Dividing by Zero

by F.

The BBC announces the “solution” of a 1200 year old problem—dividing by zero:

Dr James Anderson, from the University of Reading’s computer science department, says his new theorem solves an extremely important problem – the problem of nothing….

…Dr Anderson has come up with a theory that proposes a new number – ‘nullity’ – which sits outside the conventional number line (stretching from negative infinity, through zero, to positive infinity).

It’s hard to see how this is a solution to anything, though the BBC’s reporter gushes that

Despite being a problem tackled by the famous mathematicians Newton and Pythagoras without success, it seems the Year 10 children at Highdown now know their nullity.

Yeah—neither Newton nor Pythagorus would have thought, “Fuck it. I’ll just invent a new pseudo number and call it good.”

The story is here, including a verbose and unilluminating rebuttal by Anderson. Perhaps this is an interesting result, but the BBC story (including Anderson’s comments) sure doesn’t make it clear why this is any better than just solving the problem by fiat.