142 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction, good overview on applications
This book can be divided into three logical parts. The first part includes an overview of 4 dimensional physics (spacetime physics, chapter 1), an introduction to special relativity (physics in flat spacetime, chapters 2 to 7), an introduction to the tensor calculus (the mathematics of curved spacetime, chapters 8 to 15) and describes in detail Einstein's general theory...
Published on October 10, 2001 by Dr. Alexander Mircescu
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two books in one
The Author attempts the very remarkable objective of satisfying everybody's needs in one single book. For that purpose the book is divided into track 1 and track 2 sections. Unfortunately, this attempt is, in my opinion, not completely successful. Advanced GR readers will surely find too many trivial topics in the book, while beginners will have difficulties even with...
Published on February 14, 2007 by Tomas Rodriguez
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142 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction, good overview on applications,
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)This book can be divided into three logical parts. The first part includes an overview of 4 dimensional physics (spacetime physics, chapter 1), an introduction to special relativity (physics in flat spacetime, chapters 2 to 7), an introduction to the tensor calculus (the mathematics of curved spacetime, chapters 8 to 15) and describes in detail Einstein's general theory of relativity (Einstein's geometric theory of relativity, chapters 16 to 22).
This first part is the best introduction to the theory of relativity I have ever read. The mathematics is introduced in a very comprehensive manner, there are lots of exercises where the reader can get used to the tensor calculus. The physical explanations are just brilliant and what is more important general relativity is introduced in the manner Einstein itself viewed it: as a geometric representation of gravity! Other books on this subject formulate general relativity only algebraically (like quantum theory) but this hides the importance of the idea that all gravitational effects can be extracted from the geometry of spacetime. The algebraic formulation may be regarded as more modern by some authors, it must be said however that no algebraic formulation managed to give more physical insight. The algebraic treatment tries to unify the view of general relativity and quantum field theory, but the physical discrepancies between the two theories remain unsolved.
The second part starts with the application of general relativity to stars (stars and relativity, chapters 23 to 26), goes on to the universe (the universe, chapters 27-30) and to black holes (gravitational collapse and black holes, chapters 31 to 34), and describes finally gravitational waves (gravitational waves, chapters 35 to 37) and experimental methods (experimental tests of general relativity, chapters 38 to 40).
This second part is a good overview, but many details of the computations of the applications are not shown. For the readers interrested in the details the two volume book by Zel'dovich and Novikov "Stars and Relativity"/"The Structure and Evolution of the Universe" is much better (but also much longer).
The third part finally describes the frontiers of general relativity (frontiers, chapters 41 to 44). Like part two it gives a good overview not showing many computational details.
95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good reference for advanced, NOT A LOGICAL INTRO to GR,
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)This book is known as the 'bible' of General Relativity or 'MTW'.
People with different preparation will perceive MTW in different ways:
The beginners in GR very often will feel that the book is a good reference and shows 'properties' of the defined objects instead of explaining the logical necessity of demanding such properties. My first course in GR was based on that book and although I learned some 'index gymnastics' from it, very often I had questions of the type 'where does this come from, why is it defined this way'. Often I would read about something like 'affine parameter' and I would not understand its importance at all.
For beginners I recommend the books from J.Hartle, B. Schutz, D'Inverno, W. Rindler, S. Carroll and R. Wald in order of increasing abstraction (and decreasing usefullness for beginners). I am currently in the middle of course based on the Carroll's book and I understand things I have never ever been able to understand from the 'bible' like the fact that we may define different connections but only one of them is metric compatible and we CHOOSE to work with it, or that we CHOOSE to work with a torsion free connection, or that reparametrizing a geodesic may not give you back a geodesic (in relation to the affine parameter remark above) ... Such facts are either not clearly spelled in the 'bible' or they are digged in somewhere 300 pages away ...
Once you are past your first (or better second) course in GR, that book will be an invaluable reference for you with plenty of examples how to apply different computational and theoretical techniques in GR.
The reviewers that give it high rating are obviously either experienced in the field or are begginners that value a book only because of the well-known authours.
The book is really a titanic effort to compile all relevant pieces of info into one thick volume BUT PLEASE PLEASE think carefully before you recommend it for INTRODUCTION to General Relativity !!!
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete and excellent coverage,
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)Gravitation gives a wonderful presentation of general relativity and the mathematics, primarily differential geometry, needed to understand it. Virtually every topic in classical general relativity is well covered. This book has so much to offer it's only possible to give a subjective view of the highlights and things that make the book unique.
It has a very good introduction to special relativity. This not only helps the reader understand special relativity, but it also gives practice with some of the mathematics needed for general relativity. I don't think many (any?) advanced general relativity books cover special relativity this thoroughly. One thing of special note is that there is a chapter devoted to special relativity and accelerated observers. The reason I think this is important is that it's a fairly common misconception that general relativity is needed to deal with acceleration, I wish more books had chapters like this.
The use of electromagnetism to illustrate the use of tensors is fairly extensive. This not only helps readers learn tensor analysis, but will also help them understand electromagnetism better.
