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Robert Kaplan

The nothing that is

Although we use the number zero all of the time, and understand that it represents the concept of nothing, it has not always been that way. In this book Kaplan shows us how this idea came gradually, and sometimes met a lot of resistance. Starting with the Babylonians we see how it spread to Greece and to India, and how a placeholder notation eventually took root in western civilisation. The second half of the book moves away from history towards more literary and philosophical ideas of nothingness including mathematical questions such as the nature of infinitesimals.

Kaplan writes in a rather 'literary' style, which may be off-putting to those of you used to normal scientific writing. I found it rather irritating in the historical parts of the book, particularly that describing the development of mathematics in India. It was better for the description of Mayan mathematics, and the battle between Arabic and Roman numerals but I felt that the style was best suited to the later, philosophical part of the book. Overall, I would say that this is not really a book for those seeking specific information, but it is a interesting read, and introduces you to a wide variety of ideas.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 256 pages  
ISBN: 0140279431
Salesrank: 2476337
Published: 2000 Gardners Books
Marketplace:New from $52.63:Used from $1.43
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 256 pages  
ISBN: 0140279431
Salesrank: 621099
Weight:0.38 lbs
Published: 2000 Penguin
Marketplace:New from £57.79:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 240 pages  
ISBN: 0140279431
Salesrank: 1605278
Weight:0.38 lbs
Published: 2000 Penguin UK
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 75.12:Used from CDN$ 8.50
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Product Description
237 pages. Book appears to have hardly been read and is in Fine condition throughout and covered in a protective plastic. The only exception is a small inscription to the inside page.