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This book was recommended to me by a friend quite some time back, and I finally got around to reading it now. If you are curious about how zero became mainstream, this is a great book. There are some slow sections especially in the second half though. I listened to the audiobook on Audible and the narration was very good.Zero has had a tough time. Though many times mathematicians seemed to veer towards it, they pulled back as it was considered dangerous territory which mortals should not go towa...
I’m not sure if this book quite worked out what it wanted to be. Besides getting to say, ‘and that is the power of zero’, over and over again it wasn’t quite sure where it should pitch itself and the guy writing it was never quite certain how much back knowledge he could rely on his audience actually having. This meant subjects were generally treated too cursory so I was left thinking ‘wait a second, what happened there?’. His discussion of Gauss was very complicated and hard to follow (not near...
It's a fascinating and an affirming read. It's difficult to understand any regiment of mathematics and physics without the number zero. Seife reveals, how it's acceptance took time, overcoming of religious and cultural preconceptions and other serious appraisals and tribulations. Without zero, there be no calculus, algebra, astronomy, quantum physics nor understanding of space, beginning and end of the universe, black holes, vacuum and the list goes on into infinity.
A book about numbers that had me laughing out loud while I was on vacation. My wife could not understand how a book about math could make me laugh so much...But any book that shows the horrible mistake that not having a Year 0 (i.e., 1 BC and 1 AD are adjancent) would have on history as well as subtraction mistakes, how infinity is really is zero's tricky friend, and make almost understandable the reason why the amazing equation "e ^ (pi * i) = -1" is true is pretty fantastic.I laughed, I cried....
Zero is quite an undertaking - the author attacks this microhistory with an ambitious goal: to explain how zero came to be, and how it has factored into math and science, and even the dawn of the universe, from the beginning of time. That's a lot to cover. I respect Seife's attempts to make the text more interesting to the layman, but in my opinion the infused excitement is a bit much. Still, there's a ton of information to be found in this book, and it is pretty interesting to see how drastical...
Wow! A tremendous amount of information is packed between the cover pages of this little book. I had no idea zero created such controversy--in religion and math/science. Fascinating facts about how our calendar system is ahead by a year BECAUSE we should have begun with year zero, not one. So, when December 31, 1999 came around, true mathematicians didn't celebrate the millenium until December 31, 2000. The Mayan's had the calendar system figured out. They started with zero, but didn't call it t...
I agree that this was a great book. When I was reading it, I thought what a wonderful experience it would be if the walls between Mathmatics, History, Social Science, and English weren't so high, this type of learning could take place in a middle school setting. If I had read this book when i was in middle school, I would have been wagging my tail in math class every day.
The range of the book, BRILLIANT! It opened with the use of numbers, logics for tallying, and closed with mankind’s attempt to better understand the cosmos. And every chapter, reasonably, screamed the power of zero. It's substantiality in solving some ground-breaking scientific theories to the ability to sabotage a whole branch in science! A descriptive and fascinating read.
Another one of the best books that I've read recently. Seife does an excellent job of turning zero into a subject. It is a number, and it is an idea; it is a troublemaker, and it is a problem solver. The biography is very interesting, beginning with history and philosophy and ending with science and the modern age.I enjoyed the actual writing of the book: clear and easy to follow, slightly humorous at times (in a Stephen Hawking kind of way), and clever. I like the chapter titles (beginning with...
This book made me want to actually learn calculus. At least until the brain fever wore off. :)
Very cool book, it covers many interesting facts.
It is not a book for scientists and engineers only.All people with a curious and open mind should read it and spread their views on the world and universe.I did enjoy it.
My grade 11 math teacher gave this to me, and I remember reading it and loving it. Here I am, three years later, returning to Zero for a second read. No longer the gullible high school student (now a gullible university student!), I'm apt to be more critical of Zero. Nevertheless, it stands up to a second reading and both inspires and informs.Imagining a world without zero is probably difficult for most people. It was especially difficult for me, as a mathematician who grew up learning calculus
Well, well, well, math. So we meet again. I have done a fantastic job avoiding you for the last ten years, but I knew it couldn't last forever. Still, I wasn't expecting you to come for me in the guise of a pick for our book club. Well played, math. Well. Played. Basically, I think this is probably a fine book and worthy of more than the "It was okay" rating I am giving. It has lots of pictures and illustrations and appendices, and I am assuming that they mean something. One of them, in theory,
Winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award honoring debut nonfiction from American authors, this book traces the history of the number zero from its initial appearances in Babylonian and Mayan mathematics to its widespread acceptance during the Renaissance to its role in advanced sciences. In addition to detailing the history of the number’s usage in the mathematics systems of various cultures, the book attempts to tie the concept of zero to more fundamental philosophical struggles that have accompa...
