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A First Course in General Relativity [Paperback]

Bernard F. Schutz
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 22, 1985 0521277035 978-0521277037
General relativity has become one of the central pillars of theoretical physics, with important applications in both astrophysics and high-energy particle physics, and no modern theoretical physicist's education should be regarded as complete without some study of the subject. This textbook, based on the author's own undergraduate teaching, develops general relativity and its associated mathematics from a minimum of prerequisites, leading to a physical understanding of the theory in some depth. It reinforces this understanding by making a detailed study of the theory's most important applications - neutron stars, black holes, gravitational waves, and cosmology - using the most up-to-date astronomical developments. The book is suitable for a one-year course for beginning graduate students or for undergraduates in physics who have studied special relativity, vector calculus, and electrostatics. Graduate students should be able to use the book selectively for half-year courses.

Editorial Reviews


"Schutz has such mastery of the material that it soon becomes clear that one is in authoritative hands, and topics are selected and developed only to a point where they prove adequate for future needs." The Times Higher Education Supplement

"...ought to inspire more physicists and astronomers to teach--and learn--the other half of the 20th century's revolution in physics." Foundations of Physics

"The book is a goldmine of cleverly constructed problems and exercises (and solutions!)..." Nature

Book Description

Development of the concept of general relativity and its associated mathematics, from a minimum of prerequisites, leads to an in-depth physical understanding of the theory and its most important applications.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 22, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521277035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521277037
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
144 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Book April 17, 2000
This book is the one text I'd give to someone who aspires to learn the mathematics of general relativity. Aimed at a reader who has a grasp of three-d vector calculus and a firm basis in special relativity, this book is an ideal bridge between a text like French's "Special Relativity" and the Big Book--Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's "Gravitation." Schutz says that his book should prepare a reader to move confidently into texts like MTW, and I think he's spot on. I'd put Rindler's "Essential Relativity" at a slightly lower level than this text. Rindler demands less of the reader going in, and probably gives more in the way of conceptual intuition regarding black holes and modern cosmological models, but Rindler doesn't leave the reader with the mathmatical understanding that Schutz does. One could stop after Rindler with a sense of having learned some things--one ends Schutz with a sense of being prepared to learn a lot more.
The first chapters refreshes the reader's mind about SR, and then proceeds to build tensor analysis in SR. What makes this book stand out it uses the language is that of modern GR--one learns the language of one-forms and vectors, not co- and contravariant vectors. Cultivating a geometrical intuition about these strange new objects (a la MTW) is given equal or greater weight than developing skills at index manipulation. Those are two reasons I'd recommend this book over Foster and Nightingale, for example. For me personally, Schutz's path toward the mathematics of curvature beginning with Cartesian and polar coordinates in 2d was easier to follow than any treatment I've seen.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A fairly complete presentation commencing with special relativity and concluding with gravitational waves and cosmology. Although intended to be used as a classroom text, the mathematically inclined reader with a firm grasp on differential equations and vector calculus can work through the text on one's own. I recommend Steven Wienberg's book GRAVITATION as a companion text for both a different perspective and to help overcome some of the conceptual hurdles.
You don't need to be satisfied with the poetry of lay books when a mathematical understanding is within your grasp!
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid start but you'll need Ohanian/wald October 26, 2003
By Charzi
This a very readable book that covers a lot of topics nicely. It gives a solid introduction to many of the main topics in the field. The only complaint I have is that it doesn't cover enough material.
My advice if you want a complete understanding of the field is to buy this and the Ohanian text (which is very thorough, pleasantly readable and does covering just about everything you need). Read them side by side and once that is done move on to Wald. Don't bother with MTW, its is a tome of scattered bits and pieces that work as a reference but it is NOT something from which you want to learn the subject.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good introductory book October 23, 2001
This was the first book i read as an introduction to general relativity.The physical insights are truly great and the mathematics are presented in an easy to follow way needing only very few requirements.
Im writing this rewiew nevertheless to explain why i rate it with 4 stars rather than five.The preblem i believe this book has is with the philosophy that tensor calculus is analyzed.
The author begins with proving tensor calculus equation in a way that is valid ONLY for special relativity,then proceeds with the analysis of tensor calculus for the 2-d eucledian space,and again the equations are valid ONLY for the given space.
In the end the author generalises the tensor equations for any spacetime using the Equivalence Principle,and not a solid mathematical proof,whitch Ifound confusing.
As a result i give the book 4 stars because of the lack of a truly solid mathematical analysis of the manifold thery.Nevertheless its a great book for a beginner.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good intro for dilettante October 13, 1995
By A Customer
This book is aimed at an undergraduate/first-year graduate
level, but doesn't "pull any punches" mathematically.
I thought he pulled it off. The book was accessible to
a non-physicist like me, while satisfying my urge to go
well beyond the Scientific American level of popular
science books.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should have been my first GR book! June 13, 2006
I got to this book after I had read several GR texts.

