The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshiped 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. Zero follows the 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.
Elegant, witty, and utterly fascinating, Zero takes us from Aristotle to superstring theory by way of Pythagoras, Descartes, the Kabbalists, and Einstein. It is a compelling look at the strangest number in the universe -- and one of the greatest paradoxes of human thought.
"Mathematicians, contrary to popular misconception, are often the most lucid of writers (Bertrand Russell won a Nobel Prize not in mathematics but in literature), and Seife is a welcome example. He writes with an understated charm that takes account of human fear, the mistakes of geniuses and the mind's grandest ambitions."
--Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Zero emerges as a daunting intellectual riddle in this fascinating chronicle. With remarkable economy, Seife urges his readers to peer through the zero down into the abyss of absolute emptiness and out into the infinite expanse of space. . . . Deftly and surely, Seife recounts the historical debates, then swiftly rolls the zero right up to the present day, where he plunges through its perilous opening down into the voracious maw of a black hole, and then out into the deep freeze of an ever cooling cosmos. A must read for every armchair physicist."
--Booklist (starred review) "His narrative . . . shifts smoothly from history and philosophy to science and technology, and his prose displays a gift for making complex ideas clear."
--The Dallas Morning News
"Seife keeps the tone as light as his subject matter is deep. By book's end, no reader will dispute Seife's claim that zero is among the most fertile--and therefore most dangerous--ideas that humanity has devised. . . . Seife's prose provides readers who struggled through math and science courses a clear window for seeing both the powerful techniques of calculus and the conundrums of modern physics. . . . In doing so . . . this entertaining and enlightening book reveals one of the roots of humanity's deepest uncertainties and greatest insights."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Even innumerates . . . can appreciate the intricate web of conceptual connections Seife illuminates."
"The greater part of this book tells a fascinating human story with skill and wit . . . we come to appreciate the surprising depth and richness of 'simple' concepts such as zero and infinity--and their remarkable links to the religion and culture of earlier civilizations and to present-day science."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Seife . . . recounts his story as an accomplished science journalist, standing on the outside to bring clarity to complex ideas. . . . the crisp explanations are refreshing . . . straightforward and bright."
--The New York Times
"Seife has a talent for making the most ball-busting of modern theories . . . seem fairly lucid and common sensical."