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Wald for Relativity: Prerequisites?

  1. Mar 14, 2012 #1
    Next year I was looking to take relativity because it's only taught every 2-3 years, and my
    favorite professor is teaching it. Problem is, the prerequisite for the class is graduate electrodynamics. I'm wondering, is grad electrodynamics completely necessary for general relativity? I figure it will be for the special relativity part of the course, but that will be a much smaller portion of the course.

    I used purcell for my EM class, which I figure would be better than most books because of its connections to special relativity. I realize the math of GR would be very difficult and I could spend this summer on Lovelocks Differential geometry book.

    Any suggestions? Is grad electrodynamics a necessity?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2012 #2


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    No it's not. Not for GR, and not for SR. Advanced courses in classical electrodynamics teach you how to solve boundary value problems. They won't make it much clearer to you what the theory actually says, and they don't teach you anything about properties of spacetime.

    Wald's presentation of SR is what, one page? I suggest you study SR from another book. I like Schutz's GR book for this. It has one of the best presentations of SR, but I like Wald better for GR, because it's more serious about the math.

    I'm not familiar with Lovelock, but I think Lee's books on differential geometry are awesome. The only problem is that you would need both of them. Introduction to smooth manifolds, and Riemannian manifolds: an introduction to curvature. The stuff about connections, parallel transport, covariant derivatives and curvature is in the latter. The basics about manifolds, tensors etc. is in the former.

    It's also useful to know a little bit of topology. At least enough to understand what a 2nd countable Hausdorff space is. (Those are the terms that go into Lee's definition of "manifold". Wald actually talks about paracompact Hausdorff spaces instead. To be honest, I still don't know what "paracompact" means :smile:). However, if you're OK with not fully understanding the terms that go into the definition of "manifold", you can skip the topology. This will not make it harder for you to understand GR.
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