Seife, a science writer, leads us down the rabbit hole we term 'zero'. The mathematical history of the number follows a convoluted path, early on a place-holder in counting systems or a much-feared void forbidden by belief on pain of death. Eventually the path leads to infinity which, like its twin zero, figures the limit of human experience. For Seife this means that nature - described in its native language of mathematics - breaks completely with possible human experience at zero and infinity....
One of the most fascinating books I've read. After reading the first two chapters, I knew I wanted to own it, and I will definitely be buying a copy. I never thought I'd say this about any book having to do with science or math, but this is one of those books that I could turn around and re-read immediately after finishing it. In fact, I might wait a couple days before returning it to the library just so I can read at least the first couple chapters again. As a side note, toward the end of The A...
You have to love a book that has a section giving instructions on how to build your own wormhole-time machine. All you need to do is build a wormhole and attach one end of it to something very heavy and attach the other end to something travelling at 90% of the speed of light. It gets easier from there, although you do have to wait forty six years and haul the thing to another planet. The author takes a seemingly simple topic, then tells us how incredibly complex it really is, and then simplifie...
The science geek in me absolutely loved this book. It was fascinating to see how the idea of zero could have such incredible effects on everything from religion to art to physics. I also thought the author did an excellent job of writing this in a way that is accessible to the non-scientific mind. Definitely glad I picked it up!
An intriguing topic but not a particularly well-told story. The author clearly believes that zero and infinity are somehow dangerous and mystical, and I guess there's some evidence that mathematical philosophers have felt the same way over time. But for the most part, the general vibe of this book was, "Ooh, zero, how *mysterious*," and I wasn't really into that.
A history of zero and its counterpart the infinite, two ideas that have been regarded as dangerous through the ages but which unlock the secrets to calculus and the universe. Most interesting is Pythagoras’ and Aristotle’s vehement rejections of the idea. The Catholic Church's insistence on Aristotelian thought held Western science and mathematics back for centuries.
Expected a lot only to get disappointed. Lacks coherence in some places. At times tends to get too textbook like. The small font is quite a strain too. An okayish read overall. 2.5 stars!
The first chapters about how the idea of zero came into being were quite interesting. A farmer or herdsman doesn't need a number for no carrots or no sheep. The Babylonians created it as a placeholder for their numerical system, as we use it today to distinguish 41 from 401. Contemplating zero leads eventually to its inverse, infinity. Most of the book deals with the uses of zero and infinity in physics, astronomy and other sciences and I didn't find that as interesting.
Comprehensive stores about the zero but I came to the end of the book, yearning for more, but I don’t know what’s incomplete about the book. Perhaps, I was looking for the resolution of the zero :-)
One of the few books I've reread multiple times (and I'm pondering another reread as I type this). Even if you hated math in school (maybe especially if you hated math in school), this is a DELIGHT. A thought-provoking, mind-bending history of the number zero in western mathematics, with detours into religion, politics, and even alchemy.If, when you finish reading The Death of Jane Lawrence, you want to know more about Zeno's Paradoxes, and just where I was getting all that weird calculus-adjace...
It is an interesting read, but probably not for everyone. I finished it in about four hours, though it does take a while to digest some of the information Seife throws out.Edit: I enjoyed this book before, but the review I gave seems lacking. So here's another shot at it.Zero is essentially an idea. It didn't come from the expert mathematicians in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, or Ancient Rome. Those mathematicians, skilled as they were, had a more practical bent, except for the Greeks, of cours...
0 + ( It's a book about math. And I read it. ) - ( It took me nine months. )= 0For three weeks after I finished Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, its central figure looked out ominously at me. In that way, Charles Seife was entirely successful in this piece of pop-nonfiction, weaving together the creation of the "zero", its role in history of mathematical theory, its religious controversies, its philosophical significance and ultimately, its true place at the heart of the universe. It's t...
Amazing book, especially when it gets to the topic of the significance of zero in mathematics and physics. The only improvement that would have made it better is if there were more known about the origin of zero, in particular the ancient Mayan and ancient Indian perspective on the number. Of course, we know that the information on the Mayan perspective was most likely burned by the Spaniards and as for the Indian perspective, perhaps it lies in an ancient scroll somewhere.
The book added a lot to my knowledge and answered the question of the history of zero, but the author exaggerated and magnified the issue far from zero the original subject.Nevertheless it's enjoyable, easy to read, and satisfying.
I will start with the good things about this book. I thought the style was engaging and it hit on a number of topics that interestingly relate to zero and infinity. It even taught me a bit about neutron stars and the possibility of quark stars. Using zero and infinity as concepts to explore mathematics and history is a good idea and I think works fairly well here; I just wish the author was more careful on history.The unfortunate negatives are that it often plays fast and loose with history and