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Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
     

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

4.1 57
by Charles Seife
 

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Popular math at its most entertaining and enlightening. "Zero is really something"-Washington Post

A New York Times Notable Book.

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

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Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Caleigh More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book, though most definitely written by a mathematician. Very interesting and concise. Now to find a good biography of Pythagoras..
Guest More than 1 year ago
Zero was a fascinating journey. I read it in two sittings. I'm a high school senior in a college-level intro calculus course though, and I wonder how the less-initiated reader finds Zero. I would caution those who lack a patience for higher order mathematics, or a familiarity with physics and calculus to think twice before delving into Zero. You will undoubtedly enjoy it, but I wonder if you will understand the intricacies of the latter half of the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Who would have thought that a book about zero would be so interesting? But it is - and then some. Easily readable, even for mathophobes - and lots of fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Seife's book is overwrought, heavy on style and woefully weak (even inaccurate) on substance. His writing style is hyperbolic and filled with inane puns about the number zero (as can be seen in the chapter names). He goes way overboard in estimating the Greeks' attitude toward the number zero; as quite a bit of scholarship has shown, the number was not some kind of bete noire to the Greeks, rather, they simply found no need to incorporate it as a placeholder because of their geometric mathematical focus and the counting systems they used in commerce. Seife gets confused about the history of Aristotelianism in Europe-- he states that it basically kept Europe in the Dark Ages, while the Arab civilization (which imparted the numeric system containing zero to Europe in the late Middle Ages) rejected Aristotelian thought. In fact, as any middle school history student could point out, Europe was in the Dark Ages in large part because it almost totally forgot Aristotle's work. Though clearly many of Aristotle's ideas would turn out to be incorrect, his observational and scientific approach to things was crucial to eventually beginning the Age of Reason. In fact, one of the Arabs' greatest contributions to the history of thought was that they *translated* Aristotle into Arabic and studied it thoroughly, then transmitted this new learning and way of thought into Europe in about the 1200s. Seife mixes this up entirely. His descriptions of Newtonian and Leibnizian calculus are not bad, but when he gets into the cosmology and the physics he's way out of his league. One of the most fascinating things about 20th century science is the way in which Einstein's work and quantum physics have both totally revised the notion of the vacuum, filling it with activity of many stripes-- but Seife glosses this over in a few poorly written pages, and misses the whole point of what modern work has shown about the field. This is not the book to read about this topic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waits
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dun dun duuun!! <br> Its still short though... But good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bet by now you are thinking why are you not getting annoyed by the government. They tried. They failed. What are the odds? Well, I may or may not have set a missel on fire and completely destroyed it, when I was a baby. How did I find a missel. I flew away. Yeah. I'm a bad kid. So I scared everyone. So many people ignore me. The government is to scared to do anything. My parents and the government were happy because I somehow burnned an enemy missel. <P> As we walked out of school, the jerk named George came over. "Hey Dra-" I punched him hard in the gut before he finished. George yelped then ran. It gets pretty annoying. Moon blushed a bit. I think she likes me. Or, she thinks I like her. Meh, no big deal. We walked down to the park and hung out. "Zero, I think someone in our class likes you!" Katie said. Katie and I are in the same class. If someone bullies her. They also bully me. Katie was my first friend. So I kind of feel like she is my family. "Who?" The rest of us ask. Katie laughs a little, "I think that maybe Mary likes you. You know how she is always staring at you. Wll, today she was daydreaming and looking at your head durning class." We all laugh. Mary is an airhead. Then, I lay down and see something. "Hey guys. Look." I point up. "What is it Zero?" Moon asked. "An eagle." We all look at the eagle. Then the eagle swoops down and gets a squirrel. We all gasp. "Awesome!" Thats Gavin for you. Everything that has to do with pain is cool to him. I just shrug. Katie and Moon went wide eyed. Moon's eyes went as round as the moon she was named after. I was surprised too. I almost threw up my sandwich. At last, we calmed down. Then we said our goodbyes and went home. As I walked, I saw something different...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
:-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We read this book in trig class through the year. Was fun to find out the history of such a simple yet complex idea. I highly recomend this book if you love learning.
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Victor3000 More than 1 year ago
The philosophy and history of the concept of "nothing" is an interesting one with a lot of repercussions. I can't really say that Seife did it justice, though. The writing is not as focused as it could be, some sections getting repetitive and his analogies don't quite work. And, quite frankly, I don't know why anyone would spend time describing Pascal's Wager without pointing out how logically inconsistent and culturally biased it is. In short, not a bad book, just not really recommended. Especially since others have tackled the subject.
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