Wednesday, 24 May 2017

♯ | sharp

In musical notation, is a symbol for sharp (dièse) which is commonly found as an accidental or in key signatures. According to Wikipedia,

The modern accidental signs derive from the two forms of the lower-case letter b used in Gregorian chant manuscripts to signify the two pitches of B, the only note that could be altered. The “round” b became the flat sign, while the “square” b diverged into the sharp and natural signs.

They say that ♯ must not be confused with the # sign variously known as “hash”, “number sign” or “pound sign”. The truth is, there is very little scope for confusion of ♯ with # since ♯ is only used in the musical context. In fact, in pre-Unicode era, # was exactly the symbol for sharp (and lower-case b for flat) that was used in ASCII text files, and nobody would interpret F# as anything but F♯. On the contrary, there is every chance of confusion if you use it either as a number or pound sign. Personally, I resent these two uses. I mean, you must be really lazy to use # instead of № or No. As for “pound”, hello? Write lb. or switch to the metric system like the rest of the world.

If you really need to know the difference, look at the pictures. The sharp has two vertical chili peppers crossed by two slanted parallel peppers that rise from left to right. In this fashion, the slanted peppers won’t interfere with the staff lines. The hash has two horizontal peppers crossed by two slightly slanted parallel peppers.

More photos of chili peppers @ Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

σ | sigma

The Greek letter σ (sigma) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤔 (šīn) which meant “tooth”.

ς is the lower-case letter sigma (σίγμα τελικό) when used as the final letter in a word.

The lower-case σ has been widely adopted in maths and sciences, for instance:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 22 May 2017

λ | lambda

The Greek letter λ (lambda) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤋 (lāmed) which meant “goad” (a cattle prod).

The lower-case letter λ has many uses in maths, engineering and sciences, including:

λ is also one of the international symbols for LGBT rights.

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

κ | kappa

The Greek letter κ (kappa) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤊 (kāp) which meant “palm” (of a hand).

The lower-case κ is pretty much just a smaller version of the upper-case Κ and is virtually indistinguishable from the upper-case Roman K as well as the Cyrillic К/к. I prefer using the cursive ϰ.

The lower-case κ and/or cursive ϰ have quite a few uses in maths, engineering and sciences, for instance:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

ι | iota

The Greek letter ι (iota) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤉 (yōd) which meant “arm”. The archaic Cyrillic iota looks exactly the same.

The lower-case ι looks too similar to the Latin letters i and l to be widely used as a symbol on its own. Still, it has been adopted in maths and sciences, for instance:

  • in biochemistry: ι-toxin, a pore forming toxin from Clostridium perfringens
  • in mathematical logic: a definite description operator
  • in natural product chemistry: ι-carrageenan, a polysaccharide extracted from red algae that gels in the presence of calcium ions
More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 19 May 2017

〇 | líng

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: líng 🔊) is a word for number zero.

In AD 690, Wu Zetian (624—705), the only Empress Regnant in the history of China, adopted a number of new characters, one of which was . Originally, it was meant to replace the unwieldy character “star”. After the Empress’s death, the new characters fell into disuse. In 1247, Qin Jiushao (ca. 1202—1261) found a new job for . It was introduced as the symbol for zero in his work 數書九章 (Shùshū Jiǔzhāng, “Mathematical Treatise in Nine Sections”). Another hanzi with the same meaning, , is mainly used for financial purposes.

More photos related to numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

0 | zero

Probably the first documented use of a number zero in the Old World was by Claudius Ptolemy in the Almagest (ca. 130 AD), although in the Americas the concept and symbol for zero existed much earlier.

Ptolemy employed the symbol ο̄ (“Hellenistic zero” ) within a Babylonian sexagesimal numeral system. The oldest known mention of zero and the decimal positional system are found in the Jainist cosmological text Lokavibhāga (AD 458). By the 11th century, the Hindu–Arabic numeral system, complete with zero, reached Europe.

In my handwriting, I almost always write this digit as a slashed zero, 0.

More photos related to numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.