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Cornwell's Group Theory

  1. Aug 3, 2011 #1
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2011 #2
    I did browsed through the book a few times and I didn't liked it much.Its notation is too clumsy for me.
    I enjoyed reading Hammermash's book on group theory though.
  4. Aug 3, 2011 #3
    I don't see how his notation is worse than any of the other contenders, say Tinkham or Inui. :S
  5. Aug 3, 2011 #4
    I haven't gone through any of the books you mentioned.But that was my personal opinion and notation issues can vary from person to person.It also depends on what book is followed by your prof. in the class.
  6. Aug 6, 2011 #5


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    I also reccomend his second volume. Both of them are classical sources of information and are very well written. They pretty much contain everything one needs. The mathematical finesse should be gained with Barut & Raczka, though.
  7. Aug 6, 2011 #6
    Alright. I'll start with this then.

    Yeah, I felt they were well written too. I've never heard of Barut & Raczka. I'll look into it. Thanks Dex!

    EDIT: Amazon says the authors name is A Barut. Is this the same guy with a book in Classical Field Theory?

    EDIT: Yes it is. Found him on Google.
  8. Aug 14, 2011 #7

    I put together a summary of my experience with abstract math and physics including modern algebra. Here is the chunk on algebra, including recommending several books:

    Abstract (or Modern) Algebra (or simply Algebra): First the books:

    1. Sophomore level mathematics (recommended for the physicist who may never take such a course). “Modern Algebra, An Introduction,” by John R. Durbin, 2nd ed. It is very readable and easy to do the homework problems. The whole concept of elaborating on the subgroups of a group is very important to the physicist who uses group theory. This takes up the first four chapters of Durbin, and the physicist will get some ideas of the pure mathematics approach.
    2. “Groups, Representations and Physics,” by H. F. Jones, 2nd ed. This should be read by the physicists concurrently, or shortly after the one years series in graduate quantum mechanics. For reinforcing Jones, I strongly recommend “Modern Quantum Mechanics” by Sakurai.
    3. For those physicist looking for deeper applications in physics, I then recommend “Lie Algebras in Particle Physics, From Isospin to Unified Theories,” by Georgi, 2nd ed. I found this text difficult to read, but it can be done once you have mastered Jones. In fact, reconciling Georgi to Jones is a great exercise.
    4. For the mathematician looking to see what Sophus Lie was up to regarding applications of group theory and topology to partial differential equations, I recommend “Lie Groups, Lie Algebras, and Some of their Applications,” by Robert Gilmore. A MUST READ for the physicist. This is fundamental stuff for the exploration of physics from a very general language: A Lagrangian for a universe, the particle spectra, the local and global topological properties,…
    5. Along the lines of exploring physics using very general language, I strongly recommend “Geometry, Topology, and Physics” by Nakahara. It’s very readable, and shows how gauge field theories can be expressed in terms of connections and fiber bundles. This motivates the use of differential forms, a far more general theory than vector and tensor calculus. (For a quick, but to-the-point introduction on differential forms see, “Introduction to Differential Forms,” by Donu Arapura; I honestly can’t recommend any good physics or math book for a good introduction into forms.)
    6. To the physicist, “Quantum Field Theory,” by Lewis Ryder would make the efforts in 1 through 5 above worth the pain, especially the material that relates differential geometry (General Relativity) with Lie Groups/Algebras—taking an infinitesimal loop in the underlying space (connection in GR, commutator in Lie Groups/Algebras. I also recommend “A First Course in String Theory,” by Barton Zweibach, 1st or 2nd eds. A great tease full of history and ideas for further study is “Knots, Mathematics With a Twist,” by Alexei Sossinsky—you’ll see that the knot theory built up by Vortex atom physicists in the 19th century resembles today’s string theory work.

    I strongly recommend algebra to the physicist, not so much the engineer. The physicist will appreciate aspects of quantum mechanics far better with a solid foundation in Abstract Algebra. Since this is not recommended for all majors, I’ll elaborate on its importance here in Part 1. I took a junior and senior level course in algebra, and years later a full year of graduate classes in a mathematics department. The incredible dryness and ivory ‘towers’ of detachment modern mathematicians have brought to this powerful field is what made me quit pursuing a doctoral program in mathematics and switch to physics. One of the founding fathers of this field, Evariste Galois, died at twenty after a duel. He spent the night before his duel penning his mathematical thoughts. Galois theory solved an old problem, but this first requires some history. Babylonians and Egyptians, and probably earlier peoples, knew how to solve quadratic equations. The derivation of a formula to solve cubic equations had to wait until the early 16th century. Working at this, it may have been the Italian Girolamo Cardano who first ran into what today we call the complex numbers. Cardano’s assistant, or student, Ferrari found a formula for the general quartic, which was published in Cardano’s Ars Magna in 1545. Naturally, mathematicians then went on to search for a formula for the general quintic and higher order polynomials. No dice. Galois put an end to this pursuit in 1832 before a bullet put an end to him. I should say that by the time Galois penned his notes, another ill-fated young man, Abel of Norway had already proved the impossibility of solving the quintic. Abel died at twenty-seven. Is pursuing modern algebra ill-fated?

