What conceptual blind spot kept the ancient Greeks (unlike the Indians and Maya) from developing a concept of zero? Why did St. Augustine equate nothingness with the Devil? What tortuous means did 17th-century scientists employ in their attempts to create a vacuum? And why do contemporary quantum physicists believe that the void is actually seething with subatomic activity? You’ll find the answers in this dizzyingly erudite and elegantly explained book by the English cosmologist John D. Barrow.
Ranging through mathematics, theology, philosophy, literature, particle physics, and cosmology, The Book of Nothing explores the enduring hold that vacuity has exercised on the human imagination. Combining high-wire speculation with a wealth of reference that takes in Freddy Mercury and Shakespeare alongside Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, the result is a fascinating excursion to the vanishing point of our knowledge.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: The Book of Nothing|
|Release Date: 05-20-2009|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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The Book of Nothing
Flying to Nowhere
'Nothing', it has been said, 'is an awe-inspiring yet essentially undigested concept, highly esteemed by writers of a mystical or existentialist tendency, but by most others regarded with anxiety, nausea, and panic.'Nobody seems to know how to handle it and perplexingly diverse conceptions of it exist in different subjects.Just take a look at the entry for 'nothing' in any good dictionary and you will find a host of perplexing synonyms: nil, none, nowt, nulliform, nullity — there is a nothing for every occasion. There are noughts of all sorts to zero-in on, from zero points to zero hours, ciphers to nulliverses.There are concepts that are vacuous, places that are evacuated, and voids of all shapes and sizes. On the more human side, there are nihilists, nihilianists, nihilarians, nihilagents, nothingarians, nullifideans, nullibists,nonentities and nobodies. Every walk of life seems to have its own personification of nothing. Even the financial pages of my newspaper tell me that 'zeros'are an increasingly attractive source of income.
Some zeros seem positively obscure, almost circumlocutory. Tennis can't bring itself to use so blunt a thing as the word 'nil' or 'nothing' or 'zero' to record no score. Instead, it retains the antique term 'love', which has reached us rather unromantically from l'oeuf, the French for an egg which represented the round 0 shape of the zero symbol.Likewise, we still find the use of the term 'love' meaning 'nothing' as when saying you are playing for love (rather than money), hence the distinction of being a true 'amateur', or the statement that one would not...