ZERO: the Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Some of you know I have been reading this book ( Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Ideaby Charles Seife) in the past month and I finished it just before the October holiday. So, I decided that it is just right to talk about it, especially because I loved it.

First of all, I think this is the first book I have read which talks about the history of just one number. To be fair, I thought it would be interesting from the description on the back – some books have great gripping descriptions on the back and this is one of them. I will copy a short paragraph from there:

The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshiped it, and the Christian Church used it to fend off heretics. Today it’s a time-bomb ticking in the heart of astrophysics.

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You can imagine I was quite impressed by this and really wanted to see what exactly it meant by all of that. I was not disappointed. It was one of the best maths related books I have read in a long time. It is gripping, interesting and shocking. It starts easily with a little bit of history of the number system we use now and how zero was not considered a number for a long time by many civilizations. I never thought that religion had such a big influence over mathematics over time and I was fascinated by this. Then the book gets to physics, chemistry and astrophysics, blending everything beautifully. I did not know how much this number has been shaking concepts from philosophy, religion, science and mathematics.

I totally recommend this book to absolutely everyone. You do need to know some basic concepts from higher mathematics (such as calculus) and things from physics (such as Einstein’s theory), but you will not regret it. I have to say it opened my eyes and I want to read even more about this. To finish this post, I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes from the book:

Cultures girded themselves against zero, and philosophies crumbled under its influence, for zero is different from the other numbers. It provides a glimpse of the ineffable and the infinite. This is why it has been feared and hated – and outlawed.

nmj

Hope you enjoyed this small, not that scientific and probably rambled post. If you want to talk more about books you can find me on Goodreads at Lthmath.  Let me know if you read the book and what are your thoughts about it. Thank you for your help and support. You can find me on Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  Twitter and Instagram, I will try to post there as often as possible.

Don’t forget that maths is everywhere! Enjoy!

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