Much ado for or against zero within safety. Reading this book shows that zero divided the world much earlier and has created far more controversy than just that little debate in one profession. Seife, a mathematician, takes us back to ancient times of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greek, Romans and Hindu and how they adopted or rejected zero and then moves toward modern days, discussing philosophers and scientists as Aristotle, Pythagoras, Descartes, Newton, Einstein and Hawking. A fascinating read. Not super informative regarding the pro/contra debate in safety, but great to have as a general knowledge base.

And here’s one quote that I really find interesting, and which is actually somewhat applicable for the safety debate. From the sub-chapter Life Without Zero, Alfred North Whitehead quoted on page 6:

“The point about zero is that we do not need to use it in the operations of daily life. No one goes out to buy zero fish. It is in a way the most civilized of all the cardinals, and its use is only forced on us by the needs of cultivated modes of thought.”

And, two pages on, discussing early number systems,

“…none of these systems had a name for zero. The concept simply did not exist. You never need to keep track of zero sheep or tally your zero children. Instead of ‘We have zero bananas’, the grocer says, ‘We have no bananas.’ You don’t have to have a number to express the lack of something, and it didn’t occur to anybody to assign a symbol to the absence of objects. This is why people got along without zero for so long. It simply wasn’t needed. Zero just never came up.”


Seife, C. (2000) Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. London: Souvenir Press.