Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshipped it, and the Christian Church used it to fend off heretics. Today it's a timebomb ticking in the heart of astrophysics. For zero, infinity's twin, is not like other numbers. It is both nothing and everything. 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 ...

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Philk01

May 7, 2010

Nothing and Zero

There is a difference between not having a bank account and having a back account with no money in it. That there are different types of nothing , and how they effected history, was amazing

IanPCook

Apr 4, 2007

Shining example of "microhistory"

Seife's exploration of the concept of zero, from initial difficulties with characterizing "nothing" with a symbol to dealing with the mathematical impacts of what occurs when your system includes an "empty" quantity, is engaging and compelling. As can be said of numerous ideas (in math and elsewhere), the concept of zero seems almost staggeringly obvious in retrospect; this book makes it possible to understand why it wasn't at all trivial. And then continues to show the importance of and interest in dealing with zero in numerous aspects.
I did long for a bit more weight to the book as a whole, but this may be as much a testament to Seife's style than anything else. I would be thrilled to read more detailed exposition of the place of zero in modern mathematics. But that could just be me...

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