Nothing

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New Scientist
, ed. by Jeremy Webb

2014

I’ve always liked daily digests of science news, and one of my favourite sites has long been the New Scientist webpage.

The only problem with NS is that most of their best articles are available only with a subscription, and the others soon disappear behind the site’s always-approaching paywall. If you don’t subscribe, you don’t get all of the good stuff. And you don’t get any of the site’s material for long.

There’s now a way around this problem. It’s not free, either, but it’s handy. The solution is to buy one of New Scientist‘s books.

The latest NS volume is all about nothing. In fact, it’s titled Nothing. Adding something to nothing, the complete title is Nothing: From Zero to Oblivion—Science at the Frontiers of Nothingness.

There are lots of kinds of nothing, as little sense as that might make. There’s the nothing of “zero,” and there’s the nothing of the vacuum (although that nothing isn’t really nothing). There’s the empty set, and there’s the Big Bang. And many more. It’s kind of surprising how many kinds of nothing there really are. And it’s kind of fun to play around with the logical contradictions of talking about nothing, much less describing and explaining nothing.

What isn’t surprising is how engaging the exploration of nothing can be. The writers at New Scientist specialize in clear and understandable explanation. There is little jargonizing, and there is less patronizing. Any reasonably intelligent person can enjoy the often fascinating material presented in the magazine and in this book.

Even someone with as little formal science education as I have should find Nothing a worthwhile read. I did.

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