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Relativity Introduction to GR. ¿Gron or Collier?

  1. Aug 22, 2016 #1
    Hello all.

    I am self teaching physics, and after completing Classical Mechanics (Special Relativity included), Classical EM and an introductory course to QM, I would like to take a very introductory look to General Relativity.

    With this purpose in mind, I have chosen 2 books, and I would like to buy one of them:

    1) Gron - Naess "Einsteins Theory for the mathematically untrained".
    2) Collier "A most incomprehensible thing".

    I have taken a look to both of them, and I have seen that they follow quite different approaches. Collier seems to be more "ordered" (fiist the basis of needed mathemathics, then Newtonian gravitation, Special relativity, Manifolds, curvature, Einstein's equations, etc.) while Gron introduces all this concepts as needed. Besides, Gron does not even metion thing like "manifolds", "one-forms", etc. (I guess he uses them anyway, but with different names, maybe). On the other hand, Gron is a physics teacher specilized in GR, so I guess his book must be more rigorous.

    I wonder if anyone could suggest me which of these books is best suited, or has better expplanations.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 22, 2016 #2


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    Well, for the beginner I'd not recommend to learn GR using the full machinery of the Cartan calculus which is quite unintuitive (at least for me, who is trained in the "old fashioned" Ricci calculus). I don't know Gron's book very well and Collier's book not at all. I think Gron's book is very good, because he shows many steps in the calculations often omitted from usual textbooks. My favorite as an introduction to GR (and by the way also E&M) is Landau-Lifshitz vol. II. Another more physics than math oriented book is Weinberg, Gravitation and Cosmology (1971). If you want to address also the modern Cartan calculus (with forms and all that), the good old Misner, Thorne, Wheeler is good too.
  4. Aug 22, 2016 #3
    Thanks for the reply.

    The adicional books you suggest seem to be too advanced for me, so, for the time being:
    Gron: 1
    Collier: 0

    Any other opinions?
  5. Aug 22, 2016 #4
    Both are equally good - see the previews in Amazon / Springer website and pick the one you like better.
  6. Aug 22, 2016 #5
    Do either of these books assume you understand calculus of variations or lagrangians?
  7. Aug 22, 2016 #6
  8. Aug 22, 2016 #7
    No. Both them consider you could even not be familiar with calculus.
  9. Aug 23, 2016 #8
    Must be a silly book if it does GR without assuming that you're familiar with calculus. Why don't you study up on the math and study GR from an actual good book.
  10. Aug 23, 2016 #9
    Sorry to disagree but the books are not silly at all. They actually teach you the basics of calculus and all the required math. Now do they teach you calculus or all the math fully? No. But they teach you enough for you to understand the material.

    I do agree, however, that it would be advisable to learn calculus before tackling GR :) You could still study GR from any of the two above books.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
  11. Aug 23, 2016 #10
    They don't make you understand the material. They make you think you understand the material. Big difference.
  12. Aug 23, 2016 #11
    Keep in mind that any of this books will not be my last general relativity book. This will be just a "apetizer" before reading Schultz's, Zee's or Carroll's book, for example.

    Nevertheless, remember that I am self - lerning physics as a hobby. I would not enjoy studying from a book for which I am not still prepared.

    Thanks all.
  13. Aug 23, 2016 #12
    Haha. Nothing can make me do anything :) But seriously, take a peek at the books - you might change your opinion.
  14. Aug 23, 2016 #13
    What makes you think I didn't look at the books? I already did.
  15. Aug 23, 2016 #14
    Of course, but why waste your time on a book that won't teach you the material properly. Just do it properly from the beginning.
  16. Aug 23, 2016 #15
    I stand corrected then. I apologize for the confusion.
    For me, they were a great starting point although I already knew the required math.
  17. Aug 23, 2016 #16
    Of course!

    I am open minded to receive different suggestions for a good introductory book to GR.
    Gron's book seemed OK for that objective, but maybe you know different options.
  18. Aug 23, 2016 #17
    My suggestion is then to study a bit more on the required mathematics. It will make things in GR much much much more clear. If you can intuitively grasp the mathematical idea of a manifold or a differential variety, you will have much less problems with GR.

    Sure, if you want to delve right into GR, then the books in the OP are good. But personally I wouldn't be able to understand much of them if I didn't know the mathematics already.
  19. Aug 23, 2016 #18
    Yes, that is why I need a book that teaches not only the physics, but the required mathematics as well. I am used to read this kind of books.
    For example, Griffiths EM book provides, in the first chapter, the vector calculus required to be able to flollow the rest of the book.
    Is there a similar book for GR?

  20. Aug 23, 2016 #19
    There probably is such a book for GR. But I can't help you further if that's what you want since I think it's a very bad idea to learn the required mathematics from physics books, especially GR books.
  21. Aug 23, 2016 #20

    Unfortunatelly I do not have enough time for that. I need something "condensed" in a single book, and I am trying to find the most suited book for that purpose...

    Thank you so much.
  22. Aug 23, 2016 #21
    If you're doing this as a hobby, then why does it even matter how much time it takes.

    Remember, there is no royal road to geometry. Neither is there one to GR.
  23. Aug 23, 2016 #22
    Work, children, etc. You know, I only have a pair of hours a day, as maximum, to study physics. (Besides, you must have noticed that english is not my mother tongue, so I study english as well).

    In short, I do not need to master the subject, I am just interested in a rigorous first look to the subject.
  24. Aug 23, 2016 #23


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  25. Aug 23, 2016 #24
    That's the point really. The books you want and the books you're planning to do are not rigorous. If you're ok with that, then no problem.
  26. Aug 23, 2016 #25
    Blau's lecture notes (1000 pages!!) seem too advanced for me (at the same level tahn Carrol's book, as the author says).I will try to take a look to Martin's book. (I did not know this book, and I am not sure if it is available in my library). If I can't get it, I think I will go with Gron's book.

    Thanks all of you.
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