# Can a number be given the attribute 'physical'?

This question initially arose while translating a technical document from German. The original text was 'physikalische Heizzonenummer', literally 'physical heating-zone-number'.

My immediate reaction was to think of heating zones which are numbered 1 to n but which can be addressed in other 'logical' ways. However, the German does seem to mean that the number itself is 'physical'. For me, a number is a concept and cannot be physical (except for those digits you can screw on to your front door). You can have a group of physical apples or heating zones but a number allocated to each one is surely in itself not physical itself.

Am I wrong here? Perhaps the original German is a bit clumsy and imprecise but it just set me wondering about the concept of numbers. I would be interested to hear other opinions :-)

• Is the Heating Zone 'physical'? Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 6:32
• @user11761 - there are physical heating elements in the machine arranged in zones. So I guess the zones are physical. To be honest I don't know how they might be logically organised. Perhaps they can be grouped (e.g. as pairs) and then addressed logically rather than physically
– paul
Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 6:38
• Can you first elaborate on what exactly is heating-zone-number? I'm in no way an expert in German and can't understand the meaning from just literal translation of one short phrase. Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 6:41
• Is the heating zone physically labeled with the number? (That would be similar to those digits for your front door). Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 6:44
• @Philoto - that's really my point. See the second paragraph. I would say that you can enumerate physical and logical objects but a physical number itself makes no sense
– paul
Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 6:45