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Learning GR

  1. Jul 27, 2006 #1
    Is "A first course in general relativity" a good place to start wlearning GR from? Im already in the fluid dynamics in SR section, but the tensor algebra is a bit confusing at times.
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  3. Jul 27, 2006 #2


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    Yes, it's a good text....

    ...but since I just attended a conference on teaching GR, I should ask:

    Are you an undergraduate or a graduate student?
    What specifically are you hoping to learn in GR?
  4. Jul 31, 2006 #3
    Im currently In high school doing self teaching in physics. I am learning it so that i know what to expect when it comes time for more advanced physics classed.
  5. Jul 31, 2006 #4


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    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  6. Aug 2, 2006 #5
    I took a 400-level undergrad course in GR which used "Gravity" by Hartle; I thought it was a good book. With a good high-school math education I think you might be a bit underprepared, but not all that much. It doesn't emphasize the math all that strongly, but as far as I know all the important equations are contained therein.

    I'm going to warn you, though, I've never heard of a treatment of GR without tensors. If you're self-teaching you won't need to solve problems with them, though, so you can probably get the concepts without being too thorough with the machinery.
  7. Aug 2, 2006 #6
    You mean Sean Carroll's book? Have you studied linear algebra, multivariate calculus, modern physics/SR, electromagnetic fields, Lagrangian mechanics? If not, you'd get much more out of the undergraduate books mentioned, I suppose. I'm not sure why you're attempting GR in high school - it's not of much benefit to transitioning into university physics. If it's out of personal interest, I guess Hartle's book might be somewhat helpful.
  8. Aug 2, 2006 #7


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    I'm personally fond of:
    Introducing Einstein's relativity
    by Ray d'Inverno.

    From his introduction, on p 10:

    "A final note for the less able student"

    "I was far from a child prodigy, and yet I learnt relativity at the age of 15. Let me elaborate. ..."
  9. Aug 3, 2006 #8


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    Here's another text:
    "Flat and Curved Space-Times" (Ellis and Williams)

    which is an older text and could be put in the "Physics First [Math Later]" category along with the Schutz and Hartle texts I mentioned above.

    For me, this text and "General Relativity from A to B" (Geroch)
    were eye-opening because they emphasize measurements and the operational meaning of concepts. They helped clarify the physics encoded by the mathematics I had seen in more mathematical relativity texts.

    Another new text is
    "Exploring Black Holes" (Taylor and Wheeler)
    which doesn't make use of tensors... but gets you studying trajectories near a black hole. It's used in the first half of http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/8...-AstrophysicsSpring2003/CourseHome/index.htm" .
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  10. Aug 4, 2006 #9
    I haven't read Carroll's book, but I have read his notes. Most people I've asked (and I agree) that Carroll is graduate-level material.

    I suggest reading "Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein's General Relativity" by Hartle. It's based much more on the underlying physical principles rather than the heavy math and is fairly understandable if you only have multivariable calculus as a prerequisite.

    Then, once you understand Hartle, you can move on to Carroll's book, which if it's anything like his notes, will give you a deeper understanding that Hartle will.

    I'm not sure how deep you can go into GR without knowing multivariable and vector calculus though.
  11. Aug 4, 2006 #10
    Yes, that's a good book to start GR with. If you're only a bit confused, you're doing pretty well. It is meant for upper-division undergraduates, though, who've had some mechanics and E&M.

    I've heard good things about Taylor and Wheeler's _Exploring Black Holes_, which apparently tries to do as much as it can without introducing Riemannian geometry.


    I also highly recommend their _Spacetime Physics_. You can learn a lot of good physics if you work through the problems in that book, and all of it should be accessible if you have some trig.

    John Baez wrote this really cool GR tutorial that uses some of Cartan's ideas to work out some consequences of Einstein's Equation:


    I highly recommend the Feynman Lectures for all prospective Physics students (the SR and gravity chapters aren't that great, though.)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  12. Aug 4, 2006 #11
    No, he means the book by Schutz, which is an undergrad text.
  13. Aug 4, 2006 #12
    There's a bunch of free math books floating around torrent sites. They aren't bad either.
  14. Aug 4, 2006 #13
    Schutz's _First Course_ book does a good job of developing all the relevant
    math, but it would be pretty tough going if your calculus was weak (particularly what is usually called "Calculus III" or vector calculus here in the US.)
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