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Zero: the Biography of a Dangerous Idea Hardcover – 24 Feb 2000


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Viking/Allen Lane (24 Feb. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067088457X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670884575
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.2 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This is one of the best-written popular science books to have come this way for quite a while... Seife has a neat turn of phrase, an easy yet respectful familiarity with his subject that helps the maths slip down easily. --Nicholas Lezard, 'The Guardian'

A witty but lucid account... A must for armchair logicians. --'BBC Focus'

A breathless tour of the dangerous idea of zero. --'New Scientist' --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Charles Seife has worked with such mathematicians as Andrew Wiles, the solver of Fermat s Last Theorem, and John Conway, inventor of the game of life . He is the American correspondent for New Scientist. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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The story of zero is an ancient one. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 July 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was absolutely wonderful, it delves into the history of mathematics, as far back as the creation of numbers themselves. It looks at the contribution that the Greeks, Babylonians and Hindus made to mathematics, and how religion had restricted the development of mathematics. The book was written very well, it felt like a story book, rather than a factual book. I recommend this book for everyone with an interest in Maths, you do not need to be a mathematician to enjoy this book.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By marthiemoo on 8 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
Being an undergraduate philosopher I've had to read a lot of maths books, and this is by far the best. It's true that you don't need much maths background to understand it, but it's also highly enjoyable for those with a lot of maths or physics knowledge - it links up and explains general assumptions in a way which seems never to occur to most teachers of sciences courses. The proof of 0=1 (and, extrapolating, that winston churchill = a carrot) is excellent and well worth committing to memory just to freak out any maths nerds one knows. Also worth a go is the step-by-step guide to making your own wormhole time machine (Step 1: Make a small wormhole, and attach one end to something really heavy). Really excellent, buy everyone you know a copy for christmas.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mikko Saari on 7 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
Babylonians invented it, Indians worshipped it, Greeks abhorred it. Zero has been a problematic number for a long time. European mathematicians followed Greek footsteps, until they finally realized how important thing zero was for advanced mathematics.

Seife presents us the history of zero and its sister concept infinity, not only in mathematics, but also in physics and quantum mechanics. Zero is an entertaining book, if a bit light. For quick popular science entertainment purposes it's a good choice. (Review based on the Finnish translation.)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Duducu on 18 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
It has been awhile since anyone has reviewed this book so I thought I should show that even though it was published a few years ago it is still a very well written and breathless study of a number.

One of the many things you take from this book is 0, although a real number, is still treated as "other" or different. Just look at the numbers on your key pad...go on. The numbers go from 1 to 0, 0 does not come after 9, 10 does so the marginalisation of 0 is still there (the same goes for a phone key pad and the buttons on a calculator).

The book is similar to Fermat's last theorem in that it takes a mathematical idea and uses it to guide the layman through the history of mathematics which means it also talks through bits of philosophy and physics too. It is full of dazzling stories and much of the mathematics is accessible to all (although Riemann and his transparent ball of numbers on a complex plane lost me).

The best thing I can say about the book is every time I now see the digit 0 it puts a little smile on my face as I know about all the trouble that little oval has caused.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Sept. 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent history of number Zero. Charles Seife takes you from the start, tracing the ideas of zero and inifity through time and how their concepts have been feared and embraced, how they've affected and forced evolution upon religious, philosophical, societal, and scientific ideas. I think this book should be part of any mathematics course. Highly recommend this book!
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Format: Paperback
I was given this as a gift and showed it to my Romanian father in law - who pulled out of his brief case the exact same book in Romanian. If he has anything in his brief case, it is always a great recommendation.

He was so enthusiastic about this book. I started to read it and was completely blown away by it all as it is full of facts, which are written in a really exciting way. It certainly made my 1 hour long underground tube rides fly by! I also liked it as I am a primary school teacher, and so my class was fascinated to learn the Romans and the Egyptians had no zero.

Some of if was a little above the head of a primary school teacher, it was one of those things were you read it, and understood it immediately (a sign of a great science writer) - then I forgot it equally fast (a primary teacher brain!) - but I would recommend anyone with the slightest interest in Maths to read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. F. Cayley on 25 July 2010
Format: Paperback
A fascinating account of the evolution of the understanding of zero - and, in recent centuries, its relationship to infinity. The book explains some deep ideas of maths and physics in a way comprehensible to someone with only very elementary knowledge of maths. A rewarding read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent. Better than I expected

It is easy enough to read for the layman, yet manages to explain concepts very clearly.

Its full of historical references and it cleared some puzzles and illuminated areas of thought I did not even know were related to zero

Recommended to and suitable for practically everyone
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