Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Thoughts    Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife, Viking Penguin 2000, 248 pages.

Hardback; from the library. Nonfiction: Science genre.

FIRST Sentence: “Zero hit the USS Yorktown like a torpedo.”

I loved that this started with a story of how a computer program includes a zero where a zero should never be: in the denominator of a fraction; in a “CANNOT-HAPPEN” equation that attempts to divide something by zero. Program fails, engines seize, big boat stops. In this case, a billion-dollar missile cruiser stuck on the open seas.

The history was fascinating but a little over-bearing and repetitive that “zero was bad.” A few uninteresting tidbits that stopped the narrative for me and made me question why these tidbits were included. Sure, a fair share of complicated mathematical concepts that didn’t inspire me to think at all.

RECOMMENDED for math geeks and ‘odd subject’ historians; possibly for fans of the Big Bang Theory TV show.

FINAL Thought(s):  One of the more difficult to write reviews because I fail to find the words for why this didn’t captivate me as much as I had hoped.

RATING: Three slices of pie. Coconut pie because it seems you either love coconut or hate it. Infinity or zero.


OTHER Reviews:  Eva at A Striped Armchair mentions this in a lengthy post from 2009.


Copyright © 2007-2012. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

14 thoughts on “Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

  1. Did you not already know that Martin Luther was constipated? I feel like I never read anything about Martin Luther without whatever it is adding: BTW, Martin Luther had poop problems. He couldn’t poop. :p

    1. No! It was the first I had heard about it! It was presented like I was supposed to know it. I admit, I was annoyed.

      But, maybe if you knew it, I then have missed learning something vital in my education. Whodathunk.

  2. I like coconut. In moderation. Kind of like math. Actually, I like coconut way more than I like math.

    And the MLK info is news to me. News I most definitely didn’t need to know.

    1. Oh no, not MLK! but Martin Luther, the Reformation dude in the 16th century who challenged nailed the demands to the door of the church that got the Pope all riled. The Pope that probably had gout. The rich boys all had gout, didn’t they, back then? Anyway…

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