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Mandatory (online) courses for theoretical physics

  1. May 21, 2015 #1

    I am a master student in physics. I have come to realize that I will probably not work in a highly theoretical field in the future as I do not believe I stand a real chance in this world. However I want to learn as much as I can "on the side".

    Which set of courses would you recommend to get as far as possible in theoretical physics (QFT, QED, strings and their link to particle physics etc.) ? Including maths courses.

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  3. May 23, 2015 #2


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    Hello Mishra,

    There's a whole load of excellent lectures by Leonard Susskind at Stanford.
    I recommend Special relativity which isn't really what it says: after a few lectures he introduces field theory and that's what it's about.
  4. May 23, 2015 #3
    Hello BvU,

    Thanks for you answer.
    I've followed a few lectures from Susskind (GR, QM, Statistical mechanics, Classical mechanics). He is great . But I am looking for something more technical (or formal). His lectures are somewhat missing some maths. Strangely I feel like they are great for someone who already knows the subjects and would be looking for Susskind's unique point of view and ways of doing physics.

    I've followed David Tong's QFT lectures (www youtube.com/watch?v=8yplCob7_Ck.) That was more like what I'm looking for: "formal" physics.
  5. May 23, 2015 #4


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    Hello Mishra,

    I see. From what I've seen from theoreticians (not all that much) is that the technical formalities come second to points of view, ideas and insights. I also think that by the time you're at this level of abstraction, you are well aware of what suits you best (your reply more or less testifies to that) and you should indeed follow you personal preferences. And -- without meaning to be crude -- you should be mastering the math already, at least enough to not worry about Leonard missing some.

    A totally different idea: the CERN summer schools of physics, perhaps ? There's lots of material in the CERN library. Used to be free and on paper in yellow reports; perhaps it's on line nowadays.

    Yet another: here Gerard 't Hooft has a huge sequence of pages on what you need. Pretty disheartening if you ask me o0) . But he also lists good links to authoritative material.
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  6. May 23, 2015 #5
    I understand what you mean by that, and I also agree. Susskind's lecture devolps instinct and abstraction without computing every single integral. This is great when you have already done the maths a little and know where you are going. Before watching his lectures on GR, I was basically computing tensors like a zombie. Now I don't even have to (I'm only speaking about stuff I have been confronted with during exercices of course!).

    But when it comes to quantum field theories, I am not at that level of abstraction yet. I still have trouble with the Lie algebras, field quantization etc. Not that the computations are hard, I just don't master/understand the tools yet. I find it comforting to do the important proofs before jungling with the theorems.

    This website is the kind of stuff I was looking for. During my bachelor, every course was mandatory and I did'nt had to think about which courses to take Now I know where I am going!

    Thanks a lot
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