Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

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Penguin, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 248 pages
34 Reviews
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  - themulhern - LibraryThing

Generally lively and fun book w/ a few flaws. The somewhat inaccurate historical asides as footnotes are a bit troubling, but sometimes they end up in parentheses instead, which is more annoying. The ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - le.vert.galant - LibraryThing

The portion of the book dealing with post-Newtonian physics and mathematics is not terribly interesting or different than dozens of other popular science books; however, the earlier chapters on the dissemination of zero from the East to the West are quite engaging. Read full review

Contents

I
1
II
5
III
25
IV
63
V
83
VI
105
VII
131
VIII
157
XI
217
XII
221
XIII
223
XIV
225
XV
229
XVI
231
XVII
239
XVIII
241

IX
191
X
211

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About the author (2000)

Charles Seife is the author of five previous books, including Proofiness and Zero, which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for first nonfiction and was a New York Times notable book. 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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