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Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea (2000) [audiobook]

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The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshiped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. Now it threatens the foundations of modern physics. For centuries the power of zero savored of the demonic; once harnessed, it became the most important tool in mathematics. For zero, infinity's twin, is not like other numbers. It is both nothing and everything.

In Zero, Science Journalist Charles Seife follows this innocent-looking number from its birth as an Eastern philosophical concept to its struggle for acceptance in Europe, its rise and transcendence in the West, and its ever-present threat to modern physics. Here are the legendary thinkers—from Pythagoras to Newton to Heisenberg, from the Kabalists to today's astrophysicists—who have tried to understand it and whose clashes shook the foundations of philosophy, science, mathematics, and religion. Zero has pitted East against West and faith against reason, and its intransigence persists in the dark core of a black hole and the brilliant flash of the Big Bang. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time: the quest for a theory of everything.


1. I see some math-sticklers really hate this book. If you want a math book that is full of equations or a text book, this is NOT for you
2. If you want a light-hearted and fun introduction to how math developed with cultures and customs, this book is fantastic--at least through chapter six. (It takes a turn afterwards and moves toward the number 3 point below.)
3. Remember the title of this book--that should indicate that the author is taking a concept (a simple mathematical one) and stretching the interpretation so that this concept becomes something more meaningful and awesome.

To accomplish number 3, the author takes liberties in analyzing and interpreting past events to create the "dangerous idea" through chapter 6. These are then synthesized into the final cosmological nature of this philosophically "dangerous idea" in the remaining chapters.

The final product was educational, fun, and thought-provoking.

Nice review, many thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Naughtiness originates from the root "naught" --> nothing