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From the Publisher
"For my money, the best popular mathematics book ever written."â€”Margaret Wertheim, Los Angeles Times Book Review"Get this book. Read it. Think long and hard and sweetly about what the human mind is for: The gift of thinking, the joy and fulfillment of searching for the truth."â€”Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun
"Deeply informed, lucidly written, this engaging work is a thought-provoking inquiry into a significant topic in the history of human thought."â€”Frederick Pratter, Christian Science Monitor
"Elegant, discursive, and littered with quotes and allusions from Aquinas via Gershwin to Woolf.... A book that will give a lot of readers pleasure and inform them, by stealth, at the same time. A fine holiday present for any mathematically inclined friend or relative."â€”Ian Stewart, The Times (London)
"Philosophy, poetry, astronomy, linguisticsâ€”readers will marvel at what Kaplan draws out of nothing.... Written in a wonderfully eclectic and unpredictable style.... Kaplan leavens his mathematics with piquant illustrations and lively humor, thus extending his audience even to readers generally indifferent to numbers."â€”Booklist
"Where did the familiar hollow circle that we use to denote zero come from? That's a story fraught with mystery, and Mr. Kaplan tells it well.... Kaplan, a popularizer of mathematics who has taught at Harvard, is an erudite and often witty writer."â€”Jim Holt, Wall Street Journal
"It is a true delight to read Robert Kaplan's The Nothing That Is. Full of remarkable historical facts about zero, it is both illuminating and entertaining, touching deeper issues of mathematics and philosophy in a very accessible way."â€”Sir Roger Penrose, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, and the author of The Emperor's New Mind
"An attempt to do for Zero what Dava Sobel did for Longitude.... Kaplan has a light touch.... The effect is of a knowledgeable uncle suddenly prompted on a summer's afternoon to tell you all he knows on his favorite subject."â€”Jeremy Gray, The Sunday Times
"It is hard to imagine that an entertaining, informative book could be written about nothing, but Robert Kaplan has done it brilliantly. Starting with the great invention of zero as a place holder, Kaplan takes you through the use of zero in algebra, and in calculus where equating a derivative to zero magically calculates maxima and minima, to the importance of the null set. His book closes with that unthinkable question, 'Why is there something rather than nohting?' on which one cannot long meditate without fear of going mad."â€”Martin Gardner, former columnist for Scientific American and author of Relativity Simply Explained
Overview
A symbol for what is not there, an emptiness that increases any number it's added to, an inexhaustible and indispensable paradox. As we enter the year 2000, zero is once again making its presence felt. Nothing itself, it makes possible a myriad of calculations. Indeed, without zero mathematics as we know it would not exist. And without mathematics our understanding of the universe would be vastly impoverished. But where did this nothing, this hollow circle, come from? Who ...