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ByDMon May 26, 2014

It's absolutely true that if you've never seen some of these topics before, you're going to have a tough time mastering, say, field theory the first time around from Peacock's book. That said, he provides remarkable guidance when you want to get the gist of a subject (rather than every single detail). I find myself reaching for it whenever I have some fairly ill-posed question on field theory, relativity, and much else. I don't tend to assign it for standalone reading, but I'm glad I have it on my shelf.

23 people found this helpful

ByAndy Gregoryon June 10, 2002

I got this book on short term inter-library loan hoping to further my knowledge of inflationary cosmology. I don't think that this is a suitable volume from which to begin study of this topic unless you have a supervisor on hand for occasional help.The chapter on inflation for example summarises standard results. I found derivations of these not to be explained fully enough for a first encounter. The derivation of the basic equations of motion for the scalar field cosmologies from the Lagrangian is an example.The slow -roll parameters and their relationship to the Friedmann equations are summarised - (a much fuller discussion of these is given in Scott Watson's e -book - see below).This sometimes terse approach can make the book heavy going for people like me working on their own for 'fun'.I did enjoy the chapter though as I had already studied a lot of the material using John Norbury's e-book 'General Relativity'(pdf and html available -contains quite a few errors but inflation is very clearly explained),Scott Watson's (pdf/html)'Exposition on inflationary cosmology'and numerous preprints from the e-archives. With mastery of this material under my belt I therefore found Peacock's material on this topic readable and enjoyable although I did not learn anything new from it. The problems (and solution hints) were good.I enjoyed the chapters on the rudiments of GR (being already very familiar with this albeit from long ago)but again the treatment is brief and constitutes a review rather than a place to start learning GR from.

Dipping into the chapters of material new to me, I could see little hope of personal progress here using this book as a starting point.I realise however that the book covers a huge amount of varied material much of which has been developed in the last twenty years and the book needs to be kept to a sensible size.My perspective is that of someone dabbling independently in their sparetime twenty years after leaving university. I daresay a beginning PhD student might view it in a different light.

Dipping into the chapters of material new to me, I could see little hope of personal progress here using this book as a starting point.I realise however that the book covers a huge amount of varied material much of which has been developed in the last twenty years and the book needs to be kept to a sensible size.My perspective is that of someone dabbling independently in their sparetime twenty years after leaving university. I daresay a beginning PhD student might view it in a different light.

ByAndy Gregoryon June 10, 2002

I got this book on short term inter-library loan hoping to further my knowledge of inflationary cosmology. I don't think that this is a suitable volume from which to begin study of this topic unless you have a supervisor on hand for occasional help.The chapter on inflation for example summarises standard results. I found derivations of these not to be explained fully enough for a first encounter. The derivation of the basic equations of motion for the scalar field cosmologies from the Lagrangian is an example.The slow -roll parameters and their relationship to the Friedmann equations are summarised - (a much fuller discussion of these is given in Scott Watson's e -book - see below).This sometimes terse approach can make the book heavy going for people like me working on their own for 'fun'.I did enjoy the chapter though as I had already studied a lot of the material using John Norbury's e-book 'General Relativity'(pdf and html available -contains quite a few errors but inflation is very clearly explained),Scott Watson's (pdf/html)'Exposition on inflationary cosmology'and numerous preprints from the e-archives. With mastery of this material under my belt I therefore found Peacock's material on this topic readable and enjoyable although I did not learn anything new from it. The problems (and solution hints) were good.I enjoyed the chapters on the rudiments of GR (being already very familiar with this albeit from long ago)but again the treatment is brief and constitutes a review rather than a place to start learning GR from.

Dipping into the chapters of material new to me, I could see little hope of personal progress here using this book as a starting point.I realise however that the book covers a huge amount of varied material much of which has been developed in the last twenty years and the book needs to be kept to a sensible size.My perspective is that of someone dabbling independently in their sparetime twenty years after leaving university. I daresay a beginning PhD student might view it in a different light.

Dipping into the chapters of material new to me, I could see little hope of personal progress here using this book as a starting point.I realise however that the book covers a huge amount of varied material much of which has been developed in the last twenty years and the book needs to be kept to a sensible size.My perspective is that of someone dabbling independently in their sparetime twenty years after leaving university. I daresay a beginning PhD student might view it in a different light.