Unfortunately, I could have saved much time and grief if I had read it first.

The author is a master in simplifying the often mystical theory of General Relativity.

One requires only a smattering of vector calculus and linear algerbra to begin.

The author begins with an review of SR followed by an introduction to tensor analysis. The notion of perfect fluids culminating in the stress energy tensor is developed.

The mathematics of curved spaces ( Riemann manifolds ) is introduced via christoffel symbols which roughly speaking tell us how the co-ordinate systems change from point to point. The covariant derivative is then introduced and it's nice properties demonstrated. Although connections are not introduced it is shown how the metric induces a natural definition of covariant derivative such that the christoffel symbols possess a certain symmetry condition. This symmetry condition is equivalent to the statement that the covariant derivative of the metric tensor be zero. Once this is achieved one can express christoffel symbols in terms of the metric components.

This is known as the Levi-cevita "connection" in other texts.

Now that we can differentiate on curves spaces ideas of parallel transport and geodesics are developed.

It is then shown that inertial observers in GR travel along geodesics.

The reimann, ricci and einstein tensors are introduced.

Now, we get to the exciting Einstein field equations. I particularly liked how the author gives the motivation and insipiration behind the equation. He shows how Newtons equation for gravitation gives the inspiration for it's generalization.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars GR for Beginners
Although the book starts clearly enough and anyone adept at calculus should be abe to follow it, it starts to breakdown in the middle when it commits the unforgiveable sin of any... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Louis Spore
5.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction
This books spends a good amount on the basic math and introduction to tensors. You don't need much background to make your way through the material. Read more
Published on March 15, 2009 by Withans
5.0 out of 5 stars good first book for learning general relativity
This book is a good introduction to relativity which does not pull punches mathematically speaking but still manages to be merciful to the beginner. Read more
Published on May 22, 2008 by arpard fazakas
4.0 out of 5 stars As easy as it can be
Nice introduction to GR. Not extensive previous knowledge needed and as clear as it could be.
Published on May 21, 2007 by F. J. Alvarez
5.0 out of 5 stars As the title says, a good 'First Course'
There are a lot of books on General Relativity. In approach they vary from no math, to essentially math books. This book is somewhere in the middle. Read more
Published on April 3, 2007 by John Matlock
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Intro, but Leaves A LOT out
As background, I am a senior undergrad doing a thesis on black hole perturbations (following Chandrasekhar). Read more
Published on February 18, 2007 by BookJunkie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intro text
I started reading this book at a friend's house about 1 year ago and after graduating and starting to miss physics, I decided to pick it up and try something I didn't get in... Read more
Published on January 13, 2007 by Sean
4.0 out of 5 stars undergraduate book
This book helped me survive my first course in general relativity, which I took at a time when I was not prepared to understand the textbook of the course (Wald). Read more
Published on December 11, 2006 by Samuel Gralla
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine book-review by author of Relativity Demystified
After being overwhelmed by Misner, Thorne and Wheeler, I was relieved to be introduced to this fine little book that was used along with D'Inverno in my first relativity class. Read more
Published on February 14, 2006 by David McMahon
5.0 out of 5 stars General Relativity for engineers
If you haven't a background on theoretical physics this book is a good way to start with general rlativity. I've tried Wald, Thorne&willer and, and Caroll. Read more
Published on December 17, 2005 by Marc Magrans De Abril
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