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The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero (New)

by Kaplan, Robert

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Binding: Paperback

Book ID: 9780195142372, 0195142373

$14.99

Usually available in 3-5 days

Description

A symbol for what is not there, an emptiness that increases any number it's added to, an inexhaustible and indispensable paradox. As we enter the year 2000, zero is once again making its presence felt. Nothing itself, it makes possible a myriad of calculations. Indeed, without zero mathematics as we know it would not exist. And without mathematics our understanding of the universe would be vastly impoverished. But where did this nothing, this hollow circle, come from? Who created it? And what, exactly, does it mean?

Robert Kaplan's The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero begins as a mystery story, taking us back to Sumerian times, and then to Greece and India, piecing together the way the idea of a symbol for nothing evolved. Kaplan shows us just how handicapped our ancestors were in trying to figure large sums without the aid of the zero. (Try multiplying CLXIV by XXIV). Remarkably, even the Greeks, mathematically brilliant as they were, didn't have a zero--or did they? We follow the trail to the East where, a millennium or two ago, Indian mathematicians took another crucial step. By treating zero for the first time like any other number, instead of a unique symbol, they allowed huge new leaps forward in computation, and also in our understanding of how mathematics itself works. In the Middle Ages, this mathematical knowledge swept across western Europe via Arab traders. At first it was called "dangerous Saracen magic" and considered the Devil's work, but it wasn't long before merchants and bankers saw how handy this magic was, and used it to develop tools like double-entry bookkeeping. Zero quickly became an essential part of increasingly sophisticated equations, and with the invention of calculus, one could say it was a linchpin of the scientific revolution. And now even deeper layers of this thing that is nothing are coming to light: our computers speak only in zeros and ones, and modern mathematics shows that zero alone can be made to generate everything.

Robert Kaplan serves up all this history with immense zest and humor; his writing is full of anecdotes and asides, and quotations from Shakespeare to Wallace Stevens extend the book's context far beyond the scope of scientific specialists. For Kaplan, the history of zero is a lens for looking not only into the evolution of mathematics but into very nature of human thought. He points out how the history of mathematics is a process of recursive abstraction: how once a symbol is created to represent an idea, that symbol itself gives rise to new operations that in turn lead to new ideas. The beauty of mathematics is that even though we invent it, we seem to be discovering something that already exists.

The joy of that discovery shines from Kaplan's pages, as he ranges from Archimedes to Einstein, making fascinating connections between mathematical insights from every age and culture. A tour de force of science history, The Nothing That Is takes us through the hollow circle that leads to infinity.

The Accidental Shaman: Journeys with Plant Teachers and Other Spirit Allies The Accidental Shaman: Journeys with Plant Teachers and Other Spirit Allies
Charing, Howard G
Inner Traditions / Bear & Company

After surviving a serious elevator crash in London, Howard G. Charing found he had developed healing touch as well as the ability to hear voices and experience visions--just as a healer in Italy had predicted only a week before the accident. He began using his abilities to heal but felt he needed more guidance and training. He first connected with a national spiritual healing organization, only to be told he was doing everything wrong. Then, through a friend, he discovered shamanism.

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Gaiman, Neil
W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

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Clemens, Raymond
Yale University Press

Many call the fifteenth-century codex, commonly known as the Voynich Manuscript, the world s most mysterious book. Written in an unknown script by an unknown author, the manuscript has no clearer purpose now than when it was rediscovered in 1912 by rare books dealer Wilfrid Voynich. The manuscript appears and disappears throughout history, from the library of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to a secret sale of books in 1903 by the Society of Jesus in Rome. The book s language has eluded deciphe...
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LIBER SPIRITUUM: A Compendium of Writings on Angels and Other Spirits in Modern Magick LIBER SPIRITUUM: A Compendium of Writings on Angels and Other Spirits in Modern Magick
Forrest, Adam (ed)
Azoth Press

Book is limited to 500 hand numbered hardcover copies printed in two colors and bound in faux leather silk-touch cloth, 252 pages, Foil stamp on both the front and back boards with a full color frontispiece by acclaimed artist Caniglia and sewn in satin bookmark.

About the book:

For Liber Spirituum: A Compendium of Writings on Angels and Other Spirits in Modern Magick, Azoth Press has assembled a group of nine of the foremost writers in the field of ceremonial magick, representi...
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Price: $59.00

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Schulke, Daniel A. (ed)
Three Hands Press

Limited to 800 copies

The Arcanum of the 'fallen angel' Lucifer evokes such concepts as heresy, rebellion, pride, liberation from the bonds of demiurgic oppression, and impetus for human evolution. Meaning 'light bearer', Lucifer has, from his earliest origins, been hailed by religious and artistic countercultures as a patron saint of enlightenment -- the essential quality embodying overthrow of ignorance and the inspired process of revelation. Allied to ancient Gnostic cosmological concepti...
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