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Hartle too hard Need another suggestion

  1. May 21, 2013 #1
    It started out OK, like a lot of books, but all of a sudden I hit a mass of integrals at page 22 out of nowhere. No build up, no explanation, many solution steps skipped (of course). Sorry to sound weak, but I need to be "nannied" through the maths of General relativity. I'm a right brain thinker as described in this thread, please check my post:


    I don't want a "conceptual" book, I want all the maths, but I need to start slow and with much tutorage with the maths along the way, not suddenly hit with masses of equations and no explanations. I don't care if I have to go through a few books before I get to Hartle and Wald. Just gotta start slowly. Any suggestions would be great:smile:

    Oh, and same goes with any intro Quantum Mechanics textbooks, if you can think of any, thanks.
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  3. May 21, 2013 #2


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    I can't think of a GR book easier than Hartle unfortunately (which isn't saying much since GR is hard at any level). If you get stuck, don't be discouraged and quit. Just ask on the forum and people would be happy to help. It's how you learn love :)

    Don't worry about getting to Wald for now ;)

    I'm no QM person by any means but I think Griffiths is the most user friendly book on the subject. If you've ever used his EM book, you'll feel at ease because his QM book has the same tone so to speak.

    It might help to know what your physics knowledge is already. Do you know mechanics at the level of say Taylor's "Classical Mechanics" and EM at the level of Griffiths? Hartle's book assumes you've had some experience with the aforementioned subjects at the level of said books.
  4. May 22, 2013 #3


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    What you need is McMahon, Relativity Demystified

    If that turns out to be what you needed, then you can use books on other topics by the same author, such as
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. May 22, 2013 #4
  6. May 22, 2013 #5


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    The exclamation at the end made it seem like a TV commercial lmfao but yeah I would like to second this book. It's nice to see I'm not the only one who's ever used the book lol. I think it was the only GR book I ever used that actually worked out in detail parallel transport on a 2-sphere, which at the time was extremely helpful.
  7. May 22, 2013 #6
    Yea lol. I actually started with Hartle for my first GR course, and totally hated his physics-first-bury-the-math approach [I was a math major so already learned differential geometry, so it wasn't too bad, still Hartle's is not of my taste]. So I started to look for other books. I like Foster & Nightingale since it is not as massive as most GR books [and actually have partial solutions to exercises] :tongue: and I didn't have much time for a thick book back then since I was working as full time high school teacher after I obtained my undergrad degree, before eventually went back for graduate school. :-)
  8. May 22, 2013 #7


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    Wow that is really cool. At my uni, they use Hartle for the undergraduate GR course which sucks because like you I hate the "physics - first" approach taken in Hartle. The partial solutions in Foster was definitely a nice touch since no other GR book I know (excluding the Straumann one you recently showed me) actually has a solutions manual or even partial solutions and that sucks for self-study. Of course some GR books, like Wald, almost always tell you what it is you must solve for / prove so at least you'll know if you got the right answer or not :wink:

    I'm a physics major though, not math like yourself, and thankfully I have, for the most part, a lot of free time xD.
  9. May 22, 2013 #8
    Alright, some great info guys. I'm gonna dig into those and see if I can find one that's about my speed. I'll come back and do some more whining if I run into any trouble :wink:
  10. May 22, 2013 #9


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    Zee - Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell

    Zee's book, Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell was just published a few days ago and so far looks quite nice - well past page 22 it is still quite pedagogical.
  11. May 22, 2013 #10


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    If Hartle was difficult at first then Zee will not be any easier. I'm not seeing how Zee will help at all (take a look at the exercises in the text).
  12. May 22, 2013 #11
    I have not really looked into Zee's GR text, but if it is anything like his QFT text, then it is probably better to be read *after* one learned the subject from elsewhere. Of course some people may be able to learn directly from Zee's text as first text [Zee certainly thinks it is possible; in second edition of his QFT, Zee especially wrote a section under preface, to address those "nuts who don't appreciate the nutshell", oh well... ], but most people I know can't.
  13. May 22, 2013 #12


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    Have a look at Ray D'Inverno's book. I liked it.
  14. May 22, 2013 #13
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  15. May 22, 2013 #14
    I am strongly against the use or the adoption of those books.
    They don't serve as proper physics books, even to beginners or hobbyists.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  16. May 22, 2013 #15
    Thanks Daverz, this one looks pretty interesting and "Right-brain friendly.":smile:

    I think I might try that one and the demystifier first and see which one falls out of the race first. My only concern is that Taylor and Wheeler doesn't use tensor analysis in their presentation. Is it going to be a problem learning GR that way? Or will it be natural just to pick up the tensor maths later on?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  17. May 22, 2013 #16


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    Tensor calculus and tensor algebra as used in GR are easy to learn simply by doing tons of problems that utilize them. A majority of the end of chapter problems in Wald, for example, are heavy on tensor calculus / tensor algebra and many of the calculations he does in the text are of the same nature so once you learn the conceptual physics and move on to Wald, you'll pick it all up in no time.
  18. May 22, 2013 #17


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    Just to add another endorsement for Taylor's book (the aforementioned one), my SR professor took a graduate GR course at MIT when she was doing her PhD there and told me that it was taught by someone from the math department. The professor used Wald for the class and she told me she absolutely hated the class because the professor placed such an importance on the mathematical physics that the actual physics of GR barely even showed up. She told me that she stumbled upon Taylor's book and that she absolutely loved it because of the amount of physical insight it shed on GR, something Wald and her Professor failed to do. She constantly recommended it in the class because of the importance it placed on physics over math.
  19. May 22, 2013 #18

    George Jones

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    Resource articles on teaching general relativity

    by Wald http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0511073

    by Hartle http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0506075

    by Christensen and Moore (behind a paywall?) http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v65/i6/p41_s1 [Broken]

    You might also want to look at (I haven't yet) Moore's book "A General Relativity Workbook".

    There should soon (???) be a slightly more advanced second edition of Taylor and Wheeler. I used Taylor and Wheeler for text of the

    The course had students with a wide variety of backgrounds, from physics grad students to undergrads who were biology majors.

    Something I wrote seven-and-a-half years ago about Wald's article

    Something I wrote seven years ago about Hartle's book:

    Hartle contains some excellent physics problems.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  20. May 22, 2013 #19
    Yeah, I'd have to agree with this (above post refers to DeMystified series). That is, if McMahon's GR book is anything like his QM book. That's absurd, have you seen that? There's almost no prose in the entire book, it's just one wall of equations. I'd say it would "Re-mysify" those who might have thought they had a basic handle on QM.

    The funny thing about this guy McMahon is that he's written almost a dozen of these kinds of texts for the DeMystified series, yet my library bio on him says he's still a grad student! Go figure. Check it out:


    I think I'll jump into the Taylor and Wheeler book first, as it seems like most here think its a good and safe intro. I'll also check into those other references. If you can think of any others, though, keep em coming!
  21. May 22, 2013 #20
    Too Hartle to handle

    Damn, I just realized I should have named this thread "Too Hartle to handle." :frown:

    Oh well, next time...
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