Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell (Anglais) Relié – 21 mai 2013
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1) si évidement le sujet vous intéresse , il n'est plus possible de se détacher du livre quand on l'a commencé ; l'auteur prend toutes sortes de précautions pour s'assurer du plus large public possible mais sans en rabattre sur l'ambition ; on ne peut pas "traduire" ce livre en français hélas ; la verve de l'auteur s'y perdrait complètement . L'auteur s'est acharné à écrire au plus haut niveau possible tout en restant VRAIMENT élémentaire ; c'est un régal de chaque ligne . Qui DOIT lire ce livre ? Tout étudiant en Physique à quelque niveau qu'il soit . Mais aussi toute personne intéressée à comprendre les cathédrales intellectuelles du XX° siécle et ce qui les a précédé ; Ceci n'est PAS un livre d'histoire des Sciences mais c'est un livre TOTAL au sens où chaque page vous élève , chaque page vous fait penser et en même temps lorsque nécessaire les Notes , les Commentaires du texte vous indiquent COMMENT on est arrivé à penser ainsi . Rien que le passage sur les groupes de Lie est une vraie Exception ; on peut évidemment faire le chemin inverse ; c'est à dire plonger réellement dans la Théorie des Groupes de Lie puis après 3 années terribles revenir aux choses élémentaires et FONDAMENTALES ; ici justement rien n'est une TORTURE MENTALE ; heureux les étudiants et étudiantes qui ont un tel professeur . Une seule critique qui vaut pour tous les ouvrages de l'auteur: on ne peut pas lui écrire directement hélas .Lire la suite ›
Au delà du sujet, ce livre est avant tout un chef d'oeuvre inégalé en terme de pédagogie.
Jamais un "manuel" de physique (d'environ 900 pages !) ne m'avais donné l'impression de lire un roman...
L'auteur signe ici un réel tour de force... à méditer pour toute personne cherchant à enseigner la physique !
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And funny, I might add. There are lots of excellent textbooks on general relativity. Professor Zee's new offering differs from all of them, however, in that he takes a lighthearted approach to the subject without sacrificing rigor or thoroughness. Passages describing light following a least time principle because light isn't "stupid" enough not to and dutifully informing us that "After Lagrange invented the Lagrangian, Hamilton invented the Hamiltonian" made me break out laughing. The book abounds with dry humor and witticisms. His introduction of the action principle is particularly mirthful.
But for all the comedy, the book is thorough. One example is the treatment of Hawking radiation. It's as complete as I've seen in other relativity textbooks and even Raine and Thomas's textbook on specifically black holes. Another example is the emphasis on the action principle. For that Prof. Zee discusses the background variational calculus and derives in detail the familiar Euler-Lagrange equation; I mention this only because these steps are often omitted in books on more advanced subjects that assume knowledge of the action principle. There's also a discussion on the relativistic relationship between electricity and magnetism. Some electromagnetism texts, such as Purcell, Schwartz, or Ohanian, perform this derivation in one form or another (I happen to think this is how electromagnetism should be taught), but I haven't seen many general relativity texts step outside their usual confines to broach this subject. I suspect Dr. Zee did so because it beautifully illustrates the symmetry and unification of physics that he has eloquently written about previously. And the last 100 pages or so touch on peripheral topics found also in quantum field theory and string theory, such as Kaluza-Klein theory, Yang-Mills theory, branes, and twistors. A discussion on quantum gravity is included as well. A lot of this is speculative, but as Prof. Zee wryly, and funnily, asserts, textbooks "should not consist exclusively of material that has been carved in stone, or even worse, embalmed." Dr. Zee further demonstrates that the theory of gravity extends beyond the merely secular by thoughtfully providing a section that employs gravitational theorems to prove that Hades isn't on (or in) Earth. Or that if it is, it's not how conventional wisdom depicts it. This book truly has something for everyone, even those unfortunate souls doomed to perdition.
