Saturday, April 27, 2013

Zero Power

To neutralize the differing effects of any non-zero numbers -- to wipe out vast differences between numbers -- we may raise each of them to the power zero.*  When 0 is applied as the exponent for any nonzero number, the result is 1.  So 70 = 1 and 5378 0 = 1 and (.001)0 = 1.   And here are "zero power" and other mathematical concepts interpreted in a poem.

     N to the Zero Power     by Laurie Clemens

     He holds one photograph
     featuring one man and one woman.

     Three birds perch on two wires
     forming an isosceles triangle over the last
     red brick street in town.

     If a man loves a woman a prime number of years
     before she loves another, what are the unknowns?

     The base. The apex. Where the road ends
     in a cornfield—a cradle—a crying shame—
     a blackboard waits for the right equation

     and if that number squares
     will that lead him to the root

     of his trouble? Which is? He wakes
     one morning, old

     and discovers he married wrong. He begins with N
     and works back, looking for a number
     that divides, leaves no remainder, ends
     in nothing but the dust of two clapped erasers.

I found Laurie Clemens' poem at

*Actually, use of the exponent 0 is not as contrived as I have presented it above.  Rather, it is a straightforward consequence of subtracting exponents to achieve division. For example, we can have 32/4 = 25/22 = 2(5-2) = 23, and we 64/64 = 26/26 = 2(6-6) = 20 = 1.

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