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Good book on QFT

  1. Oct 17, 2004 #1
    Hello,

    First I want to apologize for this FAQ-like question, but I couldn't find the answer anywhere here. so...I'm looking for a good book on quantum field theory and I'm new to this subject. I've had a introductory course on quantum mechanics. I found the following on the internet:

    - Peskin, Michael E., and Daniel V. Schroeder. An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory.

    -Weinberg, Steven. The Quantum Theory of Fields: Volume 1,2,3

    -Zee. Quantum field theory in a nutshell

    And since I'm not planning to buy all those, I was hoping someone here could tell me which one is the best. And if you know of a book which you think is better to begin with, please tell me.
     
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  3. Oct 17, 2004 #2

    Haelfix

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    You need them all, its just that simple.

    Peskin and Schroeder should probably be the book you use if you are going to solve a lot of homework problems and actually calculate.

    Zee, is the conceptually strongest IMO. He has a nack for making a hard subject quite apparent. Its sorta the book I might casually read on the airplane the week before classes begin (as an example). Its my fav of the lot for a beginner.

    Weinberg is the most sophisticated text of the three. Its very challenging if you have never seen field theory before, and he uses a lot of his own notation so its a tad hard to follow at times. But if you fully understand Weinberg 1 & 2 down to the letter, you really are stronger than even some proffessors who might not have seen field theory for awhile.
     
  4. Oct 17, 2004 #3

    Fredrik

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    I think the best option for you is Peskin & Schroeder. Weinberg's book is amazing, but it's not for beginners. When you've learned most of what's in P & S and would like to see a different approach, and at the same time take your understanding to a deeper level, then you should read Weinberg.

    A very good alternative to P&S is Mandl & Shaw. It has the same approach as P&S, but is less detailed. This is both good and bad. The upside is that you get to the essentials more quickly, and the downside is of course that you might be interested in some of those details. (There are also some details in M&S that aren't in P&S, like e.g. some good stuff about the quantization of the electomagnetic field).

    I haven't read Zee, but I've heard that it uses a path integral approach as the starting point. I don't know if that's such a great idea. I think the quantization of classical fields approach (used by both P&S and M&S) is probably the best approach for beginners. Someone who has actually read Zee might disagree (and now I see that Haelfix does that :smile:), but I think it might be a good idea to skip that book for now, and maybe read it when you already know the basics and would like to learn more about path integrals. Haelfix, am I wrong about this? Why is Zee's book good for beginners?

    I also think that if you don't want to spend money on a second book right now, you should still find a way to get a copy of chapter 2 of volume 1 of Weinberg's book. (You don't need chapter 1). I've read it lots of times, and I think it's brilliant.
     
  5. Oct 17, 2004 #4

    Haelfix

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    It indeed does path integrals first, but canonical quantization is also in the second chapter.

    You learn baby field theory in two chapters basically, and in a nice intuitive way.

    Its very fast, and skims over a lot of the details that P/S laboriously go through, but then again you actually know what to expect when you actually take a class in it. I find knowing the lingo and the actual answers first is much better than actually learning how to solve the equations and forgetting what the solution is.

    Personally, I would casually read Zee first, like a novel almost... In a sense it is to field theory like the Feynman lectures are to quantum mechanics. Of course, I didn't do it that way back when I was in grad school, but nevertheless I still recommend it.
     
  6. Oct 17, 2004 #5

    selfAdjoint

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    Some physicists I know are a little disturbed that Zee completely ignores important issues like LSZ formalism (some of them are not that thrilled with P&S' treatment of LSZ either). You could just say this is a matter of taste, but it's not doing the students any favors to make them experts in technique but unsound on the underpinnings that support that technique. Is QFT about fields only or does it do particles, and why?
     
  7. Oct 17, 2004 #6
    How would Zee compare to say, Hatfields book on QFT and Strings? Thanks.
     
  8. Oct 17, 2004 #7

    vanesch

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    I fully agree with haelfix. In fact, if you have to leave one out, leave Weinberg out for the moment, because you cannot start with it (but it surely is the best book after that ; I'm currently trying to read it).
    I have maybe one little remark: read Zee and P&S in parallel. Or better yet, start out with the first part of P&S, up to chapter 7. It is quite readable and you get quite some technical stuff up to there. Then read Zee, from A to Z. It really reads as a book and it gives you lots of insight (but is technically rather weak). Armed with this overview, tackle the rest of P&S. If you don't read Zee, you'll have a chance of getting lost in all the technical detail in P&S, and if you haven't read the first part in P&S, you won't even notice the magic in Zee.

    cheers,
    Patrick.
     