Adding immensely to this book's charm are the analogies. That objects of different mass fall at the same rate can be shown easily enough mathematically, but Prof. Zee likens that fact to different airlines following the same flight path between Los Angeles and Taipei. So masterfully simple, yet I'd never thought of it that way before. The book is packed with similar insights and thought experiments that crystallize many of the concepts. Professor Zee also includes numerous interesting anecdotes and personal observations from the world of relativity, many of which are contained in the end-of-chapter notes. Whenever I came across a superscripted number I immediately paged to the chapter end to read that corresponding note. Those are as fascinating as the main text itself. The notes range from literature references to detailed excursions into topics off the beaten path to the just plain funny. They're not to be missed.
Reading this textbook is like being regaled by that friendly, enthusiastic professor during a profound hallway conversation. I gleaned insight after insight, had several forehead-slapping "Of course!" moments, and chuckled heartily at the humor. It was worth the month I had to wait for it to arrive. If you liked Prof. Zee's quantum field theory textbook, you'll enjoy this one even more. The words on the pages come alive, almost as if he were right there in the room lecturing to you. For self-study especially, as I'm doing, this book is ideal; and, likewise, students whose professors assign this textbook will be in for a fun semester. Whatever the occasion, _Einstein Gravity In A Nutshell_ is a wonderful, worthy addition to the canon of general relativity books.
Now we have Anthony Zee's Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell. There is nothing to compare with it, and whether you are an undergraduate who wants to get some general relativity under her belt, a graduate student seeking more advanced topics for study, or a professor getting ready to teach the subject, then by all means buy this book.
What is truly amazing about Zee's book is its sheer breadth and scope of everything general relativity touches, from black holes to electromagnetism to dark energy to string theory and far, far beyond. Zee has thrown everything in here, including the kitchen sink, and the only way he could keep it down to 865 pages was to typeset a major portion of the book in smallish print.
I haven't counted, but there must be thousands of equations in the text, most of which Zee takes you by the hand through, but there are also many challenging exercises that Zee assumes the student can handle alone.
Perhaps best of all is Zee's entertaining way of writing. He can be deep and profound as well as clever and funny, and his many anecdotes, sprinkled throughout the text, give the reader a sense of the sheer awe and wonder that he and hundreds of other great physicists have experienced since Einstein's 1915 announcement of his general relativity theory.
Other than the fact that it could take years to work one's way through the entire book and its derivations and exercises, I could find no fault with the book. After many hours of reading, I could find only one typo in the text -- on Page 490, Zee misspells "ad nauseam."
Though not as advanced as the 40-year-old MWT book (which I was hard pressed to learn anything from anyway), Zee's book simply stands far and above everything else that's out there.
I received this large, almost 900-page scripture on Einstein's theory a relatively short time ago. Obviously, I haven't read the whole book yet but I may have spent more time with it than most readers of this review (more than zero) so that I can tell you why you should buy it and what philosophy, style, and content you may expect.
It's a book addressed to a wide variety of readers, including very young ones (perhaps college freshmen and bright high school students) and amateur physicists. Experienced physicists and professionals may find some gems or at least entertainment in the book, too. Because of this goal, the book starts with elementary things such as the units including G,c,ℏ and Planck units, relativity even in classical physics, as well as basics of curved spaces, differential geometry, and so on.
The style is witty and somewhat dominated by words - and amusing titles. You may find lots of philosophical and historical remarks and stories from Anthony's professional life but the physics is always primary. And I mean physics, not rigorous mathematics. Zee is focusing on objects, phenomena, and their measurable and calculable quantities and the purpose of physics is to understand them and calculate them. So he spends almost no time with various picky issues - whether a function has to be smooth; whether one should use one fancy word from abstract mathematics or another. In fact, he considers the suppressed role of rigorous maths to be a part of the "shut up and calculate" paradigm that he subscribes to.
In some sense, you could say that the approach resembles the Feynman Lectures on Physics. It is very playful and the author is always careful to tell you things that are still fun and stop elaborating on details when he could start to bore you. So the book (probably) keeps its fun status at every place (it's true for the portions I have read). But Anthony Zee manages to penetrate much more deeply into general relativity with this strategy.
Once he goes through all the basics - which allow a beginner to start with the subject almost from scratch but which seem very entertaining for a reader who doesn't really need such introductions anymore - and he answers all the FAQs on tensors and lots of other things, he offers some of the simplest derivations of Einstein's equations and is ready to apply them.
