General relativity lectures by leonard susskind on youtube

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I've been watching leonard susskind's lectures on general relativity on youtube, i'm now at the fifth of them. It is my first exposure to general relativity and so far the lectures are pretty easy to follow.

So my question is this, to anyone who has had more exposure to the subject: Do you think the level of the lectures is too low to consider it a good one to learn general relativity from, beyond the very very basics?
or would you rather consider it a really basic introduction?

I have found it a bit suspicious sometimes that i havent had to struggle a lot to understand everything.
I dont have access to advanced general relativity books at my school's library and i dont know any to look up online, so i really cant check by myself, therefore my question.

Thanks in advance for reading and replying.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
WannabeNewton
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They are a complete and utter waste of time in my opinion. You would be doing yourself much more justice by just getting a textbook on the subject.
 
  • #3
atyy
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They are basic, so if one is a non-physicist (like me) learning GR for fun, it's probably alright. Susskind is a great physicist, so it's interesting to see his exposition. It's good to have some other sources to check against when self studying. Here are some:

Gibbons http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/research/gr/members/gibbons/partiipublic-2006.pdf
Woodhouse http://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/nwoodh/gr/index.html [Broken]
Carroll http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/9712019
Visser http://msor.victoria.ac.nz/foswiki/pub/Courses/MATH465_2013T1/WebHome/notes-465-2013.pdf
Winitzki https://sites.google.com/site/winitzki/index/topics-in-general-relativity
 
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  • #4
atyy
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One more link http://www.ift.unesp.br/users/jpereira/igr.pdf, which contains an explanation of "minimal coupling" on p161. In my view, GR has two main ideas

1) the Einstein field equation: G=T, which relates spacetime curvature on the left hand side to energy on the right hand side, and enforces covariant conservation of stress-energy

2) the minimal coupling prescription, which is also needed to enforce the equivalence principle, and tells us how to get the form of T in the Einstein field equation for various sorts of matter.
 
  • #5
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I like the Susskind lectures as a very gentle intro. IMO, they contain the bare minimum math for even a basic treatment, so there is a lot that he leaves out and many broad gaps. But he does discuss the basic concepts clearly. I don't think it can be done with any less math than he uses.
 
  • #6
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I haven't seen these Susskind lectures. Must be a better use of time than watching old episodes of Deep Space 9 or something.

Sean Carroll does a 3-hour lecture that's pretty good for getting the high points:

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/econf/C0507252/lec_notes/Carroll/default.htm

EDIT: Fixed the link.

For a recent GR book, I think Zee has the best physics/dollar ratio. The Kindle version is OK on a big screen (iPad or larger tablet.)
 
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  • #7
WannabeNewton
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If you're serious about learning GR, then just like with any other physics subject you're going to have to go through some textbook/lecture notes. How much physics and math do you know already?
 
  • #8
If you're serious about learning GR, then just like with any other physics subject you're going to have to go through some textbook/lecture notes. How much physics and math do you know already?

Yeah i agree on that, i think i will defintely grab a textbook on the subject, so far i had been learning from the videos and from sokolnikoff's tensor analysis.

As to my physics and math knoledge, I've had courses on newtonian mechanics and basic electromagnetism, thermodynamics, analytical mechanics, vector analysis, ordinary differential equations, linear algebra and complex variables, plus other obvious stuff like 3 calculus courses for example.
I've also self learned special relativity and partial differential equations.
I'm in my third year of undergraduate physics.
 
  • #9
WannabeNewton
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Oh then you can tackle a lot of GR books out there with no issue. I guess the problem is getting access to the books?
 
  • #10
Oh then you can tackle a lot of GR books out there with no issue. I guess the problem is getting access to the books?
Yes that would be the main problem, atyy left some very good links up there, though i think i will try to order a text on amazon or something, i prefer reading on the physical book.
Do you have any suggestions?
 
  • #11
WannabeNewton
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https://www.amazon.com/dp/0805387323/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0226870332/?tag=pfamazon01-20 (my personal favorite out of all GR texts)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/9400754094/?tag=pfamazon01-20 (very mathematically sophisticated if you're into that)


Also I absolutely love Geroch's notes on GR, which you can download for free from UChicago: http://home.uchicago.edu/~geroch/Links_to_Notes.html

I also found the following notes to be extremely helpful, to say the least, in explaining various GR concepts and aspects of tensor analysis plus they have really cool discussions about the notion of global rotation in GR: http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~dmalamen/bio/GR.pdf
 
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  • #12
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0805387323/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0226870332/?tag=pfamazon01-20 (my personal favorite out of all GR texts)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/9400754094/?tag=pfamazon01-20 (very mathematically sophisticated if you're into that)


Also I absolutely love Geroch's notes on GR, which you can download for free from UChicago: http://home.uchicago.edu/~geroch/Links_to_Notes.html

I also found the following notes to be extremely helpful, to say the least, in explaining various GR concepts and aspects of tensor analysis plus they have really cool discussions about the notion of global rotation in GR: http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~dmalamen/bio/GR.pdf

thank you very much for the links, i'll try to order wald's text, it sounds very good
did you have a course on the subject?
any advise you wanna share for self learning it?
 