ByJDGon March 15, 2009

First the good:

Peacock clearly knows his subject, and he is a good writer. His prose is well-constructed and easy to read. This text makes a good reference, with important results placed in easy-to-find boxes and tables of cosmological values and formulae in the back.

This book's problem stems more from its presentation of ideas. The publisher's foreword states, "The essential concepts and key equations used by professional researchers in both theoretical and observational cosmology are derived and explained from first principles... the book is self-contained for students with a background in undergraduate physics." These statements are laughable.

Even the more rigorous of Peacock's derivations jump large chunks of reasoning and mathematics; most rely largely on vague arguments (frequently by the author's own admission). One may accept the results of such derivations, but it is difficult to gain a true understanding of the physics involved. It is nearly impossible to then apply these results to cases that differ from the specific assumptions made by the author.

The exercises the author includes frequently rely on the student to make similar leaps of logic. For example, Peacock provides a plausible derivation of the form of the stress-energy tensor for a perfect fluid, but not for any other case. He then asks the student to consider cases such as rotating mass shells; the hint provided for this problem assumes that the student can simply infer what the stress-energy tensor is in this case without any guidance whatsoever. Time after time while taking a course using this textbook, I found myself sitting in a room full of physics graduate students who, even after having watched a professor attempt to solve the problems and having read the hints provided, could not for the life of us figure out what in God's name was going through Peacock's head when he decided that these problems were appropriate and instructive. Many of the students I worked with were quite bright, and we were unable to solve a clear majority of the exercises we were assigned from this textbook.

Another part of the problem is that, contrary to claims, Peacock's presentation requires a great deal of background. Many cases, both derivations and exercises, require a mastery of classical mechanics or solid understanding of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. A good example is problem 2.1, which requires familiarity with the concept of a "jump condition" (Peacock does not define this) and familiarity with the use of the Rankine-Hugonot relations, a concept one would only have heard from a fluid dynamics course (Peacock does not mention them). The hint given for this problem assumes a knowledge of enthalpy (a concept that is defined only in passing and in a very specific form; the word "enthalpy" is not in the index) and what an adiabat is (Peacock defines a specific adiabat within the hint, but this does little good without a general definition of the word). Given the information provided in the text, the problem and its solution are entirely nonsensical.

The existence of this textbook is an excellent example of an author who has mastered his subject to the extent that he no longer has any perception of how a reader could fail to understand it. This prevents him from being any sort of effective instructor. If you wish to learn cosmology, I recommend against this book. If you are an instructor considering using the book for a course, then for the sake of your students I strongly urge you to look elsewhere.

Peacock clearly knows his subject, and he is a good writer. His prose is well-constructed and easy to read. This text makes a good reference, with important results placed in easy-to-find boxes and tables of cosmological values and formulae in the back.

This book's problem stems more from its presentation of ideas. The publisher's foreword states, "The essential concepts and key equations used by professional researchers in both theoretical and observational cosmology are derived and explained from first principles... the book is self-contained for students with a background in undergraduate physics." These statements are laughable.

Even the more rigorous of Peacock's derivations jump large chunks of reasoning and mathematics; most rely largely on vague arguments (frequently by the author's own admission). One may accept the results of such derivations, but it is difficult to gain a true understanding of the physics involved. It is nearly impossible to then apply these results to cases that differ from the specific assumptions made by the author.

The exercises the author includes frequently rely on the student to make similar leaps of logic. For example, Peacock provides a plausible derivation of the form of the stress-energy tensor for a perfect fluid, but not for any other case. He then asks the student to consider cases such as rotating mass shells; the hint provided for this problem assumes that the student can simply infer what the stress-energy tensor is in this case without any guidance whatsoever. Time after time while taking a course using this textbook, I found myself sitting in a room full of physics graduate students who, even after having watched a professor attempt to solve the problems and having read the hints provided, could not for the life of us figure out what in God's name was going through Peacock's head when he decided that these problems were appropriate and instructive. Many of the students I worked with were quite bright, and we were unable to solve a clear majority of the exercises we were assigned from this textbook.

