One, Two, Three…Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science

ISBN: 0486256642
ISBN 13: 9780486256641
By: George Gamow

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About this book

". . . 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 TribuneOne 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

Reader's Thoughts


Written in 1947 and last updated in 1961, Gamow's overview of the postwar state of the art in mathematics, physics, biology, and astronomy is lucid, if occasionally challenging, with 128 charming illustrations by the author scattered through the text. I picked this up for its discussions of number theory and topology for the nonspecialist, though if I had checked the table of contents, I would have seen that the discussion of math per se takes up only about a tenth of the book's length. Still, this is the sort of book that I wish had been on my parents' bookshelf when I was a bored kid reading every book I could get my hands on.


The information in this book is a bit dated, but the writing is still great. Gamow was a master of explanation - he had a real gift for clear presentation of complex topics. Before Asimov, Feynman, or Sagan - there was Gamow. If you want a good introduction to the concepts of 20th century physics, this is an excellent place to start.

Tommy Carlson

The Curve of Binding Energy makes many a reference to Gamow, including this non-fiction gem from 1947. It's a look at science covering a wide range from numbers themselves, hence the title, to the physical world from micro to macro scales. It's enhanced by illustrative drawings by Gamow himself, which are delightful.What I really loved about the book is that it's from an era far removed from my childhood. If you read enough science non-fiction, you get used to certain analogies being used to describe various things. This book far pre-dates anything I've read before on the subject. So the descriptions are new and novel to my eyes.It's also entertaining to see where future developments show him to be wrong. Some are technical, for example, the wrong hydrogen to helium fusion reaction for the sun. Some are more, well, almost philosophical. Gamow argues that protons and neutrons may well be the indivisible building blocks of nature. (Quarks don't show up until the 60s.)This probably isn't the book for a layperson looking to learn about science stuff. Rather, it's a book for the casual science fan who wants to see how science looked from the viewpoint of an earlier era.

Chris Gager

On second thought I think this might have been the book I struggled to understand back in the 50's when I was in Jr. High in Boulder. Gamow was a "colleague" of my mother at C.U.(she worked as a receptionist at Wardenburg). Date read is approximate...


It's strange to think that at the time of writing, the double helix structure of DNA hadn't been discovered, man hadn't been on the moon and black holes were only just being theorized about. Still, Gamow's writing style makes the material relatively accessible and the hand-drawn illustrations were quite enjoyable. An interesting read for anyone wanting to take a time machine back to the mid twentieth century to see the forefront of science then.

James M. Madsen, M.D.

There are more recent and more relevant introductions to science, but this one was a classic for its time. It introduced me, for example, to the concepts of quantitatively different infinities, which I hadn't contemplated previously.

Monica Connerly

I can see how this book might inspire people to get into science and math but I found it marginally entertaining because I generally don't like math. I just read through it because it was my mom's book. There were a lot of diagrams which really helped to comprehend the concepts. I was surprised that genetics was covered and found that interesting. When this was first published this would have been a hot book to get because it was published right after several scientific discoveries as discussed in the preface 13 years after the first printing (the book was updated again then). Pros: It's thorough and covers several topics of scientific interest and math. It's also easy to understand which is a complement to Gamow from a right brained reader bad at math. Cons: You might be able to find something more current that explains these concepts in lay terms (for Dummies books for instance); however, it might not cover as *many concepts and it might not be as inspiring in reality. Exposure to as many topics as are covered in Gamow's book might be more productive than giving someone a book that someone is only 'so so' interested in. Gamow's book is a temperature gauge for a variety of topics... a good stepping stone to choosing which topics to study in depth for future science and math 'nerds'.

Andrij Zip

While One Two Three...Infinity is charmingly written, the math section is superb, and its author, George Gamow, explains things very clearly, it was updated over fifty years ago and unfortunately feels more like a historical curiosity than a book to fulfil Gamow's stated intention to "collect the most interesting facts and theories of modern science in such a way as to give the reader a general picture of the it presents itself to the eye of the scientist of today."


Much of the math is speculative/disproven, but it was the book that taught me to love to read and learn. I give it 3 only because I'm guessing most people won't get too much out of it, but it was a life-changing book for me in that it was the right challenge at the right time.

Nick Black

Impulsive acquisition at Borders, 2008-04-08. Dover sure has put out a lot of books recently!This was better for the insight into Gamow as a scientific author than any of the actual details; anyone who's going to reach for a mid-century perspective on last century's physics from an eccentric Soviet, complete with hand-drawn comic-like illustrations and puns heavily weighted by innuendo, via the Dover Mathematics line -- known best for its republishing of opaque Eastern European textbooks having questionable heritage of copyright and symbolisms/terminologies/semantics whose correlations with modern standards are dicey at best -- is likely looking for the first time into neither quantum mysteries nor relativities. For that purpose, it served moderately well, although I intend to read My World Line sometime here and expect that to do better...

Robert Palmer

I picked this book up when I was in high school, and it really excited my interest in mathematical concepts. I never had any difficulty with any math classes, but certainly encountered math teachers who could suck the pleasure out of mathematics like a Hoover vacuum cleaner. George Gamow is just the opposite.This book is an ideal gift for that teen who is having trouble with math, either because of a lack of understanding or a lack of interest. But be careful -- you may ignite the math passion in your child and end up with a mathematician in the family.

Karan Tyagi

I really like this book because it really gave a eye opening on space! It talks about science, space, math and many other stuff. My friend Will Lynch recommended me to read this book so i gave it a try and i really liked it. I will recommend this book to people that are interested in space and hard math problems.

Rohan Garg

This book by George Gamow (of the Alpher-Bethe-Gamow fame) is a classic in popular science writing, next only to Carl Sagan, in my opinion. Although, some of the things that the author mentions, as is the case with all science books, might seem antiquated, many of it is still relevant. One gets interesting insights and perspectives about the golden decade of science; the ingenuity of the scientists limited by the available technology of the time.


This is book is a type of modern encyclopedia that covers almost all subjects including science, mathematics, cosmology, biology, probability and lots more. Do not go with the book title because it is somewhat not accurate as initially I thought this book is about higher mathematics but later realized about a wide range of topics from all subjects. If you don't know much about mathematics but don't know about biology you'll learn here. This book is a complete tour of modern science and it teaches you everything that is necessary to know to understand some most complex theories of science.The book title is still misleading, such type of book should have title like a modern encyclopedia of higher physics, etc., but still book is amazing and loaded with some interesting facts.


This was given as a present with some very thoughtful intentions. Unlike "Zero: A Biography of a Dangerous Idea", this book was written in almost sraight text-book format instead of any semblance of story. I'm all for reading manuals and other dry topics, but couldn't get through this one.

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