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Relativity Introductory book on special relativity

  1. Apr 21, 2015 #1


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    I'm looking for an introduction level books on special relativity. My goal is to get familiar with Dirac equation as I'm into atomic physics in this semester. My background on the subject is that I have taken a course in the past which was designed to be kind of introductory to modern physics in general, and a short topic on SR was included..I heard some people recommend A Traveler's Guide to Spacetime for beginners but as I judge from the title and the number of pages this book appears to be really directed for zero background beginners. Do you think this book will really help along with my purpose? If not which books would you suggest?
    In addition, in which course title do physics student typically encounter and learn Dirac equation for the first time? I'm also thinking that having lecture notes will help me know the majority of contents taught in the subject.
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  3. Apr 21, 2015 #2
    The Dirac equation would either be at the very tail end of a second semester of a senior QM course, somewhere in certain atomic/nuclear physics courses, or most certainly within a graduate QM/QFT course.

    If you're looking for a good introduction to SR I believe we would need to know more about your current background in physics. Have you taken any third/fourth year EM or QM courses? What is your current level of familiarity in CM?
  4. Apr 21, 2015 #3
    "The Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol.1" by R. Feynman Chapter 15 (basic knowledge of calculus and algebra is sufficient)
    For more in depth on the Dirac equation "Modern Quantum Mechanics" by J.J. Sakurai chapter 8.2 (quite some knowledge of linear algebra and Einstein notation needed otherwise the derivations can be hard to follow)

    hope this helps
  5. Apr 22, 2015 #4


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    Some courses I have taken are QM 1, math methods in physics, EM, and calculus.
    Thanks, I look for it too.
  6. Apr 22, 2015 #5
    I'd recommend you simply pick up a good book on GR and study the SR sections in detail. For example, Schutz "A First Course in General Relativity" is a great GR book and the first four of twelve chapters are exclusively on SR and developing a solid framework for using it. Carroll's book "Spacetime and Geometry" is also great for this purpose.
  7. Apr 22, 2015 #6

    George Jones

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    You seem to be interested in Dirac equation in the context of bound systems, e.g., atoms. Another context for the Dirac equation is elementary particles and quantum field theory. For a gentle introduction, I recommend

    3 Relativistic Kinematics
    3.1 Lorentz Transformations
    3.2 Four-vectors
    3.3 Energy and Momentum
    3.4 Collisions
    3.4.1 Classical Collisions
    3.4.2 Relativistic Collisions
    3.5 Examples and Applications
    7.1 The Dirac Equation
    7.2 Solutions to the Dirac Equation
    7.3 Bilinear Covariants

    from the book "Elementary Particles" by Griffiths.
  8. Apr 22, 2015 #7
    Great advice George Jones.
  9. Apr 23, 2015 #8


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    Well, the right way to look at the Dirac equation is QFT and only QFT. It's no contradiction, because you can prove from QFT, why under the circumstances used in atomic physics, you are allowed to use the "wave-function interpretation" for the bound-state problem as a "0th order approximation". On top of this you can use QFT to take "radiative corrections" into account, leading to some of the most beautiful results of high-precision theory like the Lamb shift of the hydrogen atom, which after all is the reason for the development of modern QFT from 1948 on!
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