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Starting GR

  1. Aug 25, 2011 #1
    I'm going to attempt to start a beginner GR book since we're covering it in Modern Physics and I've been covering the material up a notch so far (I did the SR by reading Spacetime Physics by Taylor and Wheeler & I've already read Griffith's for the Qmech section etc.) I don't intend to finish an entire GR text in the month or so we're spending on GR, but I think I could make some solid progress. My professor said (a bit hyperbolically) that all the physicists I'd talk to would recommend Schutz as an introduction, and when I brought up Hartle and we hasn't familiar with it. He hasn't taught GR in a long time so I figured I'd get a second opinion so to speak from the forum. I read through a number of older posts on GR book recommendations and I've come down to two choices for the level I think I'm at mathematically and in terms of physics background, but I'm not really sure what the merits of each book are. I suppose there's a third option I've been glancing at, but not taking seriously as well.

    My two options that I'm considering are Hartle and Schutz, but I'm not really sure which of the two I should go with. I've glanced at Ohanian, but I wasn't a huge fan of his the first time I opened his Electrodynamics book. After looking at it again though, I'm considering his GR book.

    What would be the differences between the books I'm looking at? I'm just looking for major differences in writing style and material covered, but I'd like a surprise as far as problem difficulty goes. I don't want to pysch myself out thinking a book will have really difficult problems, though I know I'm going to have to work on this.

    Thanks for your help with this!

    **further background** I've covered Calc I-Diff Eqs and I'm taking Group Theory this semester (It's an intro Abstract course, but it's being taught by a heavily biased group theorist :) )
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2011 #2


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    The problems in Schutz are harder than those in Hartle. Schutz's explanation of one forms is also pretty well done considering the book isn't heavy on differential geometry in any way. The problem with Schutz is that there are a considerable amount of typos that will make you confused and the problems may be hard but sometimes they will be hard because the problems themselves do a terrible job of asking you what exactly they want. Hartle's book, on the other hand, has easier problems but they are indeed very fun to work through. His presentation of gravitational waves and the quadrupole tensor in terms of the green function is much less hectic than Schutz's immediate route to the quadrupole approximation. Hartle feels more like a super - lite version of MTW. Both of them have a casual writing style but I found that Hartle explains the same exact thing as Schutz 100x better. Schutz was my first GR text as well and I came off of it confused but after working through Hartle's text, the same concepts and problems became that much clearer. If you want to go on to Caroll or Wald then I would reccomend going with Hartle over Schutz simply because since neither of them are rigorous in the differential geometry you might as well go with the one that will confuse you less. That's my two cents.
  4. Aug 27, 2011 #3
    Thanks for your help!

    There's a second edition of Schutz that just came out though, I would think it would have removed most of the typos etc. I think I'll go with your advice though. A lot of people support Hartle's book as an intro and if I can always supplement it later. (That and the university I'm transferring to will have a GR course from the book ^^;)
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