One, Two, Three…Infinity

ISBN: 0553132784
ISBN 13: 9780553132786
By: George Gamow

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Reader's Thoughts

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.

Jimmy

repeated mind=blown moments. need to re-read when i have more mental energy

Shishir

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.

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.

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.

Peter

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.

John Pewter

This was bloody brilliant. Not fiction, but real EDUtainment (sorry). Its slightly challenging (depending on your background) but is written with the interested enthusiast in mind. It includes some lovely comic sketches and has a definite human voice books on science always seem to lack. He really nailed this and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the nature of the universe. I laughed aloud in a few spots because he's so irreverent.

Connor

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.

Narendra

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.

Suraj Kumar

An amazing read. must read.

Manny

Having just read this fine book, closely preceded by the equally excellent Frontiers of Astronomy , I'm beginning to feel that the 40s and 50s were not just the Golden Age of science-fiction; they may also have been the Golden Age of popular science writing, a genre which certainly is not unconnected to SF. I have read a fair number of pop science books over the last year, and most of the modern ones are miserably unsatisfying. They are stylistically weak, the authors alternate between patronising you and boring you with anecdotes from their dull lives, and above all the science isn't well done: they can't find good ways to explain abstract concepts in familiar terms, and they fail to distinguish between fact and speculation. A particularly egregious offender is Susskind's The Cosmic Landscape , which I read a couple of weeks ago; other typical examples are Hawking ( The Grand Design ), Guth ( The Inflationary Universe ) and Krauss ( A Universe from Nothing ).Compared with these dull, pompous fantasists, George Gamow is a breath of fresh air. Despite not even being a native speaker of English, he writes better than any of them. He doesn't clutter up the narrative with stories about his personal life, and it's not exactly because he's short of material: he lived through the Russian Revolution and once tried to escape from the Soviet Union in a small boat. And I was impressed to see how many things he got right. He was one of the first people to see that the Big Bang made sense (he made large contributions to the theory), and he explains it well in the final chapter. He comes close to predicting DNA. He does a nice job of covering Relativity in semi-technical terms. And he's got lots of really pretty, original angles on all sorts of scientific and mathematical problems: visualizing the strength of the strong force, seeing the role neutrinos play in causing supernovae, getting an intuitive understanding of what a hypersphere is like. More than 60 years after its initial publication, this is still a fun read, even if some parts have inevitably been overtaken by more recent discoveries. Check it out and see what pop science ought to be like!

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.

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.

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.

Jacob

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.

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