Sep 01, 2000 | ISBN 9780140296471
“Mathematicians, contrary to popular misconception, are often the most lucid of writers (Bertrand Russell won a Nobel Prize not in mathematics but in literature), and Seife is a welcome example. He writes with an understated charm that takes account of human fear, the mistakes of geniuses and the mind’s grandest ambitions.”
—Atlanta Journal Constitution
“Zero emerges as a daunting intellectual riddle in this fascinating chronicle. With remarkable economy, Seife urges his readers to peer through the zero down into the abyss of absolute emptiness and out into the infinite expanse of space. . . . Deftly and surely, Seife recounts the historical debates, then swiftly rolls the zero right up to the present day, where he plunges through its perilous opening down into the voracious maw of a black hole, and then out into the deep freeze of an ever cooling cosmos. A must read for every armchair physicist.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“His narrative . . . shifts smoothly from history and philosophy to science and technology, and his prose displays a gift for making complex ideas clear.”
—The Dallas Morning News
“Seife keeps the tone as light as his subject matter is deep. By book’s end, no reader will dispute Seife’s claim that zero is among the most fertile—and therefore most dangerous—ideas that humanity has devised. . . . Seife’s prose provides readers who struggled through math and science courses a clear window for seeing both the powerful techniques of calculus and the conundrums of modern physics. . . . In doing so . . . this entertaining and enlightening book reveals one of the roots of humanity’s deepest uncertainties and greatest insights.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Even innumerates . . . can appreciate the intricate web of conceptual connections Seife illuminates.”
—Boston Globe
“The greater part of this book tells a fascinating human story with skill and wit . . . we come to appreciate the surprising depth and richness of ‘simple’ concepts such as zero and infinity—and their remarkable links to the religion and culture of earlier civilizations and to present-day science.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Seife . . . recounts his story as an accomplished science journalist, standing on the outside to bring clarity to complex ideas. . . . the crisp explanations are refreshing . . . straightforward and bright.”
—The New York Times
“Seife has a talent for making the most ball-busting of modern theories . . . seem fairly lucid and common sensical.”
—Salon
Chapter 0: Null and Void
Chapter 1: Nothing Doing: The Origin of Zero
Chapter 2: Nothing Comes of Nothing: The West Rejects Zero
Chapter 3: Nothing Ventured: Zero Goes East
Chapter 4: The Infinite God of Nothing: The Theology of Zero
Chapter 5: Infinite Zeroes and Infidel Mathematicians: Zero and the Scientific Revolution
Chapter 6: Infinity’s Twin: The Infinite Nature of Zero
Chapter 7: Absolute Zeroes: The Physics of Zero
Chapter 8: Zero Hour at Ground Zero: Zero at the Edge of Space and Time
Chapter Infinity: Zero’s Final Victory: End Time
Appendix A: Animal, Vegetable, or Minister?
Appendix B: The Golden Ratio
Appendix C: The Modern Definition of a Derivative
Appendix D: Cantor Enumerats the Rational Numbers
Appendix E: Make Your Own Wormhole Time Machine
Selected Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Index