Reviews elsewhere on the web:
American Mathemtical Society (pdf)
Pat Boran

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. info
Paperback 400 pages  
ISBN: 0099288451
Salesrank: 474006
Weight:0.97 lbs
Published: 2001 Vintage
Amazon price £7.48
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Product Description
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.