Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife
Summary: The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshipped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. For centuries, the power of zero savored of the demonic; once harnessed, it became the most important tool in mathematics. Zero follows this number from its birth as an Eastern philosophical concept to its struggle for acceptance in Europe and its apotheosis as the mystery of the black hole. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, the quest for the theory of everything. Elegant, witty, and enlightening,Zero is a compelling look at the strangest number in the universeૼand one of the greatest paradoxes of human thought.
Review: An interesting history of zero that stretches the importance of zero too far by mixing it in with the idea of the void.
What does make zero so dangerous? This book does a good job of going over the history of the zero and how mathematics were before and after zero. I did not realize how much difference having a zero actually made nor the mathematical problems that could occur with zero. Zero really is an incredible concept and I don’t really believe that anyone fully understands zero and how it functions. I also really enjoyed learning about the different mathematical systems of various people. Our minutes and hours are derived from the Babylonians who had a base sixty number system.
What did hurt this book was the connection of zero to a philosophical void or nothingness. I know that zero represents a void or nothingness, but the voids and nothingnesses that were addressed in this book were not simple zeros. They were connected to philosophical and religious questions and discussions that could confirm someone’s belief or break it down. Regardless, I did enjoy learning about how different philosophers and theologians along with societies and religions viewed the void and nothingness and how that changed over the centuries.
Recommendation: I would recommend this to anyone interested in the history of mathematics.