Charles Seife
Penguin, New York, 2000, English
Nonfiction, General
ISBN: 9780140296471

From the Publisher. 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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Dan Formosa

A fascinating look into the origins of the number system, and how math emanated from a desire to understand nature. It discusses how culture evolved accordingly. Also addressed is how the fear of zero (along with a fear of too much science), through the religious beliefs of the Catholic Church in Europe, curtailed the advancement of civilization. The book evokes thoughts about how a fear of math today—or at least an avoidance of quantitative techniques in the field of design—may be having similar effects.

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