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Relativity text for Physics Olympiad

  1. Sep 14, 2007 #1
    Hi,

    I'm a 12th grade student from India, preparing for the Physics Olympiad. I've only a basic idea of Special Relativity, while the syllabus includes topics such as the relativistic Doppler effect, so I want to study up a bit. What text do you recommend? Please not one of those old texts starting from Einstein's postulates. I prefer the modern geometric approach starting from the invariance of the Minkowski metric. Thanks.

    Molu
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2007 #2

    Gokul43201

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    Landau & Lifsh!tz - Classical Fields
     
  4. Sep 15, 2007 #3
    But that's pretty advanced, integrating classical electrodynamics and general relativity. Anyway, I haven't been able to find the Landau Lif****z books either in Kolkata or in the internet, no one has even heard of them.

    Molu
     
  5. Sep 15, 2007 #4

    mjsd

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    did u mean "The classical theory of fields" by L. D. Landau And E.M. Lifsh!tz?
    this is an older book.
     
  6. Sep 15, 2007 #5

    Gokul43201

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    Google Books has a preview with most of the first two chapters.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=QI...=Google+Search&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title#PPP1,M1

    I think your two criteria (introductory + not historical development) are almost mutually exclusive. I can't recall how Resnick's SR book goes - I'm guessing it probably follows the Einsteinian path, but I think it's still pretty good for a first text. And I'm pretty sure there's a paperback edition that's sold in India.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2007
  7. Sep 15, 2007 #6

    Gokul43201

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    Yes, that's what I meant. I know it's an oldish book, but it doesn't follow along the historical path taken by most introductory texts. It seems hard to come up with a reference that meets loom's criteria. Do you have any recommendations, dex?
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2007
  8. Sep 15, 2007 #7

    mjsd

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    for an advanced high school student.. may be you should try something lighter first if it is too easy for you then go for something harder.

    absolute basic (conceptually oriented)
    Spacetime physics : introduction to special relativity Edwin F. Taylor, John Archibald Wheeler.

    somewhat more mathematical but still only the basic
    Modern Physics Raymond A. Serway, Clement J. Moses, Curt A. Moyer
    Fundamentals of physics 7th ed Vol 4. David Halliday, Robert Resnick, Jearl Walker.
     
  9. Sep 15, 2007 #8

    robphy

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  10. Sep 15, 2007 #9
    It's very basic in its approach and it has an historical intro. IIRC, it relegates Minkowski diagrams and/or four-vectors to an appendix.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2007
  11. Sep 15, 2007 #10
    Conceptual books will not do, because I'll need to solve problems. The syllabus is: Principle of relativity, addition of velocities, relativistic Doppler effect, relativistic equation of motion, momentum, energy, relation between energy and mass, conservation of energy and momentum.

    Molu
     
  12. Sep 15, 2007 #11
    I'm very interested in reading the highly acclaimed Landau series, but as I said they are unavailable (unless you know where I can find them) and they are probably far too advanced for my purposes.

    Why do all introductory texts take the old approach? The symmetry-based approach seems more intuitive, mathematically elegant and intellectually pleasing as well as easier to understand to me. The traditional approach makes less sense for me. Why stick with it even a century after Minkowski's revolutionary work?

    Molu
     
  13. Sep 15, 2007 #12
  14. Sep 15, 2007 #13
    Thanks for that link, I'll read that. But many pages are missing from the middle. Do you know where I can get a better version?

    Molu
     
  15. Sep 15, 2007 #14

    mjsd

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    Modern Physics and Fundamentals of Physics are both university level books (2nd and 1st year respectively), they do cover the topics you mentioned...they are regarded as "easy" because they are very much entry level texts on Spec Rel. Wheeler's spacetime physics also cover everything (except doppler effect i think) but it comes with a lot of narration as well as maths (remember you can't do physics without some maths!).

    From the way you listed the topics and judging by the terminologies used, it appears that they are implying only the basics of Spec. Rel. (not unexpected as you are only doing the Physics Olympiad not a PhD qualification exam). I mean if they really meant the hardcore stuffs, they would use terms like: Lorentz transformation, Lorentz group, infinitesimal generators, metric, summation convention, 4-vector, traverse Doppler shift, covariance of electrodynamics. Then again, you are in a better position to judge that than I do.
     
  16. Sep 15, 2007 #15
    Hey, I'm from India too. In Mumbai Uni, you basically learn Relativity at the TYBSc level, which is a shame. But Resnick's book, which is available widely, is perfect even for lower levels. Also, on the net, this is a nice introduction: http://www.lightandmatter.com/area1book6.html .
     
  17. Sep 15, 2007 #16

    robphy

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    I forgot that Chapter 1 of the 1966 Taylor and Wheeler is available at
    http://www.eftaylor.com/download.html#special_relativity

    Although it does emphasize the conceptual aspects of relativity, this book does teach you how to do calculations... including the use of rapidities and worked solutions in the 1966 version (but not in the 1992 version).
     
  18. Sep 15, 2007 #17
    Each book in that series costs almost Rs.1000.

    Search for 'Landau' here. That's the website of a bookshop inside the IISc campus. You may want to check if any of the institutes in Calcutta have a Tata Book House.

    Also here. (Neglect the first two entries)
     
  19. Sep 15, 2007 #18
    Loom, you are still in 12th, dont go after Landau just yet. Those are MSc level books. Read Halliday-Resnick, and some BSc level books. They should be enough. Landau is far more theoretical and difficult.
     
  20. Sep 17, 2007 #19
    I don't think I need anything from that list except Lorentz transformations. About 4-vectors, I'm not so sure. The syllabus mentions energy and momentum without providing any further details, and both the national and the international Olympiads are known for pushing the boundaries of the published syllabus, so a little 4-vector algebra and Minkowski metrics won't hurt. Relativistic doppler shift is probably not a part of the absolute basic of SR. The geometric approach is simply a matter of personal preference. Also, what is the difference between the Lorentz group and the Poincare group?

    I've tried the Walker version of Halliday/Resnick and I hated it. Teachers are unanimous in recommending the older 60s edition written solely by HR, or sometimes the new version written with Krane.

    Any suggestions? Thanks.

    Molu
     
  21. Sep 17, 2007 #20
    I'm interested in reading Landau, but for pleasure rather than preparing for an exam. My HR (1990 Wiley Eastern edition, reprint of 1967 original) does not have relativity. What BSc level book do you suggest? Do any of them bother to take the geometric approach?

    I have a few GTR texts, like Wald, Missler-Thorn-Wheeler and Weinberg. But they mostly presuppose SR and are also mathematically dense. I tried to get into Wald but decided it was not advisable without first getting a mathematical viewpoint on the basic topology and geometry involved (Wald's explanation of the basics was sketchy, hurried and porous). I've found that it's usually a better idea to learn math from the mathematicians. When physicists try to teach math, they often try to pass off hand-waving as proofs (when they give any at all) which is rather confusing.

    Molu
     
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