Charles Seife

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Charles Seife is an American author, journalist and professor.

His first published book is Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea and is his most well-known book. In one review of this book, someone[who?] claims that Seife has contradicting information within the book as well as information that belittles the subject of the book as a whole.[1]

Seife had written within the scientific community for years before that book, having done freelance work for New Scientist, Scientific American, The Economist, Science, Wired UK and The Sciences, among others.[2]

Another well-known book from Seife is Proofiness: How You're Being Fooled By the Numbers. Here, Seife focuses on how much propaganda uses numbers worded in a such a way that they confuse people and can be misinterpreted. Potential consumers can be made to find this "product" appealing even though what they see, hear, or read may not be true. Seife then goes into further detail about today's society and how easily people are tricked into believing in propaganda and how easily that propaganda is "shaping" today's society.[3]

Throughout his career, Seife has written many book reviews. Specifically, he reviews books which focus on mathematics. One book, called Mathematics Elsewhere, was reviewed by Seife and then criticized for its information. Seife here points out that there are many different interpretaions of the Mayan calendar and that, from a mathematical standpoint, the calendar was created before "Leap Year," so the supposed apocalypse would have come and gone years ago.[4]

Another review written by Seife was that of a book called The Science of "Disestimation". Seife claims that the book conducted a study to see how much people knew about religion. This study was conducted to see whether or not "religious" or "non-religious" people knew more about the subject. The study claimed that out of a total of 32 points, atheists and agnostics scored, on average, 4.9 % higher than the supposed "religious" people. Seife claims that that the author, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, failed to point out and emphasize was that the atheists and agnostics group make up only 212 people out of the 3412 in the sample. Mathematically, there are hundreds of possible reasons for this 4.9 % difference, but whether or not it is a significant difference cannot be determined because of the sample size. Seife believes that another flaw is that Pew leaves out entire groups of people from the population and combines different groups together (Catholics, Protestants, Mennonites, Baptists, etc.).

Prior to his career in journalism, Seife received a mathematics degree from Princeton University, an M.S. in mathematics from Yale University and a M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.[5] He worked for the NSA during the summers of 1992 and 1993 as an Princeton undergraduate and lamented in a 2013 Slate piece that current employees are not speaking out or knowingly complicit in ongoing NSA surveillance scandals.[6]

He has written six books:

He currently lives in New York City and is an associate professor in New York University's journalism department.[3]

Professional associations[edit]

He is a member of PEN, the National Association of Science Writers, and the D.C. Science Writers Association.

Seife is among a small number of people with a defined Erdős–Bacon number: 7. [7] [8] [9] [10]


  • 2001 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction for Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barrow-Green, June (2004). "Charles Seife. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea". ISIS: Journal of the History of Science in Society 95 (2): 279. 
  2. ^ Charles Seife:
  3. ^ a b Seife, Charles (2010). Proofiness: How You're Being Fooled by the Numbers. New York: Penguin. 
  4. ^ Seife, Charles (2012). "Mathematics Elsewhere". Wilson Quarterly 27 (1): 124. 
  5. ^ Journalism at NYU - Faculty
  6. ^ An Open Letter to My Former NSA Colleagues Mathematicians, why are you not speaking out?
  7. ^ Simonotto, Enrico (1997). "Visual Perception of Stochastic Resonance". Phys. Rev. Lett. 78 (6): 1186. Bibcode:1997PhRvL..78.1186S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.78.1186. 
  8. ^ MR 1713088
  9. ^ MR 927222
  10. ^ MR 942062

External links[edit]