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Good differential geometry book

  1. Jan 24, 2007 #1
    I'm looking for a good book on riemannian geometry, with a minimum of prerequistes and that takes a more intutive rather than formal approach.

    I know a bit of calculus of variations, multivariable calculus, vector calculus, and a bit of linear algebra.
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  3. Jan 24, 2007 #2


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    Do you want to learn it in the context of general relativity?

    If so, I recommand, "Relativity on curved manifolds" by de Felice and Clarke. It is a math book, not a physics book and it meets your requirement of "informality" while still being completely rigourous.

    I actually haven't read any other "maths of relativity" books, so it's not like out of a selection of tens of books, I think this one is the best, but I'm using it and find it totally adequate.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2007
  4. Jan 24, 2007 #3
    This is what I wrote about this topic about a year ago:

    "...Whatever you do, do *not* start with any text written by a Russian or published by Dover or written for physicists. So many people start down that path and are never seen again.

    "I would recommend that you start with the basics: low-dimensional differential geometry. Millman and Parker's Elements of Differential Geometry and Do Carmo's Differential Geometry of Curves and Surfaces and Oprea's Differential Geometry are all excellent introductions to the field and develop the proper intuition for the subject."

    All three of the above books, though often technical, require not much more than what you claim to have covered already.
  5. Jan 24, 2007 #4
    Why would it be wrong to chose those?
  6. Jan 24, 2007 #5
    ...because they will not provide you with what you requested.
  7. Jan 24, 2007 #6
    Is riemannian geometry by sylvestre gallot good?
  8. Jan 24, 2007 #7
    Maybe it's just me, but I would start with the low dimensional case, ie:

    Differential Geometry of Curves and Surfaces by Do Carmo
  9. Jan 24, 2007 #8


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    everyone agrees docarmo is outstanding.
  10. Jan 24, 2007 #9
    Not having seen do Carmo, my recommendation for a text would be https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Dif..._bbs_sr_1/102-0400383-7620159?ie=UTF8&s=books. They cover the differential geometry of curves and surfaces and then in the final chapter generalize to R^n.

    I do have do Carmo's follow on Riemannian Geometry book, which is very good, but does ideally require a previous course in differential geometry (he refers to his own differential geometry book quite often).

    By the way, there is nothing wrong with the books that Dover has put out. They are older books that cover classical differential geometry, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think Struik's book is pretty good, actually.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  11. Jan 24, 2007 #10
    Do Carmo's books are great. :biggrin: It is good to have a familiarity with 3-dimensional differential geometry first (i.e. geometry of curves and surfaces embedded in R^3). However you need to sort of re-learn from an intrinsic point of view when you go to Riemannian geometry or GR for that matter. So just be prepared. :smile:
  12. Jan 24, 2007 #11
    I like this book. I'd say it is a pretty good book. A plus for you is that it only assumes knowlege of calculus in euclidean space. However, that's not to say that you'll be able to go thorugh it with no problems. Familiarity with geometry on curves and surface is alot of help. Familiarity with differentiable manifolds also helps.

    But I think that if you devote enough time trying to understand everything you might be able to go through it just fine.

    I'm not so sure what you mean by intuitive rather than formal. The presentation and format of the bool seems a bit formal to me.
  13. Jan 24, 2007 #12
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  14. Jan 25, 2007 #13
    What i meant was, does it present the intuition behind every theorem or a t least the major ones.
  15. Jan 25, 2007 #14
    I also like "Riemannian Manifolds: An Introduction to Curvature" by John M. Lee.
  16. Jan 25, 2007 #15


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    the reason to prefer the newer books over the older books is the observatiion that people who learn the old way first tend not to be able or willing to learn the new way afterwards, whereas those who learn the modern approach can easily read the old books as well.

    are you a counterexample to this belief daverz?
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2007
  17. Jan 26, 2007 #16
    Like I said, Gallot's book is pretty formal and if you have not had experience with the geometry of curves and surfaces then it might not be as intuitive. You can always try to look at a theorem and try to make an example for a 2D surface or something but it won't be as strightforwardas it would be if you've studied the geometry of curves and surfaces.

    A book that I think takes a more intuitive approach is https://www.amazon.com/Differential...bbs_sr_1/105-5816210-9031656?ie=UTF8&s=books". This book will present you with the geometry of curves and surfaces and to some of the concepts of riemannian geometry in the context of curves and surfaces and then generalize later. This will make it easier to understand the more general approach (which is the kind that is done in Gallot).

