Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers
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Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the ancient world, scouring dusty, moldy texts, cross examining so-called scholars who offered wildly differing sets of facts and ultimately penetrating deep into a Cambodian jungle to find a definitive proof. Here, he takes the reader along for the ride. The history begins with the early Babylonian cuneiform num-bers, followed by the later Greek and Roman letter numerals. Then Aczel asks the key question: where do the numbers we use today, the so-called Hindu-Arabic numerals, come from? It is this search that leads him to explore uncharted territory, to go on a grand quest into India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and ultimately into the wilds of Cambodia. There he is blown away to find the earliest zero-the keystone of our entire sys-tem of numbers-on a crumbling, vine-covered wall of a sev-enth-century temple adorned with eaten-away erotic sculp-tures. While on this odyssey, Aczel meets a host of fascinat-ing characters: academics in search of truth, jungle trekkers looking for adventure, surprisingly honest politicians, shame-less smugglers and treacherous archaeological thieves-who finally reveal where our numbers come from.
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