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The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universeby John D. Barrow
Synopses & Reviews
What conceptual blind spot kept the ancient Greeks (unlike the Indians and Maya) from developing a concept of zero? Why did St. Augustine equate nothingness with the Devil? What tortuous means did 17th-century scientists employ in their attempts to create a vacuum? And why do contemporary quantum physicists believe that the void is actually seething with subatomic activity? You’ll find the answers in this dizzyingly erudite and elegantly explained book by the English cosmologist John D. Barrow.
Ranging through mathematics, theology, philosophy, literature, particle physics, and cosmology, The Book of Nothing explores the enduring hold that vacuity has exercised on the human imagination. Combining high-wire speculation with a wealth of reference that takes in Freddy Mercury and Shakespeare alongside Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, the result is a fascinating excursion to the vanishing point of our knowledge.
A leading mathematician and cosmologist explores the concept of nothingness, from the origins of zero in ancient India, through changing ideas about "nothing" from ancient Greece to the present day, to attempts by modern mathematics, cosmology, theology, and physics to explain the role of "nothing" in the structure of the universe. Reprint. 17,500 first printing.
John D. Barrow is research professor of mathematical sciences in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University. His previous books include Theories of Everything, The Artful Universe, Impossibility, Between Inner and Outer Space, The Universe That Discovered Itself, and The Origin of the Universe. He lives in England.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
0. Nothingology : flying to nowhere — Mysteries of non-existence — Nothing ventured — Nothing gained — 1. Zero : the whole story — The origin of zero — Egypt : in need of nothing — Babylon : the writing is on the wall — The no-entry problem and the Babylonian zero — The Mayan zero — The Indian zero — Indian conceptions of nothingness — The travelling zeros — The evolution of words for zero — A final accounting — 2. Much ado about nothing — Welcome to the Hotel Infinity — Greeks, bearing gifts — Islamic art — St. Augustine — The Medieval labyrinth — Writers and readers — Shakespearean nothings — Paradox lost — 3. Constructing nothing — The search for a vacuum — A tale of two nothings — How much of space is space? — 4. The drift towards the ether — Newton and the ether : to be or not to be? — Darkness in the ether — Natural theology of the ether — A decisive experiment — The amazing shrinking man — Einstein and the end of the old ether — 5. Whatever happened to zero? — Absolute truth : where is it to be found/ — Many zeros — Creation out of the empty set — Surreal numbers — God and the empty set — Long division — 6. Empty universes — Dealing with entire universes on paper — Vacuum universes — Ernst Mach : a man of principle — Lambda : a new cosmic force — Deep connections — 7. The box that can never be empty — It's a small world after all — The new vacuum — All at sea in the vacuum — The lamb shift — Forces of the world unite — Vacuum polarisation — Black holes — 8. How many vacuums are there? — Vacuum landscape appreciation — The unification road — Vacuum fluctuations made me — Inflation all over the place — Multiple vacuums — Eternal inflation — Inflation and new lambda — Falling downstairs — Bits of vacuum — 9. The beginning and the end of the vacuum — Being out of nothingness — Creation out of nothing — Philosophical problems about nothing and how we escaped from it — Creation out of nothing in modern cosmology — No creation out of anything? — The future of the vacuum.
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