Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Quest to Uncover the Origins by Amir D. Aczel

By Amir D. Aczel blurb:

The invention of numerals might be the best abstraction the human brain has ever created. almost every little thing in our lives is electronic, numerical, or quantified. the tale of the way and the place we obtained those numerals, which we so depend upon, has for hundreds of thousands of years been shrouded in secret. discovering 0 is an experience crammed saga of Amir Aczel's lifelong obsession: to discover the unique assets of our numerals. Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the traditional global, scouring dusty, moldy texts, move studying so-called students who provided wildly differing units of evidence, and finally penetrating deep right into a Cambodian jungle to discover a definitive evidence. the following, he is taking the reader alongside for the ride.

The historical past starts with the early Babylonian cuneiform numbers, by means of the later Greek and Roman letter numerals. Then Aczel asks the foremost query: the place do the numbers we use at the present time, the so-called Hindu-Arabic numerals, come from? it truly is this seek that leads him to discover uncharted territory, to head on a grand quest into India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and finally into the wilds of Cambodia. There he's blown away to discover the earliest zero--the keystone of our complete procedure of numbers--on a crumbling, vine-covered wall of a seventh-century temple embellished with eaten-away erotic sculptures. whereas in this odyssey, Aczel meets a bunch of interesting characters: lecturers looking for fact, jungle trekkers trying to find event, strangely sincere politicians, shameless smugglers, and treacherous archaeological thieves--who ultimately show the place our numbers come from.

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Extra resources for Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Quest to Uncover the Origins of Numbers

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In a business-as-usual spirit, sociologists, biologists, and journalists warn against social Darwinism in public life-whether in sociobiology or, more popularly, in Reaganomics. This renaissance, rather than cause for despair, in fact provides final evidence, not only of the vitality of this cultural symbol, but also of the distortions that result. In debates over sociobiology, charges of social Darwinism have been predictably prominent. Responding to E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology (1975) in a blistering letter to the New York Review of Books, a group of Boston doctors, professors, and school teachers served up some vintage Hofstadter, complete with quotations from John D.

For Darwin's generation this conclusion could be avoided-although with difficulty. Equivocations in Darwin's own work concerning natural selection, struggle for existence, and survival of the fittest-based in part on honest ignorance concerning the effects of environment and heredity-made it possible for others to reinterpret the Origin of Species within the framework of the mechanistic causation just then being confirmed by developments in geology, thermodynamics, and biology. Nonetheless, Darwin, A.

Charles Darwin, Autobiography, ed. ; New York, 1961), p. 62. " Although Darwin ridiculed the charge, it would not go away. " In his Dialectics of Nature (ca. 1873-1883) Engels reproduced the charge almost exactly: "The whole Darwinian theory of the struggle for life is simply the transformation from The &-wntif'IC &rekground : 15 society to organic nature of Hobbes' theory ... " From a quite different quarter, a variation of the same assertion came later in the century. "l As the debate over social Darwinism developed, however, most early observers tended to exonerate Darwin himself.

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