Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Book Ideas

  1. Aug 14, 2010 #1
    Hi, I am new to physicsforums and physic's stuff in general. I just read a book titled String Theory for Dummies because I was interested in learning what string theory really was. I then purchased Einstein for Dummies and started reading that. String theory for Dummies was a great book that taught me more than just string theory, it taught me a lot about the physics world too. The author gave some book's to look into but I wasn't sure if those would be up to date with today's physics. So I joined this forum to ask you guys what you think some other good beginner's books would be for me. I am interested in cosmology too as I like space. I am thinking of getting Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang -- Rewriting Cosmic History because I got a little information about the ekpyrotic theory from my String theory for dummies book and was interested in learning more. What else should I get? Thanks for you help :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2010 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    On relativity, I like Gardner, Relativity Simply Explained.

    On quantum gravity, you could try Lee Smolin's books, and Susskind's The Black Hole War, which will give you a couple of very different points of view.
  4. Aug 14, 2010 #3
    ok, thanks. I will look into those
  5. Aug 14, 2010 #4
    The best general public book I have ever read is Penrose's Road to reality. It is quite ambitious, and not very objective, yet I think quite honest (he keeps mentioning when his views are not "mainstream"). What I like is that it does not simplify. In particular, it goes far beyond what some other book would do when dealing with classical mechanics. I have noticed that many young researcher are actually pretty weak when it comes to the geometry of classical fields. Penrose's is all about geometry. He is a general relativist. It's a thousand pages, but every single one is worth.

    I have bought the book twice for myself (one on each side of the ocean) and I have offered it as a present to three friends already.
  6. Aug 15, 2010 #5
    I just finished reading "Quantum Mechanics: A guide for the Perplexed", that was an excellent book. It might be a bit basic, but as far as explaining many of the concepts of QM in an easy to understand way, I haven't found better.
  7. Aug 15, 2010 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The Road to Reality is a book that I think every physicist should have sitting on the shelf next to the Feynman Lectures. I'm not so sure that it succeeds as a book for laypeople, which I think is what GordonE44 has in mind. It starts off with hundreds of pages of pure math, and I'm skeptical as to whether any layperson could actually absorb it.
  8. Aug 15, 2010 #7
    Haha, yea I probably couldn't handle that yet. Oh and btw I'm 16 and basically just interested in physics because it caught my attention and I wanted to learn more. Thanks for the great suggestions, ill look into Quantum Mechanics: A guide for the Perplexed and I'm planning on getting the black whole war one as well
  9. Aug 16, 2010 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You may have a look at "Quantum Field in a Nutshell"
    (A. Zee).
    Not too many equations but splendid.
  10. Aug 16, 2010 #9
    I strongly advice *against* this book, since it is for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students, which is evidently not the case here.

    If you are really interested to work hard and the right way in other to have a good basic understanding of these matters, so that you can advance properly if you decide it so afterwards, my recommendations for you are:


    - http://https://www.amazon.com/Flat-...sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281964379&sr=1-1"by Ellis et al.: you will master special relativity and will be able to proceed into general relativity afterwards. This book is for undergraduates or very interested serious high school students that wish to work hard. Highly recommended, but challenging.


    - https://www.amazon.com/What-Quantum...sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281963767&sr=1-1": lots of manga figures but do not fool yourself, it's not an easy book, but goes from absolute ZERO to mathematically detailed Heinseberg's picture of QM.


    - https://www.amazon.com/Cosmology-Sc...sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281963106&sr=8-1" by Edward Harrison: this is an *amazing* book for the beginner. Study it carefully, it is a basic (but not trivial), very deep, fundamental book in cosmology.

    - Masks of the Universe (same author): thought provoking, essential book.


    - https://www.amazon.com/Elegant-Univ...sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281963611&sr=1-1" by Brian Greene: popular account on String Theory.

    But then read afterwards:

    - https://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Physics-String-Theory-Science/dp/061891868X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b" by Lee Smolin

    - https://www.amazon.com/Three-Roads-Quantum-Gravity-Smolin/dp/0465078362/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_a" by Lee Smolin

    Finally, let quantum field theory be something to study if you decide to go into physics at university level.

    Good luck!

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Aug 17, 2010 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    In case you would like a completely different viewpoint, I will present a countervailing suggestion or two. You are the one choosing.

    You say you might get (or have already) Steinhardt Turok's book about the clashing brane cosmology. Ekpyrotic, cyclic, variations on that. I don't think the odds are high that brane-clash cosmo will last. Interest in it has been waning since 2005 or so.

    Both guys are very highly respected, lots of prestige (Steinhardt at Princeton, Turok at Perimeter Institute, where he is director). Their clash-brane cosmo ideas are intelligent, interesting, original and are always MENTIONED. But almost nobody pursues them any more.

    They originally thought up brane-clash as an alternative to inflation (to try and answer the same riddles that inflation solves) because Steinhardt doesn't think inflation is compatible with compact-extra-dimension superstring!
    According to him you likely have to give up either one or the other. Give up string, or give up inflation.
    Now it looks to me as if he is leaning more towards accepting inflation and has become less interested in string.
    In other words, it looks like Steinhardt has moved on somewhat from where he was when he and Turok were actively investigating ekpyrotic
    say around 2005. (The appearance of their popularization means nothing. Pops are a different business from serious research and have their own schedule. :biggrin:)


    What I would suggest you do, in fact, is not bother with the Steinhardt Turok book (which is popularization of an older idea of declining interest.)

    I would suggest first simply read Renate Loll's SciAm article on quantum gravity (QG). I keep a link handy in my signature. It's free. Let me know if the link doesn't work.

    Don't misunderstand me. I don't pick QG winners and I don't suggest Renate Loll's approach is going to win the QG sweepstakes. We don't know whose will. The point is that she is a good writer and she illustrates how someone can address QG from a direction entirely different from string's.

    My impression is that the String for Dummies book mentions some interesting alternatives (like Loll's, and also like LQG) but does not do them justice.

    If you actually do read Loll's QG SciAm article from 2008 and are at all interested, then come back with more questions. I might, or somebody might, have some further suggestions of things to read. If you don't find Loll's article interesting, then it would be a waste of time for me to suggest further stuff because it probably wouldn't be to your taste.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2010
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook