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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful little book
George Gamow was a leading scientist of the 20th century, a man who's name frequents the pages of modern-day science. One of the great services offered by Dover Books is the manner in which they have made timeless books by the world's great scientists available at a reasonable price. I consider it remarkable that, for a few dollars, I could sit at Gamow's feet by...
Published on January 2, 2007 by Duwayne Anderson

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too oldie to be a goodie any more
I really loved Gamow's 123 Infinity when I read it over 30 years ago -- so I had similar expectations when I picked up Gravity -- and thirty years ago, it probably was a five-star book.

Most of the book deals with Galileo and Newton -- at a level of detail comparable to high-school physics -- a more contemporary book about physics for the layman might be a...
Published on January 3, 2009 by B. Style


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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful little book, January 2, 2007
By 
Duwayne Anderson (Saint Helens, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
George Gamow was a leading scientist of the 20th century, a man who's name frequents the pages of modern-day science. One of the great services offered by Dover Books is the manner in which they have made timeless books by the world's great scientists available at a reasonable price. I consider it remarkable that, for a few dollars, I could sit at Gamow's feet by reading "Gravity."

This is a short book, barely 150 pages long. Written in the second half the 20th century (1960s) it doesn't have any new or particularly earth-shattering information, but information content isn't always the best way to measure a book; there's the delivery, too. And this book, this little gem, has one of the best deliveries I've seen. That's what I appreciated most about "Gravity," the nuances of Gamow's writing and explanatory style.

Several weeks before I found Gamow's book in the bookstore, I'd planned a solo kayak trip down the Columbia River, from the town of Saint Helens to the Pacific Ocean. I was looking for something to read during breaks, and in the evening. This is an ideal book for leisure reading, it's not too involved, has very little mathematics, and yet has enough intellectual content that it leaves you feeling accomplished after an hour or two of study. If you've ever picked up a copy of Scientific American magazine and read some of the articles, that'll give you a pretty good idea of what's in this book. In fact, some of the material in the book is based on articles written by Gamow for Scientific American. My copy, stained with river water, has bleached, tattered, dog-eared pages.

There's a short (6 pages) but interesting biography at the beginning of the book, followed by a preface to the Dover edition, followed in turn by Gamow's preface to the original edition. I enjoyed this introductory material for the light it shone on Gamow's life. I was humbled by the fact that, while I considered my trip down the Columbia River to be of some merit, Gamow had the nerve to attempt (unsuccessfully) escaping from the Soviet Union by paddling a kayak 170 miles across the Black Sea to Turkey.

The first four chapters of Gamow's book follow the same outline used by my high school physics teacher, Mr. Lewis. The first chapter, titled "How things fall" is a historical recounting of Galileo, the tower of Pizza, and balls rolling on ramps, along with some stinging insight into the history of human thought. I particularly liked this commentary from Gamow:

"For centuries Aristotelian philosophy and scholasticism dominated human thought. Scientific questions were answered by dialectic arguments (i.e. by just talking), and no attempt was made to check, by direct experiments, the correctness of the statements made."

Galileo, of course, dispatched the dialectic arguments by conducting experiments, and in the process helped to establish the core scientific ideas of experimentation and observation.

Following tradition Gamow explains gravity by tracing history, with key historical events relegated to various short chapters He begins with Galileo's experiments that showed how things fall at constant acceleration, independent of mass, and then moves to Newton's quantitative treatment and one of history's great insights: that the same force that makes apples fall to the ground also causes the moon to orbit the earth.

You can't study physics without speaking the language, and the language of physics is mathematics. With that admission Gamow takes a brief hiatus from the physical manifestation of gravity to describe the most significant dialect of mathematics, the calculus. Still, this book shouldn't be thought of as mathematically intense. If you've mastered algebra you'll have no difficulty following Gamow's arguments, and indeed the book will help you with some of the preliminary concepts in calculus.

With the basic physics and mathematics established as foundational material, Gamow uses these tools to explain planetary orbits, the motion of the spinning earth (the earth as a spinning top) tides, key concepts in celestial mechanics, and the notion of escape velocity. He ends his book with a short qualitative description of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and then poses some unsolved problems associated with gravity.

Two remarkable things struck me when reading Gamow's book. First, I'm amazed at how far we've come in understanding gravity and predicting the behavior of gravitational bodies. Second, I'm struck by the fact that, in spite of our best efforts, none of the unsolved problems described in Gamow's final chapter have been resolved.