  9. Oct 18, 2004 #8
    In order to get a good start and a deep notion of the introductory concepts of QFT, i strongly suggest Zee's book.

    regards
    marlon
     
  10. Oct 18, 2004 #9

    vanesch

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    Yes, except that with Zee, you do not turn the handles of the machinery (or almost not). That's why I suggested the first part of P&S, where you end by doing some very simple QED calculations all the way through up to cross sections. But I agree that Zee is a great book concerning the ratio insight/effort !
    However, I wonder if I'm not tricked into believing that because I already know some QFT. I wonder how you look upto Zee if you've never seen any QFT at all.

    cheers,
    Patrick.
     
  11. Oct 18, 2004 #10
    It is very difficult to tell ! My impression is that it is the best introductory textbook, one can read the entire book within a week. This is not the case with other books I know. The great advantage of this book is that you get an overview, while learning very relevant material.

    I feel in between Patrick and Marlon. If you really do all the calculations proposed in Zee's nutshell, I guess you should already get a respectable level. Yet, Patrick is very right : maybe one will not realize all the difficulties and subtelties by only reading this one book.

    Very different books. Hatfield's book is also intended to beginners, but those who will go into strings and theory. If I remember correctly, there is less material on renormalisation (of course, much less a problem with strings. It is more intended to make sens of loop diagrams). For sure, there is nothing at all about condensed matter. Hatfield goes into details of calculation, with much less emphasis on "why is it so". But then, he also provides a unique material for the "elementary" math of strings. It is very well done for the purpose it serves, but is less general.
     
  12. Oct 18, 2004 #11
    It's been a while since I even had non-relativistic QM. Does Zee give a nice summary to transition from non-relativistic QM to QFT? I know that Hatfield gives a nice summary/transition. But what about Zee? Thanks.
     
  13. Oct 18, 2004 #12
    Zee does not really deals with this transition in the beginning. He goes for path-integral formalism to introduce quantization. See the table of content. Yet, he talks about non-relativistic applications, and so discusses the inverse limit.
     
  14. Oct 18, 2004 #13
    This is the way see it. I do agree that we can discuss on the way certain aspects are introduced or what kind of approach is used in order to introduce QFT. Now this is very useful when one knows the fundamental concepts of QFT very well. I mean by this the INTUITIVE knowledge of QFT-basics. The first question should be what is QFT and how the "unification" of special relativity and QM leads to the virtual particles and the creation of particles "out of nothingness". Then, this vision clearly illustrates the use of fields and the second quantization. Every beginning student should be able to answer questions like why are virtual particles useful, why do we need second quantization and why is this epitheton "second" used?

    Mathematical procedures are in my opinion easy to understand. What they describe in reality is far more difficult to grasp. I believe that trying to explain the latter is the main intention of Zee. Speaking about being able to read this book in a week is crap, i think, because it just is NOT the truth. This is very difficult matter (the hardest physics course in my opinion along with the electromagnetic properties of moving media). Just try to answer this question : what really happens when QFT "speaks" about dynamical mass-generation, formfactors or the difference between Goldstone bosons and Higgs-bosons. Although these concepts are far from being introductory i believe they can be explained without any kind of math in a very intuitive way. This is what students need to know because this knowledge gives you a clear vision on what you are exactly doing and by doing so, it will make the math easier. I have the experience that students get the math or the "approach" yet when performing calculations they loose track of what they are doing and what physical phenomenon is being described. Students need to wonder why things like propagators, running coupling constants, are used and also the connection between these items. just make a student believe that you can calculate effective mass by using a propagator and why we are doing this. The math will become more "clear"


    regards
    marlon
     
  15. Oct 18, 2004 #14
    Marlon, I love your diplomatic language :tongue:

    You are of course right. I have been reading about QFT and the standard model for several years now, and obviously did not have enough time to grasp everything that is in it. It is clear, it would take more than an entire life, to know everything about the historical development and mathematical details of QFT/gauge/renormalization. So thank you for the correction. I really meant : one week to read the words, so one gets an approximate and schematic overview of the content. It is very useful to do so, because once one has this overview available in his head, one can organize the following information more easily.
     
  16. Oct 18, 2004 #15
    Humanino, as always i can only agree with you...

    regards
    marlon
     
  17. Oct 19, 2004 #16
    I thank you all for your opinion. Based on the book reviews and your suggestions, I've dicided to read Peskin first till I encounter problems, then perhaps I'll read Zee. And after that I'll read weinberg's books.

    thanks again and regards
    Arash
     
  18. Oct 24, 2004 #17
  19. Oct 29, 2004 #18

    dextercioby

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