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Books for understanding General Relativity

  1. Nov 1, 2009 #1
    Sorry if this has been a repeated question in the forum ,but I dont think I found it .
    Can any one suggest me the all the math books and physics books required by me (i am in 10th) before I can touch on General Relativity.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 1, 2009 #2


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    You need 1.) calculus through multivariable calculus (partial derivatives)
    you need 2.) linear algebra enough to understand matrices, vectors and tensors
    you need 3.) Some methods of solution for ordinary and partial differential equations would be nice too.

    From these you can then study 5.) differential geometry = roughly calculus over curved surfaces which is the basic language of GR.

    In physics you need basic mechanics through special relativity to understand space-time physics. Electromagnetism is not essential and I suggest it is better learned along with SR but you should at least be familiar with the introductory E-M phenomena (electric charge, electrostatic forces, scalar and vector potentials, magnetism and the Lorentz force).

    Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics are optional but useful if you want to get into deeper waters.

    How much you can skip depends on how softly you want to "touch" on GR.

    I suggest you start by reading wikipedia and other online articles on GR (or that part you'd like to study) and back-tracing the terminology and equations you fail to understand. Draw yourself a tree of prerequisite topics until you get back to what you already know or have a good idea how to find out. (It won't be as big as you first imagine and you'll find it more a lattice than a tree with branches re-merging) Then come here or search elsewhere for recommended reading on a given topic.

    If you'd rather you can start with "A first course in general relativity" by Bernard F. Schultz, which walks you through SR in the first three chapters. Again go through the first parts finding what math or physics concepts are prerequisite and build your tree (lattice).

    Finally let me point out that my list of topics is not as bad as it may look at first. Each of the math topics reinforces the other and draws examples from the other with many recurring themes (especially linearity). The main math is differential geometry with its own prerequisites. The main physics is relativistic particle mechanics. The common prerequisites of these are calculus and linear algebra.
  4. Nov 1, 2009 #3
    Looking at Hartle's Gravity, which I think covers the most amount of Physics without much mathematical formalism, I think math up through vector calculus and ordinary differential equations would be enough to get a start, but you also need a strong understanding of Physics up to that point.

    I think a good criterion is some comfort with Maxwell's equations in differental form (e.g. Feynman vol. 2).

    We're talking about some 5 years of Math and Physics education here, unless you're exceptionally brilliant. I know that seems like an eternity at your age, but it's not that long, really.

    You could probably start on Special Relativity now with one of N. David Mermin's books. Or once you have a little trig under your belt, Taylor & Wheeler (the red paperback 1st edition that's always been preferred here.) Also semi-popular books like Gravity from the Ground Up.
  5. Nov 1, 2009 #4
    Some texts include all the differential geometry needed, so that a separtate text on the subject may not be necessary.
  6. Nov 2, 2009 #5


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    Since you say you're in 10th, you should probably start with Newtonian mechanics and calculus and forget about GR for a few years.
  7. Nov 2, 2009 #6
    I know some Newtonian mechanics and some basic calculus and I have worked on physics with calculus . Anyway thanks to you all :smile:
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