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What are the shortcomings of Misner, Thorne, Wheeler?

  1. Mar 11, 2010 #1
    MTW Gravitation is a standard text. For someone learning from this text, what advances since 1973 should he be aware of? Are there any actual corrections: instances of something accepted in 1973 but now known to be wrong?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2010 #2

    bcrowell

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    All the observational stuff is way out of date: cosmology, LIGO, supermassive black holes, ... The summary of the evidence on PPN parameters, Brans-Dicke gravity, etc., is much too old to be useful.

    To the extent that it deals with the interface to quantum mechanics, it's extremely out of date. This doesn't just mean string theory and loop quantum gravity, it includes stuff like semiclassical gravity.

    I think MTW predates most of the recent work on energy conditions, closed timelike curves, and cosmic censorship.

    I don't think anyone is going to come out with anything that could be considered a replacement for MTW, because MTW is such an unusual book. It covers a huge number of topics, at a variety of levels. Anyone who's serious about relativity should certainly own a copy. My suggestion to someone learning the subject today would be to start with a modern book like Carroll, but also get a copy of MTW and use it as a secondary resource.
     
  4. Mar 13, 2010 #3
    Thanks, bcrowell.
     
  5. Mar 13, 2010 #4
    Hmmm, I am buying this book. Thanks guys.
     
  6. Mar 13, 2010 #5
    As a person who has been self studying from MTW I can tell you that it can be a bit overwhelming at first. There is almost too much information to deal with. It helped me to get a couple different texts to suppliment it...Wald was useful.
     
  7. Mar 13, 2010 #6
    Overwhelmingly dense... *drools*. :!!)
     
  8. Mar 13, 2010 #7
    lol.... MTW is a great book stuffed with lots of information, but I get the feeling I could spend years trying to learn about everything in there and follow through meticulously. Supporting texts like Wald have helped a lot. I also found an old short book by Dirac that summarizes a lot of basic ideas and formulas.
     
  9. Mar 13, 2010 #8
    Well, for a mental break try "The Strangest Man", by Graham Farmelo, which is a fantastic biography of the man Dirac. It's my favourite next to "Prime Obsession". I'm going to take your advice and when I start to feel the old skull creaking, I'll look for Wald and other sources. Thanks!
     
  10. Mar 13, 2010 #9

    bcrowell

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    IMO the problem with Wald is the almost complete lack of contact with experiment. He also does a poor job of explaining the meaning of the mathematics. If you want mathematical elegance, it's a good book. For someone who wants to learn the subject for the first time, I'd suggest either Carroll or an undergrad book like Rindler or Hartle. There are a bunch of books (including a partial version of Carroll) that are free online: http://www.theassayer.org/cgi-bin/asbrowsesubject.cgi?class=Q#freeclassQC
     
  11. Mar 13, 2010 #10

    Ben Niehoff

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    I'm not much of a fan of MTW. I think their writing style makes everything seem much harder than it really is. The entire book could be compressed to a third of the size, if they would just stick to simple, straightforward explanations rather than droning on in their particular dramatization of differential geometry.

    Their notation leaves a lot to be desired, too. They use too many different fonts in their formulas, to represent different mathematical objects. In my opinion a printed formula should not use typographical distinctions that cannot be reproduced in handwriting.
     
  12. Mar 13, 2010 #11

    bcrowell

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    I think these are valid reasons to complain if you aren't intending to go on and do research in GR. If you are intending to do research in GR, then the advantage of the book is that it exposes you to all these things you need to be exposed to.
     
  13. Mar 13, 2010 #12

    Ben Niehoff

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    My point was that all the same material could be covered in much less space, and with much easier-to-understand discussion. I think MTW's style is tedious and tends to obfuscate things.
     
  14. Mar 13, 2010 #13
    I know this is sick, but this makes me want to read it even more. Boredom is the enemy after all. ;)
     
  15. Mar 15, 2010 #14

    atyy

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    I don't agree. The fabulous masterpiece is aggressively meditative.
     
  16. Mar 15, 2010 #15

    "Agressively meditative" :rofl:

    I got the book today, and I'm already loving it. Apparantly I'm the S&M type when it comes to my reading taste. :wink:
     
  17. Mar 16, 2010 #16
    I strongly agree! They treat GR like it is something written under the influence of QM with all those complicated and twisted notations which look more alike a difficult matheamtical guide for GR than a book that provides reader with the usual litrature of GR! For instance, D'inverno, Weinberg and Hobbson use a quite simple style to express things and are more helpful than MTW just because the latter uses unnecessary explanations and prolongated proofs\derivations which if were neglected, the book would end at page 500!

    There are lots of thin books that can be more fruitful than MTW for an interested reader. If you are after a preliminary book in the context, go with D'inverno, Hartle, Ohanian or Schutz. If you are looking for something much harder and up-to-date, try Weinberg, Witten's Gravitation: an introduction to current research or Poisson's a relativistic toolkit.

    Leave MTW alone if you're not so patient in learning GR.

    AB
     
  18. Mar 16, 2010 #17
    Hey man, think of quality, not density!

    AB
     
  19. Mar 16, 2010 #18
    You have to understand, to me, this whole thread is just a massive list of reading I MUST do. MTW, what you've mentioned, and others. I couldn't be happier if Aphrodite was tickling me. :smile:
     
  20. Mar 17, 2010 #19
    Ok, now I have the book in my hands, and have for a day. I can see where the criticism and love the both come from. It's a GREAT reference book, and the exercises for self-study are pretty rewarding. On the other hand, it is pedantic, and long, but INCREDIBLY informative. I also enjoy the linguistic patterns, but that's a preference issue. I live near a wonderful library, so when it comes to the smaller (either in terms of size or time required) books I don't need to buy them. Gravitation, like some medical references I have, its anachronism offends some, and attracts others.

    That said, as you say Altabeh, it's clearly not an introductory text, and I won't treat it as such. I have a copy of Poisson's: A Relativistic Toolkit, but I feel MTW can help me expand my understanding of the math, where I am weakest.
     
  21. Mar 17, 2010 #20
    I'd love to call it "a matter of taste" and it all falls upon onself to whether enjoy it or hate it! Some pepole are so much overcautious as they even nag about which font the text is typed with or what size the fonts used in the book are. Believe me or not this is something my eyes have witnessed so many times in the library I used to go to.

    Anyways, did you begin to study MTW and how much time does it take for you to finish each page with a full understanding of the points in the end?

    AB
     
  22. Mar 17, 2010 #21
    All too recently, and too long. :wink: I see your point however... this isn't the best way to break into the field. That said, in concert with some of the other resources mentioned here and elsewhere, I tend to flit bertween MTW, and the net, and then something else. MTW alone... would probably kick my ***. :smile:
     
  23. Mar 19, 2010 #22
    I'm keeping an eye on this thread. Thanks so much for the useful replies!
     
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