This isn't to say there haven't been wonderful discoveries since Gamow (black holes, for example), but we seem to be stuck when it comes to making the next great jump in our understanding of what, exactly, gravity is. Written in 1962, this clearly isn't a contemporary book in which you'll find the latest research. Read it for its historical value, and to understand key concepts in Newtonian physics, and for the love of science.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pearl., March 9, 2003
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This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
A lovely reprinted Dover edition of a peral from Gamow. The original 1962 edition has been out of print for a number of years. This 2003 edition has added commentary and a fascinating bio of Gamow. He was born in Odessa, in what was then Russia, --before the Soviet Union. The story of his escape to the West is straight out of a thriller. Only it is real! Gamow was referred to by a journalist, some time during the Cold War, as "the only scientist in America with a real sense of humor". He can take the most technical stuff and make it simple. Fun too! The book:--Intellectual treats, whimsy, but deep. Illustrated with lovely drawings by Gamow himself. Much of it can be understood by a child, and other parts might require a little concentration. All of it is great fun. The author Gamow started in nuclear physics, during the Golden Age of Physics, worked with Niels Bohr, then later in the US, on the Manhattan Project during WWII, and after the war, he was professor in Boulder Colorado. He has a building on campus named after him! The books he wrote are pearls, and they have been equally popular with my parent's generation as with mine. Luckely some have been reprinted! Other Gamow titles: Biography of Physics, Atomic Energy [dedicated to the hope of lasting peace], Physics of the Strapless Evning Gown,...We are lucky that Dover has reprinted some of them. Gamow's list of scientific accomplishments includes a 1948 landmark paper on the origin of chemical elements, the Big Bang model, and later work with F. Crick on DNA and genetic coding.-- Do more Gamow editions, Dover!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too oldie to be a goodie any more, January 3, 2009
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This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
I really loved Gamow's 123 Infinity when I read it over 30 years ago -- so I had similar expectations when I picked up Gravity -- and thirty years ago, it probably was a five-star book.

Most of the book deals with Galileo and Newton -- at a level of detail comparable to high-school physics -- a more contemporary book about physics for the layman might be a better bet for this part since other topics would be covered as well.

There's one chapter about relativity -- and a final chapter about unresolved issues, with understandably very outdated material here. For someone with a basic working knowledge of classical gravitation, a book like "Einstein for Dummies" is probably a better investment if you're trying to develop a basic understanding of special and general relativity.

However, if someone only wanted to read one book about gravity and had no real working knowledge of math or physics, and had no desire to learn anything beyond the basics, then this is still a four or five-star book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in popular physics, June 20, 2013
By 
Alexandre Tort (Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gravity (Kindle Edition)
George Gamow's books have the power of enrapturing the young reader. I was no exception. I read Gravity as a kid and reread it now as a senior. Always a pleasure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Much better than I expected, December 16, 2009
This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
I expected that this book would be a nice present for a high school student and it surely fits that bill. What I did not expect was that it would also be useful to college and perhaps even graduate students.

Gamow was an important physicist, with many contributions to the development of quantum mechanics. He was also the author of several general interest science books, such as this one. The book begins with two chapters devoted to gravity as seen by Galileo and Newton and a chapter discussing the elements of calculus. These chapters are great for any interested high school student. They are clearly written and should be easily understood at that level. The calculus chapter is nice in that it derives calculus in a practical manner, without the rigorous proofs that tend to bedevil students and make them hate math.

The first three chapters, while interesting, have little to offer to a college student, let alone to a graduate student. This changed in the next three chapters, which cover planetary orbits, the tides and celestial mechanics. These chapters are not meant to be rigorous or complete treatments, but they should be of some interest to college students as well as providing an understandable treatment for those with less schooling. The planetary orbit chapter covers, among other things, the precession of earths orbit, a topic generally only covered in an advanced mechanics course, typically taught as an upper level college or graduate school course. The treatment is nonmathematical and is definitely not rigorous, but it is much clearer than the presentation that is given in some advanced mechanics books, such as Goldstein's "Classical Mechanics". It has a nice diagram showing the right hand rule and the origin of precession, and while you cannot solve any problem using this presentation, it is a nice adjunct to the mathematical presentations given in an advanced mechanics book. The chapter on the tides is also very interesting, as it clearly shows, via a nice diagram, the origin of the two tides per day. There is also a nice, easily understandable discussion of the influence of tidal forces on slowing down the rotation of the earth and the effect that this has on the earth/moon system and why the conservation of angular momentum causes the distance of the moon to the earth to increase and its rotational speed to decrease. The chapter on celestial mechanics is also devoid of any mathematics, but is full of interesting facts concerning the complexity of earth's orbit due to the influence of all of the bodies in our solar system and the effect that this has on the climate of the planet. In these three chapters Gamow succeeds in providing information that would be interesting to an advanced college student, while still being able to hold the interest of a high school student.

