Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
“This is one of the best-written popular science books to have come this way for quite a while.”
Nicholas Lezard, ‘The Guardian’
The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshipped it, and the Christian Church used it to fend off heretics. Today it’s a timebomb ticking in the heart of astrophysics. Within the concept of zero lies a philosophical and scientific history of Mankind.
Zero follows the number zero from its birth as an Eastern philosophical concept to its struggle for acceptance in Europe and its apotheosis as the mystery of a black hole. Here are the legendary thinkers who have battled over the meaking of this mysterious number – scholars and mystics, cosmologists and clergymen whose clashes over zero shook the very foundations of philosophy, science, mathematics and religion.
There was a time when zero did not exist, the concept of zero is a relatively recent Eastern concept and for centuries there was a struggle over its very existence. For many cultures zero represented the void and it could prove to undo the framework of logic. It was seen as an alien concept that could shatter the framework of Christianity and science.
Charles Seife’s elegant and witty account takes us from Aristotle to superstring theory by way of Pythagorus, Descartes, the Kabbalists, and Einstein by way of Newton and Stephen Hawking. It is a concise tour of a universe of ideas bound up in the simple notion of nothing.
“A witty but lucid account… A must for armchair logicians.”
“A breathless tour of the ‘dangerous idea’ of zero.”
“Seife is a gifted explicator of hard science.”
“Moves from Pythagoras to Hawking, accompanying his arguments with well laid-out graphs. A painless way to acquire complex knowledge.”