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GR Book

  1. Aug 30, 2006 #1
    Hi guys, I am trying to study GR on my own. You got any good books in mind?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2006 #2
  4. Aug 30, 2006 #3

    chroot

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    Schutz is unintimidating, a quick read, and is good for developing conceptual understanding, but, IMO, you really can't beat Wald.

    Be careful which book you buy -- many older books use notation which is no longer in favor. Wald use abstract index notation, the most common notation in use today, and is surprisingly easy and fun to read.

    Older, classic GR books like Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler (the "phone book") are still as excellent today as they were when they were written, but notation has evolved since their publication.

    - Warren
     
  5. Aug 30, 2006 #4
    OK, I change my question. Do you guys have any good book on the concept of Tesors? I mean, I just went to the library to search some of the books you guys recommended, and almost all of 'em assume that the reader is already familiar with tensors. I have done one quarter of linear algebra in college, but I have never seens things like tensors before (the notations are new to me as well).

    So can you guys recommend me either a GR book that has a good intro to tensors or maybe a Linear Algebra book that has not to complex analysis of tensors.

    Thanks for the help.
     
  6. Aug 30, 2006 #5

    chroot

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    I'd recommend the Schaum's Outline of Tensor Calculus, personally. It uses abstract index notation, too, so will work well with a book like Wald. You don't really need a complete textbook on tensors just to be able to use tensors for GR.

    - Warren
     
  7. Aug 30, 2006 #6

    hellfire

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    May be this is just a matter of taste, but IMHO if you don't know about tensors you should forget Wald. Of course you may want to learn about tensors first and then try Wald, but this will be hard if you do that on your own. Schutz is the best choice to learn GR on your own, starting from the basics and keeping always the physics in mind. It has also a lot of exercises. After mastering Schutz, you can think about leaning more geometry and starting with Wald. There is also this online lecture notes a bit more difficult than Schutz but easier than Wald.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2006
  8. Aug 30, 2006 #7

    chroot

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    Good point, hellfire.

    I personally like Schutz quite a lot, but found Wald to be much more complete. Wald does include a brief survey of differential geometry, but not really enough to get you past the first half of the book (IMO).

    On the other hand, most people can saunter through the entirety of Schutz with not much more than a firm grasp of real-variable calculus, and still pick up and understand all the important conclusions of GR -- but they won't learn much differential geometry and won't be able to "graduate" to more authoritative texts without some additional work.

    - Warren
     
  9. Aug 30, 2006 #8

    robphy

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  10. Aug 31, 2006 #9
    Schutz's First Course is still one of the better introductions, at about the senior undergraduate level (i.e. after upper-division mechanics and E&M), but well prepared juniors could probably handle it fairly well. Friendly but not dumbed down.

    I've seen a lot of good reviews for Hartle. I believe it is at about the same level as Schutz.

    I also like Ohanian, Gravitation and Spacetime, 2nd ed.. Ohanian is very physical, and he has an interesting approach, developing linear GR in analogy with electrodynamics before introducing the usual Riemannian geometry and the full Einstein equation. Each chapter has full references and an annotated bibliography. And there are answers to the odd problems in the back. A classy production. You'll need upper-division mechanics and E&M under your belt, though.

    Wald is a terse, unfriendly book IMO. He assumes a lot of mathematical sophistication, and I also think he is often unneccessarily abstract. It has a lot of modern topics in a compact form, though, and some of that abstract language needs to be absorbed eventually if you are going to do research.

    I think Wald probably needs to be supplemented with one of the various "Differential Geometry for Physicists" books. I'm not sure which to recommend.

    I would tackle Sean Carroll's Spacetime and Geometry before Wald. It's pitched at a level just below Wald, avoids unneccessary abstraction, has a modern selection of topics, and is much friendlier in general. I hope your library has it, because it's a very pricy book. If you look around on Carroll's home page (google), you can find links to videos of 3 hour lectures he gave to particle physicists. It's like a very condensed set of highlights from the book. Very inspiring.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2006
  11. Sep 5, 2006 #10
    Hey you guys. I checked out Schutz and Ohanian over this labor day weekend, but, unfortunately, I had a hard time understand them probably because I don't know much about tensors. But I also checked out Schaum's outline of theory and problems of tensor calculus and I think its a great book on tensor calculus! I think I am just going to stick to this book until I have a good understanding of tensors and put GR aside for now.
     
  12. Sep 5, 2006 #11

    George Jones

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    Hartle's book, mentioned by Daverz, does an amazing amount of GR before introducing tensors. Exploring Black Holes, by Taylor and Wheeler does not use tensors at all.

    Wald and Hartle have both written articles about teaching general relativity. Section 4, on undergrad GR courses, of Wald's paper does not even mention tensors.

    I have given my opinions here and here, which also contain links to the articles by Wald and Harltle.

    Don't get me wrong , I :!!) LOVE :!!) TENSORS, particularly when they're defined as multilinear maps, and they must be mastered by all relativists, but they don't necessarily have to appear in a first quantitarive course on general relativity.
     
  13. Sep 5, 2006 #12

    robphy

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    You might be interested in the articles and slides presented at this AAPT topical meeting "Teaching General Relativity to Undergraduates" I attended recently. Unfortunately, the posters haven't been put online yet.

    Tom Moore is working on a new GR text... and offers some comments on teaching with tensors.
     
  14. Sep 6, 2006 #13

    George Jones

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    Thanks for the link.

    I dearly wanted to go to this meeting, both because the subject matter, and to meet you in person. My wife and I discussed ways of making it, but, in the end, events largely out of our control ensured that this didn't happen.
     
  15. Sep 6, 2006 #14
    Thank you George and robphy for those cool online links ... very helpful. Also thanks all of you guys who recommended me those GR books. I appreciate it.
     
  16. Sep 6, 2006 #15

    robphy

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    George,
    I'm sorry you couldn't make it to the meeting.
    I would have liked to meet you in person as well. (When I find the time again, I still would like to discuss the eclipsing binary problem I raised earlier https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=122152 )

    Let's hope another similar conference opportunity arises.
    (After passing up the previous meetings, I'm looking forward to the 2008 meeting of http://www.spacetimesociety.org/conferences.html .)
     
  17. Sep 6, 2006 #16
    No one has mentioned Rindler, Relativity: Special, General, and Cosmological now in a second edition (really a 4th, as it used to be titled Essential Relativity). It's an eccentric book in some places, but it's full of fascinating heuristic arguments and interesting approaches to various topics. Also very thorough on SR. This is one of my favorite relativity books to read for pleasure. And he's taught relativity for decades.
     
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