Recollection Wednesday: Zero

329336This week I am getting into the micro-history of science.  Today I look back at Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea.

I read this book about 7 years ago when I started the Book Lust challenge.  I was still working at Fitchburg State and found myself spending time with more scientists and mathematicians.

I am not a math and science person. Yes, my father is, but I am not.  I am not sure if it is as simple as how my brain works.  I believe there is a problem in the schools regarding girls learning math and science.  I have some passions within both fields.  I loved marine biology, but I hated geometry.  Oh, and then there is my personality type which is instinctual.  Proofs are the bane of my existence.  I had a terrible geometry teacher as well.  The sum of my experience with math and science did not give me warm and fuzzy feelings about the various math and science fields.

There was too much practicality to learning them.  You had to do math and science.  You couldn’t just learn the history of it.  Maybe I would have like geometry more if I was shows the wonder of it in the world rather than the formulas to measure triangles.  I believe this now because I read this book.  I like history and I understand things better through the lens of history.  I may have wanted to learn the formulas if I understood the history better.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that the way I did learn about math and science did not work for me.  I am glad I have taken time to read these micro histories of math concepts because they have given me a whole new appreciation for the language of the universe.

I like suggesting this book to people who like micro-histories, but struggle with math.  Zero especially looks a both the deep history of mathematics in the Middle East as well as the more current history like chaos theory and Benoit Mandelbrot’s sets.  Seife talks about the real world applications through time.  How has the mere concept of nothing changed our world?  It is well worth your time.

Any suggestions for math and science micro histories?


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