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  • #13
WannabeNewton
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This is my first semester taking a GR class actually; I'm one year below you (2nd year of undergraduate physics).

I would say that as far as self-studying Wald goes, ask a lot of questions and (ideally) do all of the problems in the text. At times Wald can be quite terse, especially with the tensor calculus, and he also skips over some rather important calculations like the calculations justifying the physical/geometric interpretations of the twist, shear, and expansion of time-like congruences; I would suggest that you consult both Geroch's notes and Malament's notes (both linked above) for more detailed expositions/calculations when needed.

Also don't limit yourself to just Wald; if you can get access to other texts through your school library then do that as well. Some schools, like mine, also allow you to download Springer eBooks for free so if your school has that then you can download Straumann's GR text for free which I would highly recommend. The book goes into a lot of things that Wald doesn't and in my opinion does a better job with energy/momentum in GR and the ADM formulation as well as treating things like the natural coordinate system for accelerating observers in curved space-time, Thomas Precession, Geodetic precession etc. in a detailed manner.
 
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  • #14
atyy
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https://www.amazon.com/dp/0805387323/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0226870332/?tag=pfamazon01-20 (my personal favorite out of all GR texts)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/9400754094/?tag=pfamazon01-20 (very mathematically sophisticated if you're into that)


Also I absolutely love Geroch's notes on GR, which you can download for free from UChicago: http://home.uchicago.edu/~geroch/Links_to_Notes.html

I also found the following notes to be extremely helpful, to say the least, in explaining various GR concepts and aspects of tensor analysis plus they have really cool discussions about the notion of global rotation in GR: http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~dmalamen/bio/GR.pdf
I think one can't go wrong with Wald if one has to choose only one book. I have, however, never been sure on one of his points - that there should be an initial value formulation of physics.
 
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  • #15
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Wald will appeal to those who respond to a more mathematical mode of expression. For example, see the definition of homogeneous below.

I prefer more physical presentations like Zee, Hartle, Ta-Pei Cheng, or Rindler.
 

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  • #16
WannabeNewton
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Mathematical sophistication is a relative thing: Wald's text is not nearly as mathematically sophisticated as Straumann's text for example. Needless to say, there is nothing wrong with defining things properly instead of using the terrible hand-wavy language in books like Zee; these things only lead to misconceptions. I cringe every time I see the mathematical definitions in Zee's book (I mean defining static space-times in a coordinate-dependent way must be a sin on some account!); Hartle isn't a problem because the book is meant for sophomore and junior level undergrads so it does extremely well what it sets out to do.
 
  • #17
atyy
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I prefer more physical presentations like Zee, Hartle, Ta-Pei Cheng, or Rindler.
And I thought I was the only one who liked Rindler. It's very idiosyncratic, I think, which is why I didn't suggest it as a general recommendation.

Unfortunately (if you have to spend money to buy them), GR is just one of those things for which it's helpful to read many books. Two others with different points of view that are really good are Ellis and Hawking, and Weinberg. And it's nice to be able to dip into MTW every now and then. Also, Ohanian and Ruffini. I think the first GR book I read was Malcolm Ludvigsen's, because that was what was recommended in Penrose's "Road to Reality". I was lucky to have access to a library with these books.

One more free online source which I like which is hopefully only temporarily offline is Blau's http://www.blau.itp.unibe.ch/Lecturenotes.html .
 
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  • #18
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And I thought I was the only one who liked Rindler. It's very idiosyncratic, I think, which is why I didn't suggest it as a general recommendation.
Perhaps I should list Ohanian instead of Rindler. It did take some time to appreciate Rindler's idiosyncrasies, but there are a lot of insights not found elsewhere.
 
  • #19
atyy
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Perhaps I should list Ohanian instead of Rindler. It did take some time to appreciate Rindler's idiosyncrasies, but there are a lot of insights not found elsewhere.
I think Ohanian is even worse than Rindler, but I 'm not sure if I'm being unfairly influenced by the invective tone in some of Ohanian's essays. Nonetheless, Rindler, and Ohanian and Ruffini are personal favourites of mine. I like Rindler's sketch of how Einstein might have had a simple calculation to show that a geometric viewpoint could "work", as well as his discussion of the equivalence principle for a falling charge. I think Ohanian states minimal coupling the most clearly. I'm glad at least one other person shares my peculiar tastes.

IIRC, PAllen owns lots of GR books, including Anderson's which I've been curious to see because MTW mentions it favourably with respect to the discussion of "no prior geometry".
 
  • #20
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I think Ohanian is even worse than Rindler, but I 'm not sure if I'm being unfairly influenced by the invective tone in some of Ohanian's essays.
Ohanian is more standard in his notation and coverage of topics. I haven't seen any evidence that some of his crankier views have effected the text.
 

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