zmama45, April 17, 2008 (view all comments by zmama45)
This book was a wonderful read. I borrowed it from the public library and loved it so much I had to add it to my own library! Charles Seife has a talent for explaining advanced mathematical concepts in such a way that an English major like me can understand them. This book has a natural, logical progression using world historical events to explain major mathematical achievements. The historical figures are presented as real people and Seife makes it even more interesting by presenting some of their more unusual quirks (who knew Pythagoras didn't like beans?). I had no idea zero was so embedded in history, philosophy, and religion. I highly recommend this book!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (5 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
Elaine, December 24, 2006 (view all comments by Elaine)
This is an interesting read, more history than mathematics. It explains why several ancient peoples including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, didn't use or need the concept of zero although there was substantial mathematical calculations performed for calendars and celestial measurements. But people used numbers for counting and when you don't have any, there's nothing to count, and used numbers for measuring land and the like, and again, they did fine without zero. He explains the role of Aristotle and later the Catholic Church in the suppression of the concept of zero (and its "relative" - infinity) during the mediaeval period. And how even in some modern mathematics like string theory it must be ignored. This is an interesting book written by a journalist for non-mathematicians.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (14 of 21 readers found this comment helpful)
by Publishers Weekly,
"[A] lively and literate first book....[E]ntertaining and enlightening..."
by Library Journal,
"This is a very light treatment of big ideas....[F]ast-paced and colorful but repetitious, oversimplified, and exaggerated..."
by Washington Post,
"From the first page to the last, Seife maintains a level of clarity and infectious enthusiasm that is rare in science writing, and practically unknown among those who dare to explain mathematics."
"[Z]ero emerges as a daunting intellectual riddle in this fascinating chronicle....A must read for every armchair physicist."
by U.S. News & World Report,
"A stunning chronicle of the denial, heresy, and grudging acceptance of zero and its companion concepts, infinity and the void."
by New York Times,
"Zero may be nothing, but a lot comes out of Charles Seife's story...which is charming and enlightening....After finishing, his readers will feel they've experienced a considerable something."
The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshiped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, the quest for the theory of everything. Line illustrations.
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.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.