Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

Charles Seife
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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. The author states in Chapter 2, “Nothing Comes of Nothing” that the concepts of infinity and the void frightened the ancient Greeks. They feared the infinite because it threatened the possibility of what?

2. What term refers to the worship of multiple deities?

3. When did Nicholas of Cusa live?

4. Where does the author say early medieval Jews took up residence and discovered that Aristotle’s aversion to zero contradicted Jewish theology in Chapter 3, “Nothing Ventured”?

5. What god within Hinduism represents both creator and destroyer?

Short Essay Questions

1. Where does the author claim zero was “born” in Chapter 1, “Nothing Doing”? How was zero involved in early mathematics?

2. How are multiplication and division involving zero described in Chapter 1, “Nothing Doing”?

3. What inventions is Blaise Pascal credited with, according to the author in Chapter 4, “The Infinite God of Nothing”?

4. How does the author describe the early counting systems of prehistoric mathematics in Chapter 1, “Nothing Doing”?

5. What reason does the author give for why the Greeks and Romans resisted using zero in their mathematical systems in Chapter 1, “Nothing Doing”?

6. How does the author describe Islam’s history in the seventh century in Chapter 3, “Nothing Ventured”?

7. How did zero enter into Indian mathematics, according to the author in Chapter 3, “Nothing Ventured”?

8. What advancements in mathematics were made by René Descartes?

9. What Italian mathematician was responsible for the introduction of zero to Christianity and the Western world, according to the author in Chapter 3, “Nothing Ventured”?

10. What paradox of Zeno of Elea’s is presented by the author in Chapter 2, “Nothing Comes of Nothing”?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Describe and discuss the work and discoveries of René Descartes, and the development of the Cartesian coordinate system. How did the Cartesian coordinate system affect geometry and algebra? How did Descartes relate his mathematical discoveries to his philosophies and theological beliefs?

Essay Topic 2

Describe and discuss the biography and the philosophical, artistic, and mathematical contributions of Aristotle. How influential were Aristotle’s ideas in the formation of Western culture? How does the concept of zero impact Aristotle’s view?

Essay Topic 3

Describe and discuss the origins and developments of mathematics in Mayan culture. What was the base of the Mayan numeral system? How did this system compare with that of the Egyptians and the Babylonians? How did it deal with zero?

(see the answer keys)

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