Tippy Jackson's Reviews > Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Zero by Charles Seife
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Dec 02, 10

bookshelves: history, mathematics, physics, technology
Read from May 30 to December 01, 2010

So, I'd say this book is actually a 4.5, but in my usual way, I round up. It's completely fascinating. It follows zero and its twin infinity from the past to the future, explaining all of the problems it has caused and the rejection it faced. Starting with geometry based math, zero was hardly necessary-after all, you can't have zero area of a triangle. Moving on, he brings up the beginning of zero as a placeholder and then as a threat to western way of life and yes, to some a threat to God and church. He discusses the history of our calender and why it is comparatively confusing. And then he gets to calculus and the discoveries involved in the idea of limits. This was one of my favorite things to learn about in mathematics and one of my favorite parts of the book as well. It allows you to briefly conquer infinity! And zero! But not really. At least you can work around it a bit. Of course this leads to the physics and astronomy realm and once again zero and infinity are there to destroy the universe as we know it.

The author uses many analogies and pictures to explain the concepts that come up in the book. (Almost too many- like when he explained the number line as a stretchy rubber band, with pictures.) Don't be frightened away from this book if you are unsure of the math or physics. It's pretty basic and well explained and ultimately, really interesting. So much is available to us because of zero.
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