Although black holes are covered in virtually every book on general relativity, the discussion here is much more thorough than usual. The material on the dynamics of the Schwarzschild solution is not a perspective most books give. In addition there is very nice coverage of stellar structure.
The exercises are great.
There is a lot of material on experimental general relativity.
The historical anecdotes are interesting.
There are an above average number of illuminating diagrams
The chapter on the Bianchi identities is exceptional, it also hints to the study of homology.
The initial-value problem is also exceptional.
Regge calculus is covered, an important topic in numerical relativity that is usually neglected.
The chapter on superspace is quite interesting. No, superspace in this sense doesn't have anything to do with supersymmetry. It's the space of solutions to general relativity, among other things this is important for quantum cosmology.
Pretty much any topic in general relativity one would be interested in has excellent coverage, with the possible exception of quantum gravity which only has a small amount of material.
The downsides? While I appreciate the coordinate fee notation, it's not that easy to use when working the exercises. I prefer the use of abstract index notation, at least for working problems with a pen and paper. Some of the diagrams early in the book might be a little confusing to readers without prior knowledge of differential geometry. This isn't really a downside, but this is a fairly advanced book and it might not be an ideal first book on general relativity (Schutz's book provides an excellent introduction and has a similar approach to this book).
In short, this is an exceptional book. Anybody with serious interest in learning general relativity would do well to study it.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a book of IDEAS,
By A Customer
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)This volume is absolutely neccesary for any serious student of gravitational physics. Although their are sections suitable for an upper division undergrad, this is a tome for the graduate student in Physics. The mathematical expertise required for the advanced Track-2 portions of the book are predominently graduate level and above. However, it is those very sections where the exotic topics of black-hole thermodynamics and quantum cosmology are addressed in all their splendor. There are areas of interest to students of math such as the introduction of differential forms and tensor index-slinging. All students of Physics should have at least cracked the cover of this book once before they receive their B.Sci. This is a thorough if dated (1975) exposition that deserves a place along side Peeble's 'COSMOLOGY' and Dirac's 'QUANTUM MECHANICS' in a list of 'must have' volumes for any Physicist (even those far removed from general relativity). With the possible exception of S. Hawkings, Misner, Thorne and Wheeler show their collective expertise on GTR with rigor and style. Even the typsetting, diagrams and the liberal use of explanitory boxes all serve to give the work a feel of completion. It is no wonder that in the physics literature it is often cited simply as MTW.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best textbook I've ever seen -- in ANY subject!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)Yes, it's so massive you can measure it's gravitational field. Yes, people refer to it as "the phonebook." But all joking aside, as an undergraduate who is very curious about general relativity, I must say that this textbook has done more for me than any other. I've gotten occational help from other books (Wald, Weinberg, etc.) but this is the one that I really LERN from. There's more physical insight in this book than any I've yet seen, and the reading is truly enjoyable. One great thing is the treatment of tensors. I knew next to nothing about tensors coming into the book, but the book assumes very little initial knowledge and teaches you the needed math as you go along. This book is truly a model for anyone who wants to write a textbook. Nothing I've seen even comes close.
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible of gravitational physics,
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)By size and content, this book ranks as one of the largest in physics . Not only does it give an excellent discussion of all of the concepts in gravitational physics, but it gives clear presentations of the relevant mathematics, not hesitating at all to employ useful diagrams and pictures. Truly a classic, it is a work that is sure to be read by future generations of students in gravitational physics. I can still remember the excitement I felt when picking the book up for the first time. The authors are giants in the field, and it is great that they chose to take the time to write such an excellent book. It is readily apparent that they care a great deal about what the reader will take away after reading such a large book, as the presentation is always crystal clear and a great joy to read.
Space prohibits a thorough review, so I will instead highlight the parts of the book that I found particularly exceptional: 1. The example of how coordinate singularities arise: the "cells of the egg crate" squashed to zero volume. 2. The beautiful illustration of the Roll-Krotkov-Dicke experiment. 3. The "physics demo" of a local inertial frame of reference (it is not very difficult to construct this demonstration for actual use in a classroom). 4. The presentation of a 2-form as a honeycomb of tubes with a sense of circulation. Such an explanation is lacking in the general mathematical literature. 5. The flying ring demonstration illustrating Faraday stresses. This demonstration is done very often in physics classes, and is simple to set up. 6. The excellent discussion (with illustrations) of the covariant derivative and the Schild ladder construction. 7. The presentation of parallel transport around a closed curve. 8. The treatment of Riemann normal coordinates. These are typically presented in a purely formal way in most texts on general relativity, ignoring their status as providing a local inertial frame in curved spacetime. 9. The (philosophical) discussion on the principal of general covariance in the context of Newtonian gravity in tensorial form. 10. The illustration, with accompanying discussion, on a situation where two events can be connected by more than one geodesic. The authors mention the relation of this example to the Morse theory of critical points. 11. The discussion of the Bianchi identities and the topological result on the boundary of a boundary being empty. 12. The discussion