# Relativity General Relativity by Robert M. Wald

## For those who have used this book

81.0%

19.0%

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4. ### Strongly don't Recommend

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1. Jan 19, 2013

### Greg Bernhardt

Last edited: May 6, 2017
2. Jan 20, 2013

### bcrowell

Staff Emeritus
This is a classic text, but "classic" isn't completely a good thing. General relativity is a living field, and 29 years is a long time. The book never had an acceptable amount of contact with observation, and that shortcoming has become even more severe with the passage of time; it predates LIGO, Gravity Probe B, modern studies of CMB anisotropy, and the discoveries of supermassive black holes and the nonzero cosmological constant.

Pedagogically, I would not recommend this book for someone encountering GR for the first time. For a first-time student, a more appropriate text would be Carroll or the also-classic Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler. For someone who is serious about GR, the book is useful because it treats some advanced topics in a more accessible fashion than one can find elsewhere.

3. Jan 20, 2013

### VantagePoint72

For a very first look at GR without already having a background in differential geometry, I think a quick read the first few chapters of Schutz is a good idea. After that, I second the recommendation for Carroll (and I think it would be wise to read before MTW). Of course, Carroll (and most others) don't assume prior knowledge of differential geometry either, but Schutz takes you through it at such a leisurely pace that it's especially good for first exposure.

I usually suggest the Schutz > Carroll sequence for introductions, followed by either Wald or MTW for further study.

4. Jan 20, 2013

### WannabeNewton

I wouldn't recommend Schutz over Carroll at all. Schutz butchers the beautiful subject of differential geometry and if you've seen in the past on people asking specific questions from the text on this forum, it is usually tied to his horrible exposition of differential geometry. As a golden rule of thumb: never learn a math subject from a physics textbook especially when the subject forms the very core of the underlying physical theory. Wald is top notch - nothing bad to say about it at all and Carroll is also good (less advanced but still covers a lot and his tone is very gentle). Wald is very mathematical which, for me anyways, makes it much more enjoyable. Carroll sometimes handwaves the mathematics but he still explains everything at a nice level of rigor.

5. Jan 20, 2013

### Fredrik

Staff Emeritus
I think Wald is fine as a first book on GR, but I would only recommend it (as a first book) to a very serious student who's studying differential geometry at the same time. I recommend the books by John M. Lee for that, "Introduction to smooth manifolds" and "Riemannian manifolds: an introduction to curvature". These books are excellent. The only problem is that you need both of them.

I also second the recommendation to read the first few chapters of Schutz first. Wald only devotes one page to SR, but Schutz covers it very thoroughly. Schutz also contains a nice introduction to tensors. (Edit: Just to make it perfectly clear, the following two sentences are about Schutz, not Wald). It's a GR book, but what makes it good are the parts about SR and tensors. The part about GR is too thin on differential geometry for my taste.

Last edited: Apr 27, 2013
6. Apr 27, 2013

### martinbn

Just to add to the above that I would also recommend it to a mathematician who wants to study general relativity.

7. Apr 29, 2013

### Lavabug

To those of you who've read/worked with all of the big name GR texts (Wald, MTW, Weinberg, Landau's fields), if you were to buy only one of them which one would you pick? I'm looking for an encyclopedic thing that will keep me coming back but I would like it to have some treatment on gravitational waves.

I've taken a "mathematical methods for GR" course so I wouldn't be spending much time on the first few chapters(but it would be nice if it were self-contained like Landau's classical theory of fields). I've read some of Carroll's but I really didn't like it(too many handwavy explanations, it just doesn't flow well), and a bit of Weinberg's "Gravitation and Cosmology" and I really liked it(notation was identical to my course), but I only read the intro chapters on tensor calculus and not the actual physics.

8. Apr 29, 2013

### WannabeNewton

My personal bias would have me say Wald, without a doubt. Although I do wish his problem sets were less computational and more theoretical, to complement his theoretical discussions. If you ever get your hands on the book, take an immediate look at problem 7.5; it asks you to show, given the twist $\omega_{a} = \nabla_{a}\omega = \epsilon_{abcd}\xi^{b}\nabla^{c}\xi^{d}$ of a time-like killing field $\xi^{a}$, that $\nabla_{[e}(2\xi^{c}\xi_{c}\nabla_{a}\xi_{b]} + \omega \epsilon_{ab]cd}\nabla^{c}\xi^{d}) = 0$.