It's useful to know what concepts are considered primary starting points by the author. I would say that Zee is elevating the concept of symmetries and the action - the latter allows us to formulate most dynamical laws in classical and quantum physics really concisely (although we know perfectly consistent quantum systems that don't seem to have any nice action; and the action always assumes that we prefer a particular classical limit of a quantum theory - and the classical limit isn't necessarily unique).
Concerning the applications, some of the historically important applications that were designed to verify the theory are suppressed in the book. But you get very close to the cutting edge, including the general-relativistic aspects of topics that are hot in the contemporary high-energy theoretical physics and the cosmological/particle-physics interface. So you may actually learn advanced topics about black holes including some Hawking radiation (including the numerical prefactors of the temperature; but the author doesn't go extremely far here; note that amusingly enough, the Hawking radiation is even discussed in an introductory chapter); large and warped extra dimensions; de Sitter and anti de Sitter space including a discussion of conformal transformations (although it doesn't seem like a full-fledged textbook on AdS/CFT); topological field theories; Kaluza-Klein theory (with extra spatial dimensions) and braneworlds; Yang-Mills theory (there's lots of electromagnetism in the earlier chapters); even twistor theory; discussions on the cosmic inflation and the cosmological constant problem; and heuristic thoughts on quantum gravity (some of them are more heuristic than the state-of-the-art allows us; but Zee's philosophy is that textbook shouldn't be composed exclusively of the totally established stuff ready to be carved in stone).
Using lots of witticisms and clever analogies, Zee also proves some things you wouldn't expect - e.g. that Hades isn't inside the Earth. The equivalence principle is compared to the decision of all airlines, regardless of the size (and the size of their aircraft), to fly between two distant cities along the same path on the map. Witty and apt.
Anthony is convinced that most authors are explaining things in unnecessarily complicated ways - in some cases, perhaps, they want to look smart by looking incomprehensible. That's not Zee's cup of tea. He enjoys to simplify things as much as possible (but not more than that). And he loves to formulate things so that the reader is led to the conclusion that things are simple and make sense, after all. For example, there is a fun introduction to the least action principle (light isn't stupid enough not to know the best path) and we learn that "after Lagrange invented the Lagrangian, Hamilton invented the Hamiltonian". It makes sense, doesn't it?
There's a lot to find in the book. Some readers say that the book is less elementary than Hartle's book but more elementary than Carroll's. Maybe. Anthony is more playful and less formal but there are aspects in which he gets further than any other introductory textbook of GR.
The book is full of notes, a long index, and simply clever (unsolved) exercises. The illustrations are pretty and professional. If you are buying books to see photographs of attractive blonde women with toys, you won't be disappointed, either.
Because the book is really extensive and even the impressions it has made on your humble correspondent in those several days are numerous, I have to resist the temptation to offer you examples, excerpts etc. because that could make this review really long by itself. Instead, I recommend you once again to try the book.
- If you didn't know physics, you would get stuck at page 1.
- If you didn't have a BS in Physics, you wouldn't get past page 10.
- If you didn't know QFT yet but are ready to take it, you wouldn't get past page 25. The book is too brief to learn anything from. Too many equations seem to be pulled out of a hat.
- If you knew QFT already, you would absolutely love the book.
This book really took the same enjoyable style and presentation, but alleviated this above problem of Zee's previous book. This book teaches you everything that you need to know to learn GR from scratch. You could read this book with only a year or two of physics and make some serious progress. If you are ready to learn GR, this book will thoroughly teach you GR. The same could not be said about QFT Nut.
All in all, this is one of my favorite books. A must buy for anybody learning GR.
It is aimed at a population of readers on all scales, from novices making their first steps in the subject to practicing researchers. Great effort is dedicated on pedagogic clarity, examples, exercises and assorted solutions for greenhorns. The book is self-contained, careful enough to include clear introduction to prerequisite topics such as analytical mechanics and the variational principle, basic differential geometry, special relativity and electrodynamics. Serious good students and autodidacts will find this tome very friendly and an efficient guide for self-studying. Experts are rewarded by clear discussions on advanced cutting edge topics for experts. Anecdotes and interesting historical comments are an extra bonus.
Chapeau to Professor Zee for work well done! It's destined to become a major resource on GR and
gravitation for many years to come.