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Relativity Looking for good book on GR

  1. Oct 16, 2016 #1

    I would like to better understand the geometric evolution of a gravitational field of a simple point mass as the velocity difference between two different inertial frames approaches the speed of light. I would also then like to extend into more complex scenarios such as charged particles.

    This takes me directly to General Relativity and Einsteins Field Equations.

    So I am looking for a book that will robustly cover these subjects. I think it should start at the undergraduate level but it would be OK if it then went into graduate level. Note that my only resources will be the books that I have and the good people on this forum so if the book is too abstract that may be a problem but then again, if the book is too "dumbed down" then it may not get me to where I want to go. So I'm looking for a good balanced book. If this cannot be achieved with one book, then two books is OK.

    Thanks for the help and suggestions,
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2016 #2


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    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
  4. Oct 17, 2016 #3


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    My favorite as a starting point is Landau&Lifshitz. Misner, Thorne, Wheeler is also very good, but pretty intimidating with introducing the Cartan calculus right away. I don't know Zee's book at all, but if it is like the QFT book, I cannot recommend it.
  5. Oct 17, 2016 #4


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    I think Zee's book is very nice to begin with(Its not like his QFT book or, to be precise, its like his QFT book, its just that his method is proper for GR but not for QFT). Then you can start reading Padmanabhan's Gravitation to get a more advanced understanding.

    My honorable mention goes to Schutz's "A first course in General Relativity".
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  6. Oct 17, 2016 #5
    Excellent! These are great suggestions and the links provided were very helpful.

    It seems that not one, not two, but four books are in the running here. Let me see if I understand this correctly:

    For a good, solid, thorough presentation of GR, although perhaps slightly "outdated in emphasis", the books from authors

    1) Landau & Lifshitz
    2) Misner, Thorne, Wheeler

    are good to have. I even saw a comment that Misner, Thorne, Wheeler was almost considered the "Bible" of GR.

    If I want a more current presentation of GR then

    3) Zee
    4) Padmanabhan

    should be considered. Also, Padmanabhan seems to cater to self studies and seems to have arranged the book with this in mind.

    Dr. Michael Dine (from UCSC) had this comment about Zee:

    "...it is an excellent complement to Hartle's book and good preparation for Carroll's."

    I took a couple of courses from Dr. Dine and I do respect his opinions (really nice guy too!). Can anyone comment more completely on where the books 5) Hartle and 6) Carroll would fit in with the four books mentioned above?

    Thanks again for the input and insight,
  7. Oct 17, 2016 #6
    What did you like about this book as a starting point? Does it ease into things nicely?

  8. Oct 17, 2016 #7
    Padmanabhan makes a (what I consider to be odd) comment in his preface that:

    That "most of the existing books on the market are either outdated in emphasis, TOO MATHEMATICAL FOR PHYSICISTS, ...etc."

    The odd comment being "too mathematical for physicists". Does anyone else find this odd? I mean, what exactly is too mathematical for physicists?

  9. Oct 17, 2016 #8

    George Jones

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    From Zee's book:
    This was a physics student enrolled in a pure math grad course. :biggrin: Even math grad students can have trouble doing calculations in a coordinate-free manner!

    I personally find that coordinates can be useful for calculation, and that coordinate-free notation often is useful conceptually, although these aren't completely general statements.
  10. Oct 17, 2016 #9
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  11. Oct 18, 2016 #10


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    Vol. 2 of Landau Lifshitz for me is among the best books to introduce to classical field theory. Particularly electrodynamics is presented in a modern way and not another copy of a 19th century textbook with some last chapter about relativity. In my opinion theoretical physics should introduce special relativity at the end of the mechanics lecture and then electrodynamics should be taught right away as a relativistic field theory. Concerning GR Landau and Lifshitz come quickly to the point, and the arguments are physics rather than a long chapter on differential geometry. Of course, you also get the differential geometry you need to understand the physics.

    There are of course tons of other good books on GR (in fact I don't know any I'd really discourage to read; I've many more objections, sometimes even aversions as in the case of Zee's "QFT in a Nutshell", against some QM and QFT books). Another very good book is Weinberg's Gravitation and Cosmology although concerning cosmlogy it's outdated. He has also written a new book on cosmology. However, Weinberg's textbooks are generally not to start with a subject but to get all the subtle details later. Padmanabhan's book is somewhere in between.
  12. Oct 18, 2016 #11
    Yes, exactly! So per my implied point, I don't think there is any math that is ultimately too complicated for a physicist! I mean, I don't want to sound too uppity here where physicists are concerned but I just don't see any math being too complicated for a physicist. So this is why the comment by Padmanabhan just sounded odd to me. Maybe I just didn't understand what he meant.

    Thank you for that! I'll add this book to my list.

    Some sage advice here for sure! Great input! :) Now I just have to decide which book/s to start with. I've never actually had a specific course in GR. It was always entitled "Modern Physics" or some such which usually included a few chapters on special relativity. I think this is why I am a bit hesitant on which book to start with. I think I got the basics though and now I really want to get into the serious nuts and bolts of GR. But I love books and I love just going somewhere without WiFi or a computer or a tablet and holding a good book in my hands with a pen (yes, I prefer pens! I always got teased because I used a pen on tests/homework rather then a pencil), a calculator, and a pad of paper and getting into it! So I think I'm just going to buy at least two, maybe even three! Anyway, I digressed here a bit. Thanks for the input and off to Amazon I go (through PF of course - 6% to PF right?)!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  13. Oct 18, 2016 #12
    Jennie Traschen reviewed Hartle's book on Physics Today 58(1), 52 (2005); doi: 10.1063/1.1881902. Below is an excerpt. I find the review spot on.

    Hartle does not omit steps and derives everything. The book is written in such a way it is very engaging and interesting to read and full of physical insights. In my opinion this is how Physics books should be written.
  14. Oct 20, 2016 #13


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    I think "too mathematical for physicists" means that they (the physicists) consider the text to be concerned with topics that are of only mathematical interest that doesn't help the understanding of physics. For example how often do physicists read Chrisodoulou or Klainerman's papers?
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