    Some people rather just deal with the general case from the beginning (I'm not sure whether that's a good idea, though) but as you want an intuitive approach Kuhnel's book seems right.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  18. Jan 27, 2007 #17


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    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
  19. Jan 27, 2007 #18


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    nonetheless, you should try to understand what doodle bob is getting at here.
  20. Jan 27, 2007 #19
    "Modern Differential Geometry for Physicists" by Isham is a gem IMHO.
  21. Jan 27, 2007 #20


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    one of the things i remember about the great books on basic physics by feynman was his assertion that he was going to teach the stduehnts as if they were all going to be physicists, even though he knew that was not the case. And he remarked that all their other teachers at cal tech would do the same. There is a reason for that, namely that is the only way to do justice to the subject.

    THERE MAY BE EXCEPTIONS, BUT A BOOK ENTITLED math for Physicists strikes me LIKE ONE ENTITLED algebra for dummies, i.e. a slap in the face of the reader, as if he/she is not intelligent enough to apropeciaTE THE COUrsE TAUGHT CORReCTLY.
  22. Jan 27, 2007 #21
    Oh, isn't that nice?

    Ragnar, let's get back to the point. The only way to gain deep understanding and intuition with regard to diffl. geometry (and any topic for that matter) is to work on problems, actually pedagogically well-posed problems: i.e. those designed to bring out the various geometrical and analytical ideas involved with the subject.

    So, you want a text with not only well-written chapters, but good sets of problems and exercises to work on.

    The vast, vast majority of diffl. geometry texts written for/by physicists are for pure content only. From the authors' perspective, geometry is a tool to create models and that's it. This is fine from a purely physics point of view, but not if you're looking for an upgrade on your spacial reasoning skills.

    What's wrong with the Russian? you ask. Well, the Russian education system has students working on geometric problems at a comparatively intense level at a very early age. Most texts written for Russian students already assumes a lot of geometrical thinking that most of us pick up during the first few years of studying diffl. geometry.

    Finally, those damn Dover books. Look, they're cheap for the most part ecause the copyrights ran out and no one else really cared enough about the book to keep them in print. There are quite a few good Dover texts -- e.g. Bishop, Struik -- but in the end you get what you pay for and I don't think any of these are what you are looking for.

    Again, track down the books that have been recommended here. And don't be afraid to wade into the technical details. True understanding comes only from willing to get your hands dirty with specific (and often messy) problems.
  23. Jan 28, 2007 #22
    Have you actually observed this?

    I don't think Struik's book is hugely different from some modern undergrad books on differential geometry. Certainly not on the basic concepts.

    I think Struik + https://www.amazon.com/Differential...ef=sr_1_1/105-5132629-7912426?ie=UTF8&s=books would make a nice combination.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  24. Jan 28, 2007 #23


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    "Have you actually observed this?"

    yes i have. in fact i presume you have too, the last several years as many people here who think tensors are arrays of indices have persistently declined to learn what they mean in terms of multilinearity.

    the point is not that the old books are similar, if they were you could read the two types in any order.

    the point is the modern books are more conceptual, and require a new way of thinking, which people disinclined to learn new things refuse to acquire in their old age.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2007
  25. Jan 28, 2007 #24


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    i recall this insight on the reluctance of people trained in old methods to upgrade, was first pointed out to me by the famous complex algebraic geometer Boris Moishezon, when i was a relatively young man in 1976. He had been obliged by his teacher to indulge the biases of the older seminar members against modern methods when speaking.

    In particular he had been asked by his advisor to present Hironaka's proof of the resolution of singularities, without using the concept of quotient ring. I still remember his plaintive cry, "how is this possible?!"

    I listened to his advice.
  26. Jan 28, 2007 #25


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    here is some complementary advice from richard courant: After stressing the necessity of acquiring the modern higher appreciation for general "methods" over the ancient one of focus on individual examples, he says:

    "The point of view of school mathematics tempts one to linger over details and to lose ones grasp of general relationships and systematic methods. On the other hand, in the "higher" point of view there lurks the opposite danger of getting out of touch with concrete details, so that one is left helpless when faced with the simplest cases of individual difficulty....

    The reader must find his own way of meeting this dilemma. In this he can only succeed by repeatedly thinking out particular cases for himself and acquiring a firm grasp of the applications of general principles in particular cases; here lies the chief task of anyone who wishes to pursue the study of Science."

    pages 2-3, Differential and Integral Calculus, vol. 1.

    perhaps this is what you mean to address by recommending one older and one newer book.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2007
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