In the Ethereum yellow paper 6.2 there is a formula (54) defining g_0 refers to a sum which is indexed over i. But i doesn't occur on the right side except by making a distinction between i = 0 and not(i = 0). Why is this expressed in such a compilicated way and not as a simple product. Or am I missing an implicit dependency on i?

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The Yellow Paper is not known for its readability. :-)

I'm not sure how to express this as a "simple product", though. The idea is that transaction data is a bunch of bytes, and the non-zero bytes cost more gas than the zero bytes.

Perhaps the confusion is over the double use of i. In the right-hand side, i is the actual value of a byte (not an index).

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