Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

by Charles Seife
4.1 57

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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
:-)
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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