    Methods of modern algebra were used to classify all 230 possible three-dimensional types of crystals (symmetry groups). In the plane, there are 17 symmetry groups. You have seen them all on stained glass windows in ancient cathedrals, in Roman mosaics, and beneath your feet on bathroom floor tessellations (tiling patterns). Today, circa 2011, the first hard x-ray free electron laser has started making images of the crystallographic structures of whole viruses unperturbed by any preparation techniques required by earlier methods. The crystal structure of table salt was the first resolved by x-ray crystallography in 1914. The first organic crystal structure was solved in 1923, cholesterol in 1937, and by the end of 2010, just over 70,000 protein structures have been worked out by this method. We’re about to cross 75,000 in August of 2011.

    The modest Jewish physicist Eugene Wigner (who’s brief biography is a delight to read) was one of the earlier promoters of group theory to physics early in the 20th century. Many physicists reviled him for bringing this incomprehensible “gruppen-pest” to quantum physics, a mathematical tool which now underlies one of the most basic paradigms through which we describe existence. Group theory underpins our most advanced description of all that we see in the universe, the so-called Standard Model, which we know is likely not a complete theory, as it is too rife with parameters we must put in by hand from experimental results, and it does not include gravity. Algebra also underpins our work to move beyond the Standard Model in the exploration of Grand Unified Theories (GUTs) and Theories of Everything (TOEs) which do include gravity. An honest-to-goodness surfer dude, Garrett Lisi, stirred up the world of physics in 2007 with his TOE based on the group E8. This work is now defunct, but it may serve as a model for further investigations.

    My breakout from mathematics to physics in part lays with the textbook on Abstract Algebra by Lang. The moon has more atmosphere. Thankfully, I eventually ran into “Groups, Representations and Physics,” 2nd ed. by H. F. Jones, Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol and Philadelphia, 1998. There is an old, high school book which can serve as a great introduction: “Groups and Their Graphs” by Israel Grossman and Wilhelm Magnus, The Mathematical Association of America, 9th printing, 1964. A sophomore level book that can also serve as a great introduction is “Modern Algebra, An Introduction,” 2nd ed. by John R. Durbin, John Wiley & Sons, 1985. A much harder read, to follow the Jones text is by the physicist Howard Georgi: “Lie Algebras in Particle Physics, From Isospin to Unified Theories,” Frontiers in Physics, 1999; it is worth the time if you are willing to fill in the steps. The Georgi text is one of perhaps thirty books in mathematics and physics from which I’ve extracted cleaned up notes which many a fellow graduate student has used to make copies of for their own studies. Lastly, there is “Lie Groups, Lie Algebras, and some of their applications” by Robert Gilmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 1974, 2002. Many of the results of mathematical physics (this subject discussed below) are tied together by Lie groups and Lie algebra. Check out “Symmetry Methods for Differential Equations, A Beginner’s Guide” by Peter E. Hydon, Cambridge Texts in Applied Mathematics, 2000.

    Hope this is useful, and I have other similar sections for other areas, e.g., "econophysics".

    A. Alaniz
  9. Aug 15, 2011 #8
    Nice post aalaniz!!I also enjoyed Jones' book on groups very much.Also georgi's book is one of its kind(I'm still trying to understand it)
    One other book I'd like to mention which is a classic is Group Theory and Quantum Mechanics by B.L.van der Waerden.
  10. Aug 16, 2011 #9
    Ho my god! Thank you so much aalaniz! I will look into those books at the library and get back to you.
  11. Aug 21, 2011 #10
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  12. Aug 21, 2011 #11

    George Jones

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    Cornwell is mathematically more careful than is Jones. I have Jones, but I recommend Cornwell.
  13. Aug 22, 2011 #12


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    Cornwell is encyclopedic. If one wants a condensed version with applications to physics, I liked Wu Ki Tung's 1984 writing very much. A better source is the 1970 classic of Fonda and Ghirardi. Books for the (future) physicist.
  14. Aug 23, 2011 #13
    I've got hold of Fonda and Ghirardi. Let me look through it and get back to you.
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