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[Relativity] Books to read

  1. Oct 26, 2011 #1
    Hello!
    I am in my first year in college studying physics. Is there any good book about special & general relativity that I can read, understand and enjoy with my current knowledge? (I have only had a few hours about this theme, but I've loved it, and also understood the basics. I'd like to understand more than the basics tho).

    If there's any other book you think I could be interested in, and also understand, feel free to write it down! I find most of physics themes very interesting.

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2011 #2

    Matterwave

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    Re: Books to read

    If you are a first year in College, can you specify what kind of math you know? Do you want a mathematical description, or more of a conceptual description?

    Special relativity should be doable in full mathematical rigor even for a first year college student, as long as you are determined. All the math you would need is basic calculus and algebra and vectors.

    General relativity requires tensor calculus (differential geometry) to do in full mathematical rigor, which is usually not part of an average first year college student's box of tools. You can still learn some basics of it.

    I really enjoyed "The Einstein Theory of Relativity" by Lillian R Lieber. It's an old book (1930's), and so it didn't introduce the tensors and vectors and one forms in a modern more geometrical viewpoint, but it does give you some insight into how GR is actually done. This book describes both the special and general theories in language that should be accessible.

    If you want to look at a more modern viewpoint; however, this is not really the book to go to (all the definitions of tensors and one forms are merely statements like "they transform like...").

    Of course, with a book like this, you're not going to go into much detail of the theory. I think the most she does for you is derive the Schwarzschild metric. I think it is a good place to start though.
     
  4. Oct 26, 2011 #3

    George Jones

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    Re: Books to read

    For special relativity, I recommend A Traveler's Guide to Spacetime: An Introduction to Special Relativity by Thomas A. Moore and the red edition of Spacetime Physics by Taylor and Wheeler. For general relativity, I recommend Exploring Black Holes: An Introduction to General Relativity by Taylor and Wheeler, which only requires first-year physics and first-year calculus as prerequisites.
     
  5. Oct 27, 2011 #4
    Re: Books to read

    I was more interested in a mathematical approach. But if I won't understand it, I guess I will start with a conceptual description and try the mathematical description in a year or two.
    I'll look up the books you both said! Thanks!
     
  6. Oct 27, 2011 #5

    Matterwave

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    Lillian Lieber's book does have math in it. She goes through a little bit of tensor calculus before describing the curvature tensor, etc.

    I just wanted to mention that her approach is the "old" way of approaching tensors whereby you just look at their transformation properties (how their components transform under a general coordinate transformation).

    If you want the full-on math, I would suggest Bernard Schutz's "A First Course in General Relativity". Shutz is quite good when it comes to explaining things, and this book is designed for an undergraduate audience. It goes through both special and general relativity. You may have to work at the math a little bit though.
     
  7. Nov 10, 2011 #6
    Re: Books to read

    I second that, I think this book is a great didactic work.
     
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