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

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.


This popular science book by a distinguished physicist touches on topics from curved spacetime and the structure of the atom to elementary particles and the Big Bang, with a foray into biochemistry and genetics. There has been a lot more progress in biology than in physics in the 53 years since it was written, so for biology another whole such book would be needed, but as far as I can tell, the physics part still holds basically true. The few needed corrections that I noticed are that the CNO cycle of nuclear reactions only accounts for 2% of the helium nuclei produced in the Sun, and that the best material for nuclear fusion is deuterium and tritium, not pure deuterium. I don't know whether the former was known before neutrino astronomy was a thing, and the latter may have been known but classified.Too bad they don't write such excellent popular science books anymore.

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...

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.

Ben Haley

I love laymen science and this is the best I've read. Gamow presents complex subjects with simple analogies and clever cartoons. His science, rivets like a jackhammer, pounding out universal revelations with each new page.One, Two, Three...Infinity walks us through the worlds of nuclear physics, cosmology, biology, relativity, quantum theory, and astrophysics without skipping a beat. We learn how to measure the height of an oil molecule in a bathtub, the rotation of our milky way with a red shift, and why everything wishes it were silver. Too often, the presentation of real science turns into an imagination's death march into a bleak world of facts and foreign vocabulary. But Gamow keeps it light and by transcending the minutia, makes a reader that floats above it and keeps its value even now, half a decade after its first publication.

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.

Ahmed Sadek

1,2,3...∞أعظم كتاب في تبسيط العلوم قرأته حتى الآنجورج جاموف يمتلك أسلوباً ساحراً في توضيح أعقد الأفكار العلمية والفيزيائية خاصة .. كما يمتلك من العلم ما يؤهله أن يوضع على مصاف كبار العلماء.. ونسبت له نظرية الإنفجار الكبير حيث كان هو آخر من وضع النظرية الكاملة وبلورها في صورتها الحالية سنة 1948الكتاب جولة شيقة مابين الرياضيات البحتة والهندسة مروراً بالفيزياء والكيمياء والبيولوجيا ثم ختاماً بالفلك ونظريات نشوء الكون ونظريات الفوضى والاحتمالاتكما لا أخفي على القارئ أن الكاتب لديه موهبة جذابة في الحكي .. فربما كان يعمل روائياً في الخفاء بعد يوم علمي شاق!


This book is one of the delights of George Gamov. The author has adopted a narrative approach towards explaining some of the scientific facts. The book covers portions from various disciplines - mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology, cosmology etc. One thing distinguishes it from the herd - the significance that has been laid on previous ideologies and practices that actually explained the notions of the theories given by the scientists of that era. Although the concepts on the evolution of the universe are very primitive(considering the time at which the book has been published), it is a good read for any higher secondary student.

Priyadarshini Sur

Though mathematics is not my cup of tea, I picked a book on mathematics’ ‘One two three.Infinity,’subtitled Facts and speculations of science by George Gamow .The book was originally written in 1947 and then revised in 1961. It's an amazing tour of some interesting bits of physics, mathematics , biology and about birth of planets, in under 350 pages.I read and re-read several times the chapters on mathematics and physics and marked the particularly interesting sections. The book opens with a discussion of mathematics, specifically very large numbers, with two examples of the power of exponential growth, Gamow mentions that arithmetic made easy ‘was not known in ancient times. In fact it was invented less than two thousand years ago by an Indian Mathematician. The book opens with a discussion of mathematics, specifically very large numbers, with two examples of the power of exponential growth The first is about a vizier who (in legend) invented the game of chess. When told by a king that he could have any reward he wished, he asked for one grain of wheat for the first square of a chessboard, two for the second, four for the third, and so forth. The king happily agreed, only to discover that the total amount of wheat would be more than the entire world's wheat production for two thousand years. The second is a legend of a temple in Varanasi containing a game of with 64 disks which, when complete, will mean the end of the world. At a move per second, this would take significantly longer than the estimated age of the universe Gamow mentions that ’arithmetic made easy ‘was not known in ancient times. In fact it was invented less than two thousand years ago by an Indian Mathematician.One Two Three... Infinity is full of stories like that, and charming examples of whatever point Gamow is discussing, all illustrated with wonderful and often whimsical line drawings by the author .I liked he chapters on ‘Dimensions and Co-ordinates ‘and ‘Time is the fourth dimension .As the book was last revised in !961 and Gamow died in 1968,the book is not updated as far as physics and biology are concerned. However the sections on mathematics hold up the best, and I will recommend Gamow's explanations of imaginary numbers and infinities to anyone.

Charles Moffat

One of the first Science books I read in fourth grade I fell in love with chemistry and physics! The classic science book.

Ahmad Noaman

باديء ذو بدء هو واحد من الكتب الصعب أن تعطيها حقها مهما كتبت عنها ومدحت في محتواها .. هذا سبب والآخر أني شخصيابالرغم من اعتقادي أن استيعاب الكتاب تماما صعب من أول مرة الا أن 70% أو حتي 60 هي أكثر من كافة لتغيير محتواك العقلي ومنهجك الفكري كما وكيفا الكتاب يضع ببساطة -علي قدر الإمكان- علاقات رياضية وهندسية لوصف الكون والحياة والطاقة وحركة الذرات والجزيئات والمجرات والكواكب .. وكل العلاقات والأنظمة الكونية في محاولة لتوصيلها للقاريء بأقرب مايكون للمنطق -رياضيا-فنجد الكاتب يبدأ بفصول عن تاريخ الأعداد وأنواعها والعلاقات مابينها وكيفية الربط بينها وبين الواقع وكيف تم اكتشاف والوصول الي كل هذا .. ثم يصحبنا في رحلة عابرة علي مجالات الفيزياء والأحياء والكيمياء الحديثة مرورا بنظريات نيوتن الميكانيكية وأثرها ثم الي العبقري آينشتاين وتصوره للكون وكيفية توصله للنسبية .. ليختتم الكتاب برحلة عبر النجوم والمجرات وعلم الفلك لوصف النظام الكوني مَنشئا وتكوينا وتطورا في شكل أرقام وعلاقات رياضيةبل ووضع الكاتب فصلا أو اثنين في محاولة لوضع نمط معين لما يُسمي بعدم النظام أو العشوائية رياضيا ونجح الي حد ما في ذلك كتاب أقل ما يوصف به أنه عبقري

Doug Cannon

This is a great book, and Gammow is a genius. He's very good at explaining difficult concepts. This is an excellent math book, especially if you're interested in casual math reading and study. He explores much more than just math and numbers and goes on into the 4th dimension and also discusses time, space, and relativity.The book was originally published in 1947, revised in 1961, and the one I read was a reprint of the 1961 edition. Some great concepts never change, and Gammow covers many of them very nicely.I recommend this book heartily.


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.


Great book. To be completely honest, I haven't read the whole thing. I pick it up and put it down again, depending on my mood. The first chapters about numbers and how we learned to count were GREAT. Especially the section on the different sizes of infinity. Clearly explained and fun to think about. Some of it seems a bit dated, and that is perfectly ok. For a science book to be this old and still in print is a testament to how good it is. It is a fun book, and it has pictures. I like books with pictures.The only reason I haven't finished it yet is I'll get caught up reading another book- or actually a couple different books at the same time, and I've managed to finish a few others before finishing this one. I have a goal of finishing all the books I currently own before buying a new one, but I've recently discovered Richard Feynman so those plans might fall apart.

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."

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