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Monday, January 10, 2022

Review: Zero

 Zero: A Biography of a Dangerous Idea is the rare non-fiction book about mathematics. It doesn't just cover the origin of the concept of zero, but also why zero was soundly rejected by the Western civilizations prior to the start of the renaissance, and why Aristotle's ideas were so dominant during the dark ages.

Once it gets past that early history, the book dives into stuff that you probably already know, such as zero, one, or infinity, complex numbers, quadratic equations, and of course, Zeno's paradox as well as the concepts behind calculus.  The focus on history also shows through in this context and was great, since the concept of taking limits is frequently poorly explained in high school textbooks, and someone like me could use a refresher once in a while.

Once the calculus is explained the book shifts gears again to talk about physics: from quantum mechanics to relativity's black  holes, the book does a good job of explaining how singularities happen and imply real world effects, but this is the part of the book that's probably about stuff you already know if you're a science aficionado.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. It provided a much needed refresher for certain topics while providing the history behind certain concepts that I never knew. Recommended.

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