Another part of the problem is that, contrary to claims, Peacock's presentation requires a great deal of background. Many cases, both derivations and exercises, require a mastery of classical mechanics or solid understanding of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. A good example is problem 2.1, which requires familiarity with the concept of a "jump condition" (Peacock does not define this) and familiarity with the use of the Rankine-Hugonot relations, a concept one would only have heard from a fluid dynamics course (Peacock does not mention them). The hint given for this problem assumes a knowledge of enthalpy (a concept that is defined only in passing and in a very specific form; the word "enthalpy" is not in the index) and what an adiabat is (Peacock defines a specific adiabat within the hint, but this does little good without a general definition of the word). Given the information provided in the text, the problem and its solution are entirely nonsensical.

The existence of this textbook is an excellent example of an author who has mastered his subject to the extent that he no longer has any perception of how a reader could fail to understand it. This prevents him from being any sort of effective instructor. If you wish to learn cosmology, I recommend against this book. If you are an instructor considering using the book for a course, then for the sake of your students I strongly urge you to look elsewhere.

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ByDMon May 26, 2014

It's absolutely true that if you've never seen some of these topics before, you're going to have a tough time mastering, say, field theory the first time around from Peacock's book. That said, he provides remarkable guidance when you want to get the gist of a subject (rather than every single detail). I find myself reaching for it whenever I have some fairly ill-posed question on field theory, relativity, and much else. I don't tend to assign it for standalone reading, but I'm glad I have it on my shelf.

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ByJill Bechtoldon April 10, 2000

Very lucid and up-to-date description of cosmology and relativity, with the right balance of qualitative discussion, presentation of the important observations, and mathematical formalism.

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ByA customeron November 1, 2000

Great book. Unlike many other cosmology books it is very up to date. Should be used with another book, such as Rowan-Robinson or Kolb and Turner for class atmosphere. It is a little lacking in examples, while the presentation is very good. This book is for the undergraduate senior or the graduate student.

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ByAnand Balaramanon November 15, 2011

Modern Cosmology is a subject which is constructed by bringing together the results from pretty much all the branches of Physics & Astronomy. Learning it thoroughly requires multiple sources AND multiple readings of the same source. I was advised to start with this book and I was unsatisfied during the first read. It presents only the final result with no details. But I read the preface and realized that this book is not meant for teaching Cosmology for beginners. However once you learn the fundamentals through the other sources, this serves as a wonderful compendium of all the very important results that one would want to organize in their memory. If you are a beginner and want to learn Cosmology in detail and not just a summary of results this is not the book for you, at least not yet. If you continue in Cosmology you would certainly want to buy this in future.

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ByMohammad Kianjahon October 1, 2007

Cosmological Physics by J.A. Peacock is little more than an arrogant exhibition of author's mastery of the subject at the expense of his unsuspecting reader. speaking in a language that is way over the head of his intended audience, Peacock makes no efforts at providing the mathematical derivation for the many obscure formulas which appear to have been pulled from the thin air, thereby leaving the reader with a "take it or leave it" option; and with no worked examples to put these equations into proper context, the reader is left dangling in an abstract wander-land of largely unproven equations. Though this approach may help conceal author's own difficulties with the underlying mathematics, it does little to convince even the least skeptical of readers of the scientific merits of much of what he has to say. Peacock's book is in the worst tradition of textbooks largely responsible for dislike of science in general and mathematics in particular by generations of otherwise inquiring minds. While this book may be of some value at a Cosmological symposium, primarily as a means of impressing one's colleagues with half-baked pronouncements, it is of no value either as a teaching tool or as a comprehensible source of learning.

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ByA customeron October 20, 1999

This is a very comprehensive book, clearly written, and very up-to-date, which is very important in this fast moving field. As a researcher, I find it a very useful reference work.

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ByPhillip I. Goodon August 25, 2004

I bought this text because it seemed to cover all the topics in which I was interested. Alas, the coverage is far from uniform and the notation is constantly changing. No point in requesting clarification directly from Peacock. In reply to, "some symbols are used before they are defined," you'll be told that "the meanings of the symbols are well known to any physics undergraduate." Complain that one of those well-known symbols seems to have an entirely different meaning in some other section of the text, and you'll be told to look at such and such an equation for the new definition. Mathematicians who have their own set of standard symbols, such as ^ for the outer product will find themselves completely baffled.

Text lacks all mention of loop quantum gravity.

Text lacks all mention of loop quantum gravity.

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ByArteeston September 7, 2007

Well first of all, I want my money back...(and I paid for a used one!)

I can NOT imagine where the HECK he got the pricing for this book because I have read $10-$20 physics/cosmology books that were better than this!

Basically...

This is the first J.A.Peacock book I've read (as well as the last), but if I had to guess, I'd definitely guess that this is NOT his usual subject matter because for the most part it seemed like he had NO idea what was going on!

Here's the problem;

At first glance, the book seems great! It covers a wide array of topics in one book and also seems to be nicely updated. But then once you start reading it word by word, you quickly notice that what this guy basically did was say "Hey, I'm gonna go write a book about astrophysics because I think it's neat!" And so he went and did a BUNCH of research reading in these various subjects, regergitated the same information back out so that he could put it all together into one big book, then without having anyone that is advanced in the subject proof-read it, printed it and slapped a huge price on it thinking that there's no way people will think a book can suck if it's that expensive...

Now, for those of you who are saying "Hey, what's wrong with that? That's very common and a lot of good, well-rounded books have emerged that way!" I completely agree because sometimes you want to learn a wide range of information under one subject and instead of reading 20 'specialized' books, it's nice when someone puts them all together so that you only have to read one and then branch off into specialized areas later if you want to... BUT THERE'S JUST ONE PROBLEM WITH THAT! He literally forgot to do the most important thing when writing a book on a subject you know nothing about by smashing a bunch of other books together;

He forgot that you're supposed to carefully read through everything AFTER you smash it all together so that you can either take out or explain all the contradictions and things that don't match up! (because when you put multiple sources together, that's something that's pretty much guaranteed to happen!) Then, obviously, have someone who IS very knowledgable in the field proof read it to ensure that it all makes sense before you publish it...

I found this book confusing (but not because it was "too advanced" for me..) and very flawed (like I said, it seemed like someone clipped a bunch of passages out of a bunch of books, arranged them by subject, then put them all together without rereading it afterwards).

I do not recommend it and suggest you use the money to buy two cheaper books with better authors (who have written about cosmology before!).

I can NOT imagine where the HECK he got the pricing for this book because I have read $10-$20 physics/cosmology books that were better than this!

Basically...

This is the first J.A.Peacock book I've read (as well as the last), but if I had to guess, I'd definitely guess that this is NOT his usual subject matter because for the most part it seemed like he had NO idea what was going on!

Here's the problem;

At first glance, the book seems great! It covers a wide array of topics in one book and also seems to be nicely updated. But then once you start reading it word by word, you quickly notice that what this guy basically did was say "Hey, I'm gonna go write a book about astrophysics because I think it's neat!" And so he went and did a BUNCH of research reading in these various subjects, regergitated the same information back out so that he could put it all together into one big book, then without having anyone that is advanced in the subject proof-read it, printed it and slapped a huge price on it thinking that there's no way people will think a book can suck if it's that expensive...

Now, for those of you who are saying "Hey, what's wrong with that? That's very common and a lot of good, well-rounded books have emerged that way!" I completely agree because sometimes you want to learn a wide range of information under one subject and instead of reading 20 'specialized' books, it's nice when someone puts them all together so that you only have to read one and then branch off into specialized areas later if you want to... BUT THERE'S JUST ONE PROBLEM WITH THAT! He literally forgot to do the most important thing when writing a book on a subject you know nothing about by smashing a bunch of other books together;

He forgot that you're supposed to carefully read through everything AFTER you smash it all together so that you can either take out or explain all the contradictions and things that don't match up! (because when you put multiple sources together, that's something that's pretty much guaranteed to happen!) Then, obviously, have someone who IS very knowledgable in the field proof read it to ensure that it all makes sense before you publish it...

I found this book confusing (but not because it was "too advanced" for me..) and very flawed (like I said, it seemed like someone clipped a bunch of passages out of a bunch of books, arranged them by subject, then put them all together without rereading it afterwards).

I do not recommend it and suggest you use the money to buy two cheaper books with better authors (who have written about cosmology before!).

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