The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas About the Origins of the Universe

Barrow, John D.

Published by Pantheon, 2001
ISBN 10: 0375420991 / ISBN 13: 9780375420993
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Synopsis: From one of our foremost mathematicians and cosmologists comes this fascinating exploration of the surprisingly substantial and varied nature of nothing.

With unassailable expertise and a proven ability to make complex theories and ideas clearly accessible, John Barrow examines and explains every aspect of nothingness. From the zeros of mathematicians to the void of philosophers, from Shakespeare to the null set, from the ether to the quantum vacuum, this book illustrates the fact that nothing is real.

Barrow begins with the origins of zero in ancient India, its rocky reception in Europe, and the early abhorrence and eventual acceptance of the concept of the void by Christianity. He traces the notion through the work of writers and thinkers from the ancient Greeks to our own time. He looks at mathematics, cosmology, theology, and physics to uncover the nothing that is at the heart of most things. Finally, he discusses recent concepts of nothing, which are having profound effects on our search for the origins and overall structure of the universe.

lluminating the many ways in which humankind has come to understand “nothing,” The Book of Nothing brilliantly belies its title.

Review: From our modern perspective, it is easy to deride the wranglings of medieval scholars over the number of angels that could dance of the head of a pin and whether Nature abhors a vacuum. But as John Barrow reveals in this timely and important book, new discoveries in science have shown that these scholars were right to suspect that Nothing has hidden depths.

It is a concept shot through with paradoxes: even innocent-looking phrases like "Nothing is real" flip their meanings as we ponder them, like those illusions that look like a vase one moment, and opposing faces the next. Nothing is fertile, too, as Barrow shows via a stunning trick that allows every number one can think of to be built out of nothing at all.

But his book is about far more than mind games. Arguably, the most important discovery of 20th-century physics is that there is no such thing as nothing: even the tightest vacuum is teeming with subatomic particles popping in and out of existence, according to the dictates of quantum theory. Now, many astronomers suspect that such "vacuum effects" may have triggered the Big Bang itself, filling our universe with matter. Indeed, the very latest observations suggest that vacuum effects will dictate the ultimate fate of the universe.

As an internationally respected cosmologist, Barrow does a fine job of explaining these new discoveries. The result is a book that is required reading for anyone who wants to understand why there will be much ado about Nothing among scientists in the years ahead. --Robert Matthews, Amazon.co.uk

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Title: The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the...
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good

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