Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

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Penguin, Sep 1, 2000 - Mathematics - 272 pages
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Popular math at its most entertaining and enlightening. "Zero is really something"-Washington Post

A New York Times Notable Book.

The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshiped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. Now it threatens the foundations of modern physics. For centuries the power of zero savored of the demonic; once harnessed, it became the most important tool in mathematics. For zero, infinity's twin, is not like other numbers. It is both nothing and everything.

In Zero, Science Journalist Charles Seife follows this innocent-looking number from its birth as an Eastern philosophical concept to its struggle for acceptance in Europe, its rise and transcendence in the West, and its ever-present threat to modern physics. Here are the legendary thinkers—from Pythagoras to Newton to Heisenberg, from the Kabalists to today's astrophysicists—who have tried to understand it and whose clashes shook the foundations of philosophy, science, mathematics, and religion. Zero has pitted East against West and faith against reason, and its intransigence persists in the dark core of a black hole and the brilliant flash of the Big Bang. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time: the quest for a theory of everything.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - SeriousGrace - LibraryThing

No other number can do so much damage, so says Charles Seife. He tells you this as he is explaining the Golden Ratio, how Winston Churchill is equal to a vegetable, and how you can make your very own ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Hefau - LibraryThing

This book was entrancing from start to finish, filled with fascinating information on mathematics and history. Seife follows the progression of the idea of zero through human history, and he weaves ... Read full review

Contents

I
1
III
5
V
25
VII
63
IX
83
XI
105
XIV
131
XVI
157
XXII
217
XXIV
221
XXVI
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XXVIII
225
XXX
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XXXII
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XXXIII
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XXXIV
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XVIII
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About the author (2000)

Charles Seife is the author of five previous books, including Proofiness and Virtual Unreality. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, Wired, New Scientist, Science, Scientific American, and The Economist. He is a professor of journalism at New York University and lives in New York City.

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