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Math person wants to go into Mathematical Physics

  1. Feb 21, 2009 #1

    I don't know much about physics, and I wanted to get into some mathematical physics. I want to learn, from a mathematician's perspective, quantum mechanics and general relativity (and if I am right these are two most popular "flavours" of mathematical physics?).

    Someone (not a physicist) recommended Gustafson/Sigal "Mathematical Methods in Quantum Mechanics" and Wald's "General Relativity." Now I do know that there are books that grad students in physics usually look at. Goldstein, Jackson, Sakurai, etc. Do I need to look at those first? Or can I just jump into those two books? Also if you have some other suggestions that would be great.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2009 #2
    Oops I think I posted in the wrong section. I suppose it should really be in "science book discussion"
  4. Feb 21, 2009 #3
    how much differential geometry do you know? i would start with a classical mechanics book like arnold v.i's if you're not that good at differential geometry or walter thirring's book if you are that good.
  5. Feb 21, 2009 #4
    I would say I know enough to pass a qual in differential geometry.
  6. Feb 21, 2009 #5


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    I'm pretty much like you: I learnt quantum mechanics and relativity from a mathematician's perspective (mainly because the courses were taught by the maths department!) How much classical mechanics have you studied? If you haven't studied any, then it will be best to start off there, but I imagine you've got at least a little under your belt. For quantum mechanics, the set text for my course was Gasiorowicz: quantum physics, which isn't a bad book, from what I remember, and was chosen by the lecturer as being a good book for mathematicians. As for relativity, you should probably learn special relativity first. I can't remember what I used, but see here (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Administrivia/rel_booklist.html) for a good review of textbooks. For GR I would recommend d'Inverno or Schutz as both being good books, but again, see the list for more info.

    Finally, I've moved your thread to the science book discussion forum.
  7. Feb 21, 2009 #6

    George Jones

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Oct 14, 2009 #7
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  9. Nov 15, 2009 #8
    Thanks for the suggestions on books, they all look good.
  10. Dec 21, 2009 #9


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    I also found this book and agree with George's assessment.

    Preface vii

    Chapter 1. Prologue 1
    1.1. Linguistic prologue: notation and terminology 1
    1.2. Physical prologue: dimensions, units, constants, and particles 5
    1.3. Mathematical prologue: some Lie groups and Lie algebras 8

    Chapter 2. Review of Pre-quantum Physics 13
    2.1. Mechanics according to Newton and Hamilton 13
    2.2. Mechanics according to Lagrange 18
    2.3. Special relativity 22
    2.4. Electromagnetism 25

    Chapter 3. Basic Quantum Mechanics 33
    3.1. The mathematical framework 33
    3.2. Quantization 42
    3.3. Uncertainty inequalities 51
    3.4. The harmonic oscillator 53
    3.5. Angular momentum and spin 56
    3.6. The Coulomb potential 60

    Chapter 4. Relativistic Quantum Mechanics 65
    4.1. The Klein-Gordon and Dirac equations 66
    4.2. Invariance and covariance properties of the Dirac equation 70
    4.3. Consequences of the Dirac equation 74
    4.4. Single-particle state spaces 83
    4.5. Multiparticle state spaces 89

    Chapter 5. Free Quantum Fields 97
    5.1. Scalar fields 97
    5.2. The rigorous construction 105
    5.3. Lagrangians and Hamiltonians 107
    5.4. Spinor and vector fields 112
    5.5. The Wightman axioms 119

    Chapter 6. Quantum Fields with Interactions 123
    6.1. Perturbation theory 123
    6.2. A toy model for electrons in an atom 128
    6.3. The scattering matrix 136
    6.4. Evaluation of the S-matrix: first steps 143
    6.5. Propagators 147
    6.6. Feynman diagrams 154
    6.7. Feynman diagrams in momentum space 162
    6.8. Cross sections and decay rates 167
    6.9. QED, the Coulomb potential, and the Yukawa potential 172
    6.10. Compton scattering 177
    6.11. The Gell-Mann–Low and LSZ formulas 180

    Chapter 7. Renormalization 191
    7.1. Introduction 192
    7.2. Power counting 196
    7.3. Evaluation and regularization of Feynman diagrams 200
    7.4. A one-loop calculation in scalar field theory 206
    7.5. Renormalized perturbation theory 211
    7.6. Dressing the propagator 214
    7.7. The Ward identities 219
    7.8. Renormalization in QED: general structure 224
    7.9. One-loop QED: the electron propagator 234
    7.10. One-loop QED: the photon propagator and vacuum polarization 237
    7.11. One-loop QED: the vertex function and magnetic moments 244
    7.12. Higher-order renormalization 251

    Chapter 8. Functional Integrals 257
    8.1. Functional integrals and quantum mechanics 257
    8.2. Expectations, functional derivatives, and generating functionals 265
    8.3. Functional integrals and Boson fields 271
    8.4. Functional integrals and Fermion fields 278
    8.5. Afterword: Gaussian processes 287

    Chapter 9. Gauge Field Theories 291
    9.1. Local symmetries and gauge fields 291
    9.2. A glimpse at quantum chromodynamics 296
    9.3. Broken symmetries 299
    9.4. The electroweak theory 303

    Bibliography 317
    Index 323

    Amazon allows one to browse some of Chapter 1.

    Publishes pages allows review of Chapter 2.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  11. Dec 22, 2009 #10
    books.google.com lets you choose the section you want to browse. Just click the section you want in the table of contents.
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