zeroZERO: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

by Charles Seife | 248 Pages | Genre: Mathematics/Science | Publisher: Penguin Books| Year: 2000 | My Rating: 10/10

“The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshipped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, the quest for the theory of everything. Used unwisely, Zero has the power to destroy logic.”

Charles Seife has presented the complexity of esoteric math and philosophy for popular readership without taking the beauty of numbers throughout his book, Zero. The books starts with the prehistory of numerals, before the number system was discovered. It was only with the advent of numerical notation and arithmetic that zero as a discrete concept became necessary, first as a simple place holder in the Babylonian number system, and later, with the Greeks, as an important astronomical tool even though they didn’t like zero at all.

It was India that first domesticated zero, through the Hindu familiarity with the concepts of infinity and the void. Rigveda states, ‘There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the skywhich is beyond. What stirred? Where?’ Zero is between the void and the absolute.

This elegant and enlightening book about the strangest number in the universe is my ‘Read of the Week’.

About Manu Mayank
I work as an International development professional. My interests include reading, writing, traveling, movies, music, cosmology, collecting stamps, matchboxes, and rocks, mentoring, coffee, and computer games, among many more.

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