Comments and Thoughts on The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero

The Nothing That Is A Natural History of Zero
by Robert Kaplan.

Beautifully written, Robert Kaplan not just catches your attention; no, that's too easy for him. He grabs you and drags you into the book, the stories are palpable and if you pay close attention you might actually feel the smells and ambiance of the stories told. Despite the seemingly dull topic, [pq]Robert has done a terrific job at making your only goal be that of turning to the next page.[/pq]

The Nothing That Is is engaging and thought-provoking. It's mind twisting. In an early chapter, after a short paragraph explaining that numbers are really representations of connections between connections, and they tend to be ghostly, even ephemeral.

...if you say there are seven apples in a bowl, exactly what does that 'seven' belong to? Not to any one of the apples taken singly (not even the last you counted, since you could have arranged them differently), nor to the bowl that contains them, but --to there being just seven of them. Many a fine head has broken on this problem.

Then He goes on to say this about Zero.

names belong to things, but zero belongs to nothing. It counts the totality of what isn't there.

Have you ever heard anyone speak of Zero in such compelling voice? I haven't, but I want to make Zero my friend after reading this book. I want to go places with it, or is it him or her? I want to have lunch together. I am infatuated with it.

The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of ZeroEver since I read this book, I think about zero everyday. I know, it sounds crazy but this is what the book makes you do. That is if you like this kind of stuff. I know I'm a math geek, you may not be. But if you like good story telling and a bit of history then you might like this. I'm one of the few people I know that actually loves geometry and mathematical rules and theorems. They're clear, concise, precise and involve no emotions. To be cliche, math is the universal language and this book gives you a glimpse into one of the numbers we use everyday; perhaps the most important number.

If you want to enjoy this book, you can find it for Kindle right here, or the traditional paperback format which is how I read it.


  1. Interesting… I would claim that the 7 doesn’t belong to anything either. There are 7 apples or 0 apples. Merely a description that belongs to nothing but it’s subject in language. Names don’t belong to things, they’re human attempts to define and create order in the world.

    I’d be interested in the rest of the book. Seems like it was pretty impactful.

    • Definitely a good book William. I’d recommend it to anyone that likes to know how we got to where we are today. I didn’t think it would be as good as it turned out.

  2. I find the historic and cultural impact of 0 quite interesting.

  3. […] Comments and Thoughts on The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero – Oscar González. Share […]

  4. Wow! Your post alone made me wanna read the book. Sounds interesting! You wanna have lunch with zero haha.

  5. Any book that makes one want to have lunch with something that is nothing has to be a must read! Thanks for sharing, I’m always in the mood for a good book, and I am a bit of a geek when it comes to the historical aspect of any story or subject. ; )

  6. Janet Stephenson (@JanetLouise8)
    Janet Stephenson (@JanetLouise8)

    Nice compelling post, Oscar! Now my brain is contemplating all sorts of things – like the math of the universe and the void. And zero. And how what isn’t there is still taking up space somewhere, if only in our thoughts. Hmmmmm.

    • Definitely, Janet. It makes you wonder about everything! from the blades of grass at the park, to the vastness of the universe. Everything revolves around the concept of zero… and we hardly ever think about it. This book will change that.

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