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John Barrow

The Book of nothing

There seem to be lots of books with 'Nothing' or 'Zero' in the title. So what distinguishes Barrow's work 'The book of Nothing'. Well I would say that it has more of a thread to it, dealing with the physics of nothing, that is the vacuum. Some of the ideas introduced might be challenging if this is the first time you have seen them, but Barrow does help to put into a historical context the development of ideas leading to modern theories of physics and cosmology, such as the inflationary universe.

The book starts by looking at the history of the concept of zero, but in particular looks at the question of the existence of the vacuum. Barrow then looks at how this was investigated experimentally, leading to the invention of the vacuum pump. However, people still thought there must be 'something' out there, and the concept of the luminiferous ether became popular. The work of Einstein did away with this, but soon there was another 'something' - the quantum vacuum. Barrow shows how all these ideas come together in modern cosmological theories. The final chapter looks at some of the deep questions of the beginning and possible end of the universe.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews