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The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  462 ratings  ·  20 reviews
What conceptual blind spot kept the ancient Greeks (unlike the Indians and Maya) from developing a concept of zero? Why did St. Augustine equate nothingness with the Devil? What tortuous means did 17th-century scientists employ in their attempts to create a vacuum? And why do contemporary quantum physicists believe that the void is actually seething with subatomic activity ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Vintage (first published 2000)
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Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. HofstadterFermat's Enigma by Simon SinghFlatland by Edwin A. AbbottThe Code Book by Simon SinghZero by Charles Seife
Best Books About Mathematics
89th out of 200 books — 311 voters
Freakonomics by Steven D. LevittGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared DiamondOutliers by Malcolm GladwellThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganThe Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
Best Pop Science Books
71st out of 84 books — 99 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,502)
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Nathan
Sep 18, 2007 Nathan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stop it, you're killing me.
Quantum physics, if it is real, requires that there be no such thing as nothing. Ergo, nothing is real. And maybe, even, everything is nothing. And John D. Barrow gets 3 stars instead of 4 for assuming I already had six Ph.D's by the time I decided to read this book. (Did anybody read Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits? Yeah. Exactly.) And despite the fact that I didn't understand the majority of what he was saying (though I did feel a wisp of air over my head at time ...more
Elliot
This book is 300 pages about nothing. Nothing is more important than nothing, it turns out!

Though I enjoyed this book, I hesitate to recommend it to anyone without a moderate background in theoretical physics or cosmology, because, though Barrow does an admirable job explaining various unified field theories and tough concepts like the cosmological constant (lambda) and zero-point energy, the inherent difficulty of this material makes it very hard to understand, even with a good teacher. I've ta
...more
Matthew
Zero is one of the simplest mathematical concepts in the world to us today: it just represents nothing, null, emptiness. So what prevented ancient Greek mathematicians from coming up with zero and Europe from accepting the idea of zero for so long? And how did the ancients think of the vacuum - purely empty space? In John D. Barrow's science book, the Book of Nothing, he delves into these questions and explores the history of zero in ancient civilizations, explains its effects in societies, and ...more
Dennis Littrell
Barrow, John D. Book of Nothing, The: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe (2000)
How nothing became something

"Nothing is Real." --The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever"

As quoted by Professor Barrow on page 8, this is a pun on what the Beatles had in mind, and is in essence what this book is all about. Nothing is real in the sense that it is no longer the nothing that it once was. It is actually "something." On the next page, to further illustrate the point, Ba
...more
Matthew Heil
Interesting book. Good writing. The author has a workable grasp of ancient history which allows him to set a broader and more informative basis for his topic than is usually done by most scientists writing books for popular consumption. As usual however, this author is on strongest ground when speaking about science, not religion or philosophy. It is unfortunately part of the maddening hubris of scientists ( of which I am one) that while they would be horrified at the prospect of a self- taught ...more
Greg Talbot
It took an understanding of quantium physics to truly understand the bodies of the universe and the forces that connect everything. So it is that understanding "zero" or a 0 placeholder is a way to understand and expand on math's rich language.

One subject matter I became very interested in was about vaccuums, and just how religious and scientific understandings of them shaped our culture and languaage.

Solid work, accessible and wildly entertaining
Aaron Vivar
Oh my god, this book was so weird. It in fact is a book about nothing! In every few sentences the author mentioned "nothing" as if it were a human being that I ended up getting confused. John D. Barrow talked about his whole theory that nothing is actually something, but since nobody can see it or prove it it's considered nothing. That's basically said with three hundred eighty-something pages, scientific vocabulary, mayan theory, math, philosophy, physics (which confused the hell out of me), an ...more
Voss
NOn sapevo esistessero così tanti nulla.
Bello interessante appassionante.
Ci sono punti che ho avuto difficoltà a comprendere, ma scorre bene si legge volentieri.
Sean
I found nothing of interest in this book. Nothing was explained, and by the end, I had learned about nothing.

On the down side, the second half of the book was more an overview of our understanding of the universe, it was too wordy, went on too long, and covered a lot of very familiar territory.
Claudia Piña
Hay muchas ideas interesantes en este libro sobre lo que significa el vacío y la nada. Particularmente me gustó la parte que analiza cómo conceptualizaban el creo en diversas culturas antiguas y que implicaciones tiene para su forma de pensar.

Sin embargo, aunque el libro explica simple y claramente varios conceptos complicados, no tiene mucho carisma y en general se siente plano. Hay varios puntos donde el autor no es nada sutil al expresar ciertas ideas personales que no vienen al caso y la le
...more
Andrew
Maybe I'm an eternal teenager because I kept saying:

Nothing, Lebowski! Nothing!

While reading this generally quite excellent popular science book. I don't read many book-length treatments of science, and this made me wonder why. Barrow easily explains why nothing and zero are different, and why the problem of nothing is so vexing when it comes to the physical universe. He doesn't present too many of his own ideas, but I suppose that's the point of popular science.
Oceana2602
The Book of Nothing, is, you guessed it, about...nothing.

In a (quasi-)scientific way.

As a fervid fan of Ende's Neverending Story, I used to obsess about nothing when I was a kid. So I couldn't resist buying (and reading) this book.

Interesting and enjoyable (though not as much as my childish obsessions), if you are interested in nothing. ;-) (just be glad I didn't make more nothing-jokes. It was hard to resist nothing.)

Ankit
well...some books are rather to say fact book and i am amazed reading this new book from John.D.Barrrow. the author takes us through a journey of old facts that we feel amazed to know of some real cool data's and their existence and all linked to one particular entity "Nothingness".

Its a story with really no fiction added to it
Leif
There's a richness here, if you can sift through the sometimes credulous etymological work and the later, more dense scientific explorations (those would be the "latest ideas" hinted at by the subtitle). A good volume to begin research with, but perhaps not the final word on its incredibly rich & diverse topic.
Desiree
I accidently stumbled upon this book at library & thought it was just meant to be & i had to read it. I had to return to library before i finished it. Hard read for me but definitely interesting.
j_ay
Interesting, but gives too much credence and importance to religion, unnecessarily capitalises "god" and uses ludicrous monikers such a "BC" and "AD"...
Komal Parmar
Read just a few pages and have presently fallen in love with the presentation. Looking forward to own a copy.
Gary
Everything about nothing.
Joe
Good, accessible, and quick
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John D. Barrow is a professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He lives in Cambridge, UK.
More about John D. Barrow...
The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless The Constants of Nature: The Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know PI in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being

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“Turing attended Wittgenstein's lectures on the philosophy of mathematics in Cambridge in 1939 and disagreed strongly with a line of argument that Wittgenstein was pursuing which wanted to allow contradictions to exist in mathematical systems. Wittgenstein argues that he can see why people don't like contradictions outside of mathematics but cannot see what harm they do inside mathematics. Turing is exasperated and points out that such contradictions inside mathematics will lead to disasters outside mathematics: bridges will fall down. Only if there are no applications will the consequences of contradictions be innocuous. Turing eventually gave up attending these lectures. His despair is understandable. The inclusion of just one contradiction (like 0 = 1) in an axiomatic system allows any statement about the objects in the system to be proved true (and also proved false). When Bertrand Russel pointed this out in a lecture he was once challenged by a heckler demanding that he show how the questioner could be proved to be the Pope if 2 + 2 = 5. Russel replied immediately that 'if twice 2 is 5, then 4 is 5, subtract 3; then 1 = 2. But you and the Pope are 2; therefore you and the Pope are 1'! A contradictory statement is the ultimate Trojan horse.” 5 likes
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