Zero: Charles Seife

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

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Biography, history, science, math, literature, philosophy, art history, music history, theology, astronomy, and geography; Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea literally provides a smorgasbord of ideas, concepts, principles, and theorems related to these topics and more. No wonder it received the 2001 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction and remains a best seller on Amazon.

Beginning Chapter 0 with an account of how the ineffable, infinite number zero can blamelessly yet unequivocally impact modern technology, Seife promptly convinces the reader of the importance and power of this number unlike any other. It is clear from the start that Seife intended his paradoxical portrait of zero to be as surprisingly edgy as his title suggests: the number has historically been hated, feared, and outlawed precisely because it is dangerous. Subsequent chapters offer substantial proof of the number’s significance and influence as Seife thoroughly explains the concept, origin, and attributes of zero before accelerating  swiftly through numerous stories of how it came to be accepted, adopted, and applied throughout all the world.

Handsomely clean and detailed drawings by Matt Zimet help Seife convey the idea that zero has consistently collided with civilization as much as it has cooperated with her in bringing about societal, mathematical, and scientific revolutions. Profound quotes from some of humanity’s most gifted intellectual philosophers, scientists, and authors, and hundreds of brief, well-written observations and perfectly-presented facts provide a seamless chronicle of zero’s impressive past, present, and future relevance.

Readers interested in any of the wide variety of topics previously-mentioned will find this book as comprehensible as it is educational and entertaining.


About Charles Seife:

New York University Department of Journalism professor Charles Seife has written about physics, astronomy, computer science, and mathematics for television documentaries and many publications, including Science, a London-based international weekly science magazine, and Scientific American, The Economist, Wired UK, The Sciences, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and numerous other publications. He has a master’s degree in mathematics from Yale.

Seife earned an A.B. in mathematics degree from Princeton University (1993), an M.S. in mathematics from Yale University, and a M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. He and his wife, Meridith, have two children, Eliza and Daniel.

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, Seife’s first book, was awarded the 2001 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.  Another well-known book from Seife is Proofiness: How You’re Being Fooled By the Numbers. His other four books are: Alpha & Omega: The Search for the Beginning and End of the Universe (Penguin Putnam, 2003), Decoding the Universe (Penguin, 2007), Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking (Viking, 2008), which won the 2009 Davis Prize from the History of Science Society, and Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It’s True? (Penguin Putnam, 2014).

Seife, Charles. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. Viking Adult; Book Club Edition, 2000.

About the author

Shelley Allen is a writer, editor, poet, and mother of four. She is the author of Master Fibonacci: The Man Who Changed Math. Allen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Southern Methodist University. A former teacher and bookstore owner, Allen is a bibliophile with broad literary interests. She works professionally as a freelance writer from her home in Dallas, Texas. Her website is

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Paperback: 128 pages
Author: Shelley Allen, M.A.Ed.
Publisher: Fibonacci Inc.; 1st edition (2019)
Language: English