Charles Seife

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

Charles Seife is an American author, journalist and professor.

His first published book was Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. This book was his most famous work. 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] He had written within the scientific community for years before this, having done freelance work for New Scientist, Scientific American, The Economist, Science, Wired UK and The Sciences, among others.[2]

Another famous piece from Charles Seife is a book called "Proofiness: How You're Being Fooled By the Numbers". In this book, Seife focuses on how some methods propaganda are now using numbers worded in a such a way that they confuse people and can be misinterpreted. This misinterpretation can cause potential consumers 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, Charles Seife has written many book reviews. Specifically, he reviews books which focus on mathematics. One book, called "Mathematics Elsewhere", was reviewed by Charles Seife and then criticized for its information. In this specific review Seife points out that there are many different interpretaions of the Mayan Calendar, and that, when looked at from a mathematical standpoint, the calendar was created before "Leap Year" which means 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"". According to Seife, this 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 points higher than the supposed "religious" people. What this author failed to point out and emphasize, according to Seife, was that the atheists and agnostics group only made up 212 people out of the total 3412 in the sample. Mathematically, there are hundreds of possible reasons for this 4.9 point difference, but whether or not it is a significant difference cannot be determined due to the sample size. Another flaw pointed out by Seife is that the author of "The Science of "Dissestimation"" left out entire groups of people from the population, as well as combining different groups together (such as Catholics, Protestants, Mennonites, Baptists, etc.).

Prior to his career in journalism he 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 summers of 1992-93 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 five books to date:

He is currently living 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. ^ . Bibcode:1997PhRvL..78.1186S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.78.1186.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ MR 1713088
  9. ^ MR 927222
  10. ^ MR 942062

External links[edit]