The Tale Behind The Tale of…
The story of the “The Day Zero Left Dodge” began as a challenge to write a play about a STEAM subject. When writing something about Math, Engineering, Technology, Science, or Art there are so many topics and treatments one could use. A biography of a famous artist or scientist perhaps? A dramatization of a unique and historic discovery? Or a contemporary piece about a young person who is inspired to become a scientist or engineer because of a problem they want to solve? Or…perhaps a total fantasy? The last choice sounded like a lot of fun, so that was the direction I went.
In the play Zero leaves Dodge, but where did Zero come from?
It’s difficult to imagine, after centuries of using our base ten number system with ten simple symbols, but there was a time when this numerical system didn’t exist. The Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Babylonians didn’t have any symbol to represent ‘nothing’ or the ‘absence of a quantity’. In fact they each used a number system that was unique to their culture.
The Oldest Known Zero Was Found in Asia
Most historians now agree that Zero first made an appearance in the early 600’s in Southern Asia – in the area between India and Cambodia. The oldest Zero is represented by a single dot in a stone carving from an ancient Cambodian temple.
Both the concepts of ‘nothing’ or ‘zero’ and the concept of infinity along stem from ancient creation legends. Zero and Infinity along with the number system we now use ( 1 – 9 digits plus ‘0’) were likely carried along the trade routes from China to India to Arabia. Along the eastern Mediterranean Sea the Turks and others found the imported number system much simpler to use than the ancient Roman system for trading and accounting. It spread from there during the Crusades to Europe and the West.
A great book to read about the search for the first Zero is called, “Finding Zero”, by Amir Aczel an Israeli-American mathematician and professor. It reads like a detective novel and follows his life-long search for the origin of Zero.
|Egyptians used different symbols for 1, 10,100, 1000, etc. and combined them to create larger numbers. With their system number 4572 needed 18 symbols to make it — 4 -‘1000’ symbols, 5- ‘100’ symbols, 7- ’10’ symbols, and 2 – ‘1’ symbols. Later hieroglyphics added dots or lines to the main symbols to represent numbers in between (like 30 or 500) so they could make the same 4572 with only five symbols – 1- ‘4000’ symbol, 1-‘500′ symbol, 1- ’70’ symbol, and 2 -‘1’ symbols to represent the number 2)
|Greeks used letters to represent numbers. The letter ‘E’ represented the number ‘5’ for example. The letter ‘Y’ represented the number ‘400’. To make the numbers 1-1000 meant they needed 27 different letters. (1- 9, 10 – 90, 100 – 900) Because there were only 24 letters in the Greek alphabet, they resurrected 3 letters that were no longer used to represent 700, 800, and 900. They added a special symbol to indicate a number was over 1000.
|The Babylonians used symbols similar to our modern system in that they use the same symbols in different positions to represent their value. But instead of base 10 they used a base 60 number system. That means that a number written 3,7 would represent ‘3 x 60 or 180 plus 7’ or 187. They also had no Zero.
|The Romans used a similar number system to the Greeks, but used the letters from the Latin alphabet instead (I for ‘1’, V for ‘5’, C for ‘100’, etc.). It made writing large numbers and complex mathematics difficult. And also can be confusing if it’s not clear if the letters represent a number or a word.
|Evidence suggests the Mayans did have a symbol to represent Zero, but because they were so isolated and far from the ancient world, their system was never shared. Their number system worked of a base 20 formula, so not as user friendly as a base 10. Their civilization was absorbed by time before any major world trade was possible to share their knowledge.
The concept of Zero and Infinity were likely conceived at the same time. One of my favorite jokes in “The Day Zero Left Dodge” involves the ‘Pi Shop’. Since pies are usually circular, what better name for the pie bakery in Dodge City than one that represents the solution you get when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter? The number for Pi is usually rounded to the second decimal point (3.14) but if you continue the division you never come to a final numeral. Plus there is no pattern to the numbers in the solution. They go on randomly into infinity. As the villain of the show Crazy Eight, causes mayhem in town, Two (Dodge City’s banker) observes him going into the Pi Shop. As Two says, “They have so many flavors of pie there, he could eat all day and never have the same pie twice”.
This particular pie may not be something they serve in Dodge City, but this is one of my favorite pie recipes.
Lemon Custard and Blueberry Pie
Preheat oven at 325 degrees F
Prepare 8″ or deep dish pie pan
Line the pie pan with either refrigerated commercial unbaked pie crust or your favorite homemade recipe
FOR THE CUSTARD FILLING
- 2 cups Whole Milk
- 3 large eggs
- + 3 egg yolks
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp lemon curd (store bought or homemade)
- 1 lemon (remove zest of the lemon in strips with vegetable peeler – but only yellow portion)
- ½ tsp Nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
Pour the milk into a small to medium-sized saucepan. Add the lemon rind and the nutmeg. Heat slowly on medium heat. Stir with rubber spatula frequently until simmering or just below the boiling point.
While the milk is heating put the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and lemon curd in a large, heat tolerant bowl. Whisk until thoroughly mixed, but try not to make the mixture foam.
When the milk is just below boiling, take the pan off the burner and strain out the lemon peel and any skin that has formed on the milk. Very slowly pour the hot milk into the bowl with the egg mixture. Be sure to whisk constantly as you are pouring or the milk with cook the egg. Try to avoid creating a foam on top of the custard mixture.
When all the milk is incorporated into the egg mixture, pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust and place it into the oven. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the center of the custard mixture is just a little wobbly. Check to make sure it is thoroughly cooked by inserting a sharp knife into the center. If it comes out clean and you can see where you inserted the knife the pie is done.
Take the pie out of the oven and place on a cooling rack. The center portion may sink slightly.
FOR THE BLUEBERRY TOPPING
- 2/3 Cup Blueberry Jam (wild blueberry jam is best)
- 1½ Cups fresh Blueberries – smaller to medium size berries are best (wash them and set in colander to drain thoroughly)
- 2 Tbsp Lemon juice (from the lemon you used for the rind)
- ½ tsp Arrowroot powder
As the pie is cooling, in a small sauce pan, heat the blueberry jam until it melts. Place the fresh, washed and drained berries in a bowl. When the jam is melted, Add the Arrowroot and the lemon juice to the melted jam. Don’t let the jam boil or burn. Pour the hot jam mixture into the bowl with the fresh berries and stir. Make sure all the fresh berries are covered in the jam.
Put both the pie and the bowl of berry mixture into the refrigerator until they both are chilled but not totally cold. Then take them out and GENTLY spread the berry mixture over the lemon custard surface of the pie. Be sure to spread it evenly so it covers the entire surface of the pie.
Put the pie with the blueberry topping back into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours until it is thoroughly chilled. Then take it out, cut a large slice, and enjoy.