ZERO TO LAZY EIGHT by Alexander Humez


The Romance of Numbers
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 A frothy celebration of the joy of numbers. Having waltzed through the world of letters (Alpha to Omega, 1981), the Humezes--this time with the help of freelancer Maguire- -turn their sights on numbers 0 through 13, along with infinity (whose sign, a sideways eight, explains the title). Numbers, they assure us, shine with integrity: ``To the extent that numbers say anything about the real world, they do so unfailingly and incorruptibly.'' Drawing on thinkers as diverse as Camille Paglia and Georg Cantor, and dipping into history, etymology, mathematics, and folklore, the authors praise each integer in turn. Zero, ``where it all began, the clean slate''--the only number that is neither positive nor negative--gives birth to ``zero hour'' and ``ground zero.'' One (``in the beginning, all things were one'') allows discussion of the Peano postulates, which demonstrate how and why numbers run in sequence. Two leads to meditations on left-handedness and pairings of heroes and sidekicks. Three brings Fibonacci numbers, golden rectangles, prime numbers, pi, and jokes: ``How many Californians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Three: one to screw it in and two to share in the experience.'' Four suggests the four-color map problem. Five? ``Take five!'' Six includes anagrams--as well as antigrams, wherein ``The Waldorf'' becomes ``Dwarf Hotel.'' And so on up to infinity, which holds ``an infinitude of infinities.'' The approach is giggly, inventive (the discussion of eight includes a floor plan for a one-dimensional house), stuffed with arcana (13 is ``the only number for the fear of which we have a specific word in English: triskaidekaphobia''). Nimble nutty number play, as the authors make their case, four-square and to the nines, that ``no number is dull.'' (Line drawings)

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-74282-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993