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One Two Three . . . Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science (Dover Books on Mathematics) [Paperback]

George Gamow
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 1988 0486256642 978-0486256641 1

". . . full of intellectual treats and tricks, of whimsy and deep scientific philosophy. It is highbrow entertainment at its best, a teasing challenge to all who aspire to think about the universe." — New York Herald Tribune
One of the world's foremost nuclear physicists (celebrated for his theory of radioactive decay, among other accomplishments), George Gamow possessed the unique ability of making the world of science accessible to the general reader.
He brings that ability to bear in this delightful expedition through the problems, pleasures, and puzzles of modern science. Among the topics scrutinized with the author's celebrated good humor and pedagogical prowess are the macrocosm and the microcosm, theory of numbers, relativity of space and time, entropy, genes, atomic structure, nuclear fission, and the origin of the solar system.
In the pages of this book readers grapple with such crucial matters as whether it is possible to bend space, why a rocket shrinks, the "end of the world problem," excursions into the fourth dimension, and a host of other tantalizing topics for the scientifically curious. Brimming with amusing anecdotes and provocative problems, One Two Three . . . Infinity also includes over 120 delightful pen-and-ink illustrations by the author, adding another dimension of good-natured charm to these wide-ranging explorations.
Whatever your level of scientific expertise, chances are you'll derive a great deal of pleasure, stimulation, and information from this unusual and imaginative book. It belongs in the library of anyone curious about the wonders of the scientific universe. "In One Two Three . . . Infinity, as in his other books, George Gamow succeeds where others fail because of his remarkable ability to combine technical accuracy, choice of material, dignity of expression, and readability." — Saturday Review of Literature

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Modern Science Made Easy
By one of the leading physicists of the twentieth century, George Gamow's One, Two, Three…Infinity is one of the most memorable popular books on physics, mathematics, and science generally ever written, famous for having, directly or indirectly, launched the academic and/or scientific careers of many young people whose first real encounter with the wonders and mysteries of mathematics and science was through reading this book as a teenager. Untypically for popular science books, this one is enhanced by the author's own delightful sketches. Reviewers were enthusiastic when One, Two, Three…Infinity was published in 1947.

In the Author's Own Words:
"If and when all the laws governing physical phenomena are finally discovered, and all the empirical constants occurring in these laws are finally expressed through the four independent basic constants, we will be able to say that physical science has reached its end, that no excitement is left in further explorations, and that all that remains to a physicist is either tedious work on minor details or the self-educational study and adoration of the magnificence of the completed system. At that stage physical science will enter from the epoch of Columbus and Magellan into the epoch of the National Geographic Magazine!" — George Gamow

Critical Acclaim for One, Two, Three…Infinity:
"This skillful presentation is for the non-professional and professional scientist. It will broaden the knowledge of each and give the imagination wide play." — Chemistry and Engineering News

"A stimulating and provocative book for the science-minded layman." — Kirkus Reviews

"This is a layman's book as readable as a historical novel, but every chapter bears the solid imprint of authoritative research." — San Francisco Chronice

"George Gamow succeeds where others fail because of his remarkable ability to combine technical accuracy, choice of material, dignity of expression, and readability." — Saturday Review of Literature

Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Mathematics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; 1 edition (September 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486256642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486256641
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
202 of 206 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Then give her this book! It seems that almost all the reviewers had the same experience: we read this book at an early age, and it was so fascinating, so inspiring, and so magical that it directed us into math and science for the rest of our lives. In my case the book was loaned to me when I was about 12, by my best friend's father. As a result, when I wrote MY first math book (which cannot begin to compare with Gamow's!) thirty-five years later, I dedicated it to my friend's father in gratitude. The book explains how mathematics and science really works, in language which a young person with an eighth grade education can understand. Everyone thinks it takes a genius to understand relativity, but there are lots of fifteen-year-olds walking around with a decent understanding of Special Relativity simply because they read this book.
But don't be misled into thinking this book is just for young people. It's for anyone who thirsts for knowledge and understanding, anyone who realizes that it doesn't require an alien life form to understand physics and math. Gamow discusses some of the great unsolved problems in mathematics (at least two of which - the four-color problem and Fermat's Last Theorem - have been solved since the book was written), the theory of relativity, the usefulness of imaginary numbers (square roots of negatives), geometry of more than three dimensions, and many other topics which most people think are accessible only to those anointed with stratospheric IQ's. But Gamow's writing is so clear and entertaining that you'll come away wondering why EVERYBODY doesn't understand those topics.
A particularly vivid memory I have of the book is Gamow's demonstration that there are different sizes of infinity. He didn't originate the idea, of course; it was first thought of by a mathematician named Georg Cantor. But once again Gamow makes the mathematics so clear and accessible that I was enthralled. You will be too.
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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The inspiration for scores of scientific careers March 6, 2000
George Gamow tends to get forgotten these days. He died some time ago, and his books are now over forty years old. Some, like his history of 20th century physics, may seem a bit dated in light of the discoveries since then.
Yet there's still magic in these pages. Gamow was one of the greatest of 20th century physicists, and at the same time, a great teacher whose passion for the sheer fun of math and science was communicated in his books, whether explaining the wonders of infinite series, or how to locate a hidden pirate's treasure chest using imaginary numbers. Unlike a lot of modern poipular science writers, Gamow didn't shy away from showing you the math- but he could explain in a way that even an elementary school child could understand.
A wonderful book for the child or adult who isn't afraid to think.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that launched a thousand scientists? -- May 28, 2002
The sweep and vision of the book are truly breath-taking. I suspect this marvelous book has launched more scientific careers than any other. The author, George Gamow (d. 1968), was an award-winning physicist cum biologist with a flair for making the complicated seem simple. (A gift shared by the late Richard Feynman.) Gamow's book introduces the reader to complicated subjects in a clear and non-threatening way. In some respects this book may be considered a precursor of the popular "For Idiots" series, but with much more dignity and poetry.
It is of course inevitable, and no fault of the author, that portions have been overcome by events. For example, Fermat's Last Theorem has -- at long last -- been proven. So it is no longer true that (page 31) "no general proof ...has ever been achieved." Also, some of the material on elementary particles and genetics is dated.
To paraphrase Aristotle, nature abhors perfection, and so there are some errors as well. (I find this a bit surprising, since the book was revised in 1961, and I would expect these to have been caught.) For example, the discussion on complex numbers (page 37) contains a number of elementary errors - which however cancel, so the final result is correct! The periodic chart (page 136) shows gallium, indium and thallium as transition elements, whereas they are "main sequence" elements, of the boron-aluminum family. Also, the symbol for gallium is shown as Fa instead of Ga. Gamow's discussion of the drunkard's walk (page 200) has been over-simplified to the point where it is misleading. I mention these details because I think young and inexperienced readers may be unduly confused.
Looking through it again after many years, I see that my interest in prime numbers, platonic solids, chemical elements, and elementary particles can all be traced back to this fountain.
Another enchanting book by the same author is, "The New World of Mr. Tompkins."
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grand tour of science by a master September 21, 1999
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm happy to join the list of reviewers who owe something personal to this marvelous book. As a liberal arts undergraduate in 1955, I borrowed "1,2,3..." from my physics-major roomate. I liked it so much that he kindly gave me his copy. Its influence contributed to my later decision to become an engineer, and marked the beginning of my lifelong interest in science.
On recently re-reading the 1961 edition, I was impressed all over again by Gamow's friendly, conversational, agenda-free style. Since he never talks down, never hand-waves, and always goes straight to the essence of a topic, this decades-old book still seems fresh and contemporary. And yes, the dry, slightly pixilated humor still works.
I once met a man who had taken a course from Gamow at the University of Colorado. He said he would never forget the sight of the professor careening around campus in an open convertible -- in the middle of January!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My 12 Year Old Son Loves This Boom
A friend recommended this book for my 12-year-old son who loves science (he is gifted in math, so I cannot give an accurate idea on age appropriateness). Read more
Published 1 month ago by Always on the Run
1.0 out of 5 stars Some of the relevant text is illegible because it is picture data and...
Some of the text is illegible on the Kindle. The figures are "light" and hard to see, but if you put your finger on them and then "magnify" them, you can see them. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lawrence J. Maga
5.0 out of 5 stars Every science enthusiast, young or old should read this book at least...
No doubt few books can lead you to the fundamentals as this one.It kindles your imagination to look far beyond what is given in the book.
Published 3 months ago by RBK MENON
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating stuff.
If you have any interest at all in mathematics, or science, or both, you won't be able to stop reading this classic book. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Notary Sojac
5.0 out of 5 stars a Classic
Good to read for Jr or Sr in high school. Inspirational descriptions of math and science. Most of the material will never be out of date.
Published 9 months ago by Frederick D. Seward
5.0 out of 5 stars An Explanation of Everything
This is a great introductory book to very serious s ience. Yet, it's written in a way that any high school student can grasp. Facinating! Read it! You won't be sorry. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Stanley H. Kremen
4.0 out of 5 stars One two, three ... Infinity by george Gamow
This is a classic that is still interesting even though much time has passed since it's publication. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Vera Cousins
5.0 out of 5 stars Still great after 50 years.
I first read this in the early 60's. It left a lasting impression on me. I am about 30 pages into it now, and it's just as absorbing, fresh and thought provoking as it was when I... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rocco Cuteri Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars An old friend
I first read George Gamow's classic when I was a teenager - 50 years ago - and took advantage of my new Kindle to get a copy cheap. Read more
Published 10 months ago by William Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Gamow the Master Teacher
I first read Gamow when an undergraduate in philosophy back in the 1950's. Before reading Gamow I got C's in my advanced physics courses. After reading Gamow I got B's. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Fred W. Hallberg
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