The Nothing That is: A Natural History of Zero

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9780140279436: The Nothing That is: A Natural History of Zero

In this text, Robert Kaplan explores the peculiar course that the notion of "nothing" or its mathematical representative, zero, has taken throughout history. Forced into our awareness 4000 years ago by the need to count ever larger multitudes, zero drifted in and out of focus, disappeared for centuries, then swept from the East into the medieval world, with fears and superstitions crouched around it. Did we discover or invent it? Was it the devil's work? Is it a number or a fiction? Its users came to see that it held immense power to unriddle the universe, leading to profound insights into the mind and the world. And now new layers are coming to light: our computers speak only in zeros and ones, and, for a cosmologist, zero alone can be made to generate everything.

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Product Description:

237 pages. Book appears to have hardly been read and is in Fine condition throughout and covered in a protective plastic. The only exception is a small inscription to the inside page.

Review:

On the face of it, the chances of a book about zero offering mind-stretching entertainment would seem to be about, well, zero. But in The Nothing That Is, Harvard University mathematician Robert Kaplan shows that there's a lot more to zero than meets the eye.

Unlike the so-called natural numbers like one, two, three and so on, the origins of zero are incredibly hard to pin down. Humans seem to have done quite well without nothing for tens of thousands of years: not even the Greeks, the master mathematicians of the Ancient World, had a symbol for zero. Or did they? Among the many delights of this book is the way Kaplan reveals the twists and turns in the story of the origin of the symbol for zero and his own suggested resolution of the mystery.

The struggle to do things with zero, such as divide it into other numbers, or use it as the ultimate fine-divider of other numbers--the key idea in the calculus--are brought alive by Kaplan, though without ever resorting to more than simple school algebra. His writing style does sometimes stray beyond the literary and into the florid but overall this compact little essay of history, mystery and maths should give you entertainment and mental stimulation in equal measure. --Robert Matthews

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Kaplan, Robert
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (2000)
ISBN 10: 0140279431 ISBN 13: 9780140279436
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Kaplan, Robert
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (2000)
ISBN 10: 0140279431 ISBN 13: 9780140279436
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Irish Booksellers
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