Z is for Zero

The Hindu concept of zero, the void, the circle. Graphic from pparihar.com.

A circle is an infinite number of points all equally distant from a single center. That definition came from Euclid, a Greek, although the Greek’s didn’t use zero. Aristotle was afraid to divide by the void because it wasn’t descriptive of the real world.

The Chinese and the Sumerians used placeholders in their counting, adopting different marks for the tens and the 60s digit, since Babylonians used base 60. But they didn’t have a zero.

The Mayans had a zero–they used base 20–which allowed them to produce large astronomical calculations that generated accurate solar and lunar calendars using only sticks. But their isolation prevented trade, which limited their civilization.

The Romans had zero, of course! Nulla. The Romans had sophisticated plumbing and developed roads that lasted for millenia. But Romans disdained to use nulla in their numbering systems, so even though their business records were hierarchical and detailed, they were limited. Growth is limited if a number like 397,654 is CCCXCVMMDCLIV.

The Arabs developed zero; they developed algebra. But the Arabs learned it from the Hindus.

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Graphic from Pparihar.com.
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V is for Value

What’s it worth to you?

What’s the value of a stock? A toy? A flower? A work of art?

“Beeple” Winklemann, “Everydays–The First 5000 Days.” $69 million.

There are financial valuation models that explain how to set prices for goods in the “market” and for stocks on the exchange. But every time something sells for surprising sums of money, like $69 million for an NFT artwork, we should be reminded about how prices really work.

Value is always in the eyes of the buyer.

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U is for Useful Life

Most of us want to have a long Useful Life, except when it comes to accounting. Then, we might want our Useful Life long or short, depending on who’s asking.

After the invention of writing, which I’m taking credit for on behalf of all accountants throughout history, the idea of depreciation may be the most significant contribution to the way businesses operate. It’s certainly the most “accounting-y” notion and an Accountant’s Full Employment Act, since even the simplest calculation takes years.

This depreciation graphic was too bizarre to resist. Is he upset at the potted plant? the building? the time value of money? Design courtesy of capital.com.
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