Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Nothing to It!": Review of The Book of Nothing, by John D. Barrow.Reviewed by John O'Connor. Nature, 12 April 2001, pages 748-749.

The reviewer notes that this is the third book about zero to come out in recentyears: the other two are Robert Kaplan's The Nothing that Is: A NaturalHistory of Zero, and Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, byCharles Seife. "The connection between zero and the nothingness at the heartof Barrow's book is made by way of that most slippery of concepts, the emptyset," the reviewer writes. The notion of the empty set is naturally linked tothe search by early scientists for a vacuum. The book shows how the idea ofnothingness emerges at the smallest and at the largest scales in physics.

--- Allyn Jackson