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Prerequisites for reading Superstring Theory Greene, Schwartz Witten

  1. Jul 25, 2013 #1
    I was talking to a friend of a friend who is a physics professor, and I asked him what the best way to learn (the basics of) string theory and he said that this book (Superstring Theory Greene, Schwartz Witten) is the best and the one that everyone seems to use. So I went out and brought it after checking some reviews online.

    Now I am not far into volume 1 and I don't really understand what its talking about. I have only completed advanced high school maths and physics, nothing in college. So I am wondering what I should read up on in order to understand it. Books are the easiest way for me to learn.

    Thanks. Any recommendations are appreciated.
     
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  3. Jul 25, 2013 #2

    MathematicalPhysicist

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  4. Jul 25, 2013 #3

    micromass

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    Start by reading up on the following subjects:

    - Calculus
    - Classical Mechanics
    - Linear algebra
    - ODE
    - PDE
    - Differential Geometry
    - E&M
    - Quantum Mechanics
    - Special and General Relativity
    - Quantum Field Theory
    - Lie groups and their Representations

    Once you studied all these topics (this will take you a few years), you have more chance of understanding a string theory book.
     
  5. Jul 25, 2013 #4

    ZombieFeynman

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    To the OP:
    I am a grad student in physics and have been studying for years and still know almost nothing about GR and less than I'd like about quantum field theory and lie groups (not to mention differential geometry and topology).

    Then again I want nothing to do with string theory :tongue:

    Good luck!

    [EDIT]: Come to think of it, I know less than I'd like about all of the above!

    ::Opens up Topological Insulators and Topological Superconductors by Bernevig to drown my sorrows::
     
  6. Jul 26, 2013 #5
    Look, I'm just asking a question. I know its not a simple topic and I don't expect to understand it in a day, but I'm asking for a realistic learning path. If there is something that I need to learn first, I can, but I need a book recommendation or something to get me started.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this question and it would be helpful if someone would give a recommendation of what someone HAS to know in order to understand string theory.
    For example:
    I'm sure you don't need to know EVERYTHING about all of these things. Obviously a lot of this does have to be known as it is 'unifying' it, but what do you need to know, bare essentials? Surely someone can give a guide of some sort.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2013
  7. Jul 26, 2013 #6

    MathematicalPhysicist

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    That's really the bare essentials, you need to know even more. :-D
     
  8. Jul 27, 2013 #7

    QuantumCurt

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    I've asked the same questions, and looked into the same issues. That list is really fairly accurate. Look here- http://www.superstringtheory.com/math/math1.html -for the mathematics involved in String Theory. Click the next button on the right side of the screen to move through them all. That simply mentions the math though, and not the extensive knowledge of every major branch of physics. It's really not that hard to imagine string theory being beyond the understanding of someone with a knowledge of math and physics that hasn't gone beyond the high school level. It's certainly well beyond my understanding. Some of the equations in string theory are quite intense, and can take weeks to solve. If not longer.

    I'm a physics undergrad, and I've considered string theory as a potential research path for the future, although that's all way up in the air right now. I find it incredibly fascinating in either case. My plan though, is to not worry about trying to understand the technical aspects of a theory that involves basically every other aspect of physics, until I have a solid understanding of all of those other aspects of physics. I still read plenty of research papers, books, articles and such about string theory though.

    Are you a student, or just someone trying to learn about it on your own?
     
  9. Jul 27, 2013 #8
    I am just trying to learn on my own. I did do maths in college, but I'm not sure how much I can remember. Actually, come to think of it I did a lot of maths in college. I think the last unit I did was multivariable calculus. I always loved maths but rather than pursuing science I completed accounting degree (stupid!).
     
  10. Jul 27, 2013 #9
    I would say that I have previously done most of the undergrad maths, but none of the graduate maths listed sounds even remotely familiar.
     
  11. Jul 27, 2013 #10

    ZombieFeynman

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    I think before trying to understand string theory, you should also read "More is different" by Phillip Anderson. Google it. It is a short article and you should be able to understand it now
     
  12. Jul 27, 2013 #11

    QuantumCurt

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    Most of those maths are undergrad maths. Linear algebra, and ODE(ordinary differential equations) are courses that virtually all math or physics majors take in undergrad. It's not at all unusual for undergrads to take PDE(partial differential equations) or differential geometry. Lie groups are a little less common for undergrads to take, but it's not really rare. Other undergrad maths like real analysis and complex analysis are fairly crucial as well. Topology, homology, and cohomology are fairly important too, but those are more likely to come in grad school.

    The math involved in string theory is not for the faint of heart. Some of it even scares the hell out of mathematicians. String theory has in fact resolved several problems that have boggled professional mathematicians for years. It's really not a simple field in any way at all.

    I'm still very early in my undergrad education, but without a solid understanding of all the physics that string theory is attempting to incorporate into one theory, it's basically impossible to truly understand string theory.
     
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