The rest of this short book is devoted to the theory of gravity, from Newton through Einstein and beyond. The chapter on "escaping gravity" describes the gravitational potential, escape velocities and the difficulties of going into earth orbit and beyond. The next to last chapter deals with "Einstein's Gravity", i.e., general relativity. It is interesting but a very cursory treatment, quite suitable for a high school student.

I liked this book a lot and highly recommend it to interested high school students. In addition, as has been noted, there are also things of interest for more advanced students.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Has always been a great book, January 23, 2014
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This review is from: Gravity (Kindle Edition)
Gamow, always a great writer, has a splendid way of telling a story.
My favorite was his One, Two, Three, Infinity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read, December 15, 2013
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This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
Good Read. Definitely one of the best works. Interesting from the beginning till the very end. This is a must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Injecting levity into a heavy subject, October 23, 2012
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This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
George Gamow was a world-class theoretical physicist (nuclear decay, big-bang). Later in life he explored areas outside his primary field, and managed significant contribution to the understanding DNA. In addition to being a world class scientist, he had a special talent for popularizing science ... a talent perhaps equaled only by the late Richard Feynman. He was also something of an artist, with a curious, cartoonish, whimsical style. (Why does the angel on page 23 have three pairs of wings?)
His most famous book for the layman is "One, two, three ... infinity." The present book, "Gravity," is in much the same vein, but it struck me as being not quite as good as the former. (Perhaps this is partly because I was in my early teens when I read "Infinity" ... and so was very impressionable.)
The book deals with the development of human understanding of gravity. Beginning with the prehistoric notion of up and down, it goes on to describe the revelations of Galileo, Newton and Einstein. The last chapter deals with cosmology ... including some fascinating conjectures of Dirac.
The book contains some gaps, and at least one mistake:
On page 142 appears the number 1E-12 ("ten to the minus twelve"). Gamow goes on to state that this is "a millionth of a billionth" ... it should read "a millionth of a millionth."
On page 65 appears a definite integral accompanied by the words "in the notations of the previous chapter." But the previous chapter does not give even a single example of a definite integral ... demanding quite a leap in understanding. (I know this from personal experience: when I was trying to teach myself calculus in high school, I had a big stumbling block with the notation of definite integrals.)
The diagram on page 111 is a little misleading in that it seems to suggest that all the gasses from the exploding nuclear device ("B1") are directed upwards, so as to hit the deflector plate. Of course this cannot be, and most of the gasses go in other directions ... nevertheless a great and informative diagram.
A curiosity I learned from this book: Gamow tells us that Newton used a "prime" (`) to indicate taking the anti-derivative (thereby undoing the "dot"). It is curious that in modern notation the prime has come to symbolize differentiation (essentially the same as the dot), and not integration.
All in all, another great book from Gamow ... and at a very reasonable price.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still a gem after all these years. A tad dated but well worth a read., January 20, 2012
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This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
I first read this book back in 1963 and now with some time on my hands I decided to give it another go. This is an excellent introduction to gravity suitable for middle school to high school students. Gamov in his day put out some superb books for the general reader (remember '123 Infinity'), and this is one of those general reader books. However, much of the book is now dated especially the part on relativity and unsolved issues. Nevertheless for basic gravitational concepts such as orbits etc it is still a gem. To help matters there is a crisp chapter on calculus.

Time has dated this classic but I believe that for basic general concepts this book is still worth a read.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Physics explained by a genius, June 24, 2008
By 
K. McNamara (Shreveport, La United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gravity (Paperback)
Had always heard that Gamow was quite the character. Like Feynman, his ability to distill intimidating concepts down to down to earth (npi) analogies is admirable. Recommend this one (originally written in the early 1960's) to anyone wishing to better understand physics, from Ptolemy through Einstein.
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Gravity
Gravity by George Gamow (Paperback - January 23, 2003)
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