Without a doubt this was the most arduous tensor calculus problem in the entire text. While I find such tensor calculus problems fun, they make up a very large bulk of the problems in the text whereas I would have liked more "physical" problems (the sort you would see in MTW) and more theoretical problems (the kind you will see in chapter 8 of Wald which were basically topology problems haha). In this sense, I would say getting only Wald would be a mistake because you would need to supplement the problem sets in Wald with the problems from other texts e.g. Carroll (which I also like very much) and, as mentioned before, MTW. I wouldn't recommend Landau's classical theory of fields for learning GR at all.

9. Apr 29, 2013

### Lavabug

That's kind of what I was trying to avoid, as my course pretty much consisted of exercises like this (mostly simpler things, ie tensor transformation of Christoffel symbols,general tensor identity proofs, grinding out Ricci components and curves from a given metric but no actual derivation of the Schwarschild or FLRW metrics...)

It appears as if all major GR texts except Carroll are out of date now (and I don't like this one, it's on my shelf gathering dust but I haven't looked at the later chapters on cosmology or GW which might be done better than the basics). Maybe I should go with Weinberg's first?

10. Apr 29, 2013

### George Jones

Staff Emeritus
Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
11. Apr 29, 2013

### WannabeNewton

If you look at chapter 11 of Wald, problem 11.6 is a funny one because the first two parts of the problem are insanely trivial whereas the third part asks you to calculate the Komar integral for the total angular momentum of the charged kerr space-time. It was such a painful calculation that I cried, several times.

EDIT: Just to clarify, Wald does derive the main results (e.g. Schwarzschild metric) and uses very satisfying geometric arguments in doing so. Also, just for fun, here is a worked out example of another typical tensor calculus problem from Wald (problem 7.1, so yeah same chapter as the one I mentioned above lol): https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=677782

I'll have to take a look at this one alongside Lavabug; I remember you mentioning this book in chat once. How did you find it thus far? Thanks George!

Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
12. Apr 30, 2013

### Lavabug

That looks fantastic, thanks! Is this book catching on a lot?

13. Apr 30, 2013

### WannabeNewton

Yeah I would like to know too. The exercises look very fun, they have like an MTW feel to them (haven't seen any of the projects though); unfortunately they don't have any solutions but neither does Wald so no complaint there :tongue:. It is quite steep in price so it would be nice to check it out somewhat more carefully before buying. We should work through it together haha

14. May 3, 2013

### WannabeNewton

So I ordered the Padmanabhan text. I can't wait to dig into it during the summer; hopefully it is as good as it seems from the Amazon preview. Thanks George!

15. Nov 30, 2013

### 1ndranil

Robert M. Wald (general relativity) prerequirments

I wish to read ch 1 to ch 6 from the book "General Relativity" by Robert M. Wald in full mathematical generality. [I do not have any considerable background in differential geometry. I'm a physics graduate student with some background in topology, advanced calculus, linear algebra]. Suggest me a book for mathematical parts.

16. Nov 30, 2013

### Jorriss

17. Nov 30, 2013

### WannabeNewton

18. Nov 30, 2013

### pervect

Staff Emeritus
If you have the time, I'd suggest reading an undergraduate GR text first (I'm fond of Taylor, so I'd suggest Exploring Black Holes - there may be better choices out there). And I would read a tensor treatment of electromagnetism (Jackson's is traditional, but you might do just as well or better with the appropriate sections of Griffiths). I assume you've already had something like Goldstein's "Classical Mechanics".

19. Nov 30, 2013

### bcrowell

Staff Emeritus
Wald has almost no applications and makes almost no connection with experiment, which makes it a poor choice for a student's first introduction to GR. I would start with Taylor and Wheeler's Spacetime Physics, which, although it's an SR text, actually has quite a bit of material in it that explicitly prepares you for GR. Pervect's suggestion of reading an undergrad GR text is also excellent. Hartle is good. Exploring Black Holes is a fine book as far as it goes, but its focus is very narrow, and it won't prepare you with any of the mathematical techniques. Rather than Wald, which is extremely out of date, I would suggest Carroll. There is even a free preliminary version of Carroll online.

20. Nov 30, 2013

### Jorriss

Wald is extremely out of date?