see for yourself."

In a moment, Lotte was applying Blu-Tac to the corners. The paper was a bit squint but Arri was free to gesticulate.

Saleh leaned forward to get a better look.

Rot

"This," said Igvarts with that wonderful withering disdain of his, "is  - words fail me." He flicked his slide-rule and fired an eraser at Arri. " R-O-T!" The rubber bounced off the wall. "You're trying to take us back to before zero was discovered."

"The bottom line," Acey tried to sound like Brenda, "is simple. Our numbers work." He shrugged and made a funny gesture.

"And that, dear Arri," said Eta, "is all there is to it."

Arri remained undeterred, his eyes sparkled.

"If," he said with passion, "zero really were a number just like '136' or 'seven', then, look what would happen."

He raised a card.

Ping

"Ping!" he said, "zero could make other numbers and entire calculations simply disappear."

Igvarts groaned and sank his head into his hands.

 

 

Everything Disappears

My fingers I count, the first is “One”, the Teens begin with “Ten”

Missing digit, nine then what? Eleven to “ten-teen”, twenty-one to “twenty-then”

Multiply, divide, if zero were a number, then others it could make disappear

Nought = nothing, neither gap nor border, a puzzle to tease the engineer

 

If Zero were a number, it could multiply and divide

 

If zero (or nothing) were a number, then it could multiply (and divide) as shown.

 

Infinity’s lemniscate, a pair of rings, conjoined as one yet both are “None”

Reorganise our mathematics, re-write how we count, d’you think it’d cause some fun?

Or does it not matter, make not a jot of difference, any old symbol will do

Whatever we mark, Nature’s Laws still work, Base-Nine, Seventeen or Twenty Two?

 

Blackboard: new counting

 

 

The Search for the New Ten Symbol

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

?

 

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

1?

 

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

2?

 

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

3?

ZERO   IS   NOTHING

 

 

 

 

No Business Like Show Business

Tosh roared with laughter, "just like this business we're in," he said, a little too loudly. "One project, ten million quid, multiply by nothing, as in, no bums on seats and 'Whoosh!' it's all gone."

Arri waited patiently as we laughed.

I thought Arri would tear down his poster and give up in a huff but it seems he had anticipated resistance. I guessed he might be repeating stuff he had heard from his uncle.

"The number 'Ten'" said Arri, forefinger raised, "should be a single digit."

Igvarts practically exploded.

"You," he shouted, "are deranged!"

Euan slapped his thigh, shot to his feet and pointed skyward. "Base thirty-six!" he exclaimed, "imagine how science would differ if we learned to count to Base 36." With that, he sat down.

For the first time, Arri began to look like the wind was being taken out his sails.

I wasn't at all sure I agreed but I did feel sorry for him and I admired his tenacity.

Arri kept his nerve, it seemed he had anticipated the response he would get.

Fly Stops Train

"Physicists tell us," said Arri, "that a fly can stop a train. When a fly flaps along and hits an oncoming train, there is a moment when the fly and the train are both in the same place. Before the fly can travel at the same speed and in the same direction as the train it has to be momentarily motionless. If the fly is motionless and it is attached to the front of the train, then the train, too, must be stationary. Hence, fly stops train."

Acey put on a stage-yawn and waved his hand in front of his mouth to let us all know he knew that one.

Zero Time

"In reality," Arri continued, "the fly is stationary for zero time, therefore, the train, too, is stationary for zero time, that is, never."

Eta made a most curious sound, I think she may have agreed with him.

"Zero, or 'Nothing'," said Arri, "is therefore exactly what we say it is, nothing."

Tosh nodded gravely.

"One to ten," Arri's fingers flew up and down, "where 'Ten' is a single digit numeral. Next, eleven to 'Oneten' or Tenteen, then, twenty-one to twenty-ten, and so on. The revised 'Tokens' we use to represent objects - "

"Abacus beads," said Lotte.

"Thank you, exactly - the abacus beads remain the same," said Arri.

"That's amazing," I said.

"What a piece of pish," Acey laughed. "Ye're aff yer dafty wee heid, yoos toos!" Acey pointed at me and Lotte.

There was laughter mixed with consternation.

Arri spread out his hands, "you can't be expected to grasp the consequences on first introduction." He knitted his fingers together. "Zero does not disappear. Zero still exists and it is still relevant."

"Just as infinity is relevant," Saleh nodded and spoke softly.

"Mathematicians use infinity in their calculations," Euan's hand shot heavenward, "they know how infinity works and how it fits in."

"Exactly," said Arri. "Recognising that zero is not a number but a 'gap' does not invalidate it."

"An absent counter, a non-existent abacus bead," said Brenda.

Tosh stroked his chin, "it's bound to have an impact."

Binary Debunked

Arri smiled, "computing," he said, "hard to imagine our computational geniuses could overlook such an obvious and conspicuous misnomer."

Igvarts decided it was time to be disruptive. He twanged his slide-rule, scraped his chair and clattered his empty mug back onto the tray. The expression on his face would have inspired even Rembrandt.

"It's not binary but unary," Arri explained.

 

 


 

UNARY

No Such Thing As 'Binary'

 

Binary:

010101

Arri's 'Unary':

  1   1   1

One or nothing, blank, not there, absence.

but it can still be written:

010101

exactly as at present, all that has changed is the understanding & interpretation.


 

 

Snap

Igvarts slapped his slide-rule against his table and stood up. He pointed at Arri.

"Bonkers," he said. "First you say 'Zero does not exist,' then you tell us nothing, ha ha, has changed."

"Zero exists," said Arri, "but you show me where it sits on the Abacus."

"Bit hard sliding an absence," I observed wryly.

Igvarts, still standing, glared at me, glared at Arri, looked at the others, huffed and puffed. He seized his slide-rule, snapped it across his knee and threw the pieces at Arri. He dropped into his chair with such a force I thought it might break. He folded his arms and stretched out his feet, his mouth pulled down in a grimace as far as it could go.

"Oh ma Gawd," Acey groaned, "ah'm a-gonna haf ta re-lurn all mah shkool-taeybles." He slapped his hand across his forehead as he stifled a smile.

0 = ∞

"Zero and Infinity," said Euan, "must therefore be virtually the same."

"In a way, yes but then again, no, or maybe not." Arri prised his paper away from the Blu-Tac.

"Looks like everything is rolling up into a virtual reality lost somewhere between those three rings," said Tosh, bemused.

Lotte held up her notepad, she had drawn a variety of symbols.

"Ten?" she asked, "any good?"

That was it, we were now on the hunt for the perfect tenth symbol.

Nothing had changed. I smiled to myself as the thought crossed my mind.

 

- o0 ∞ 0o -

 

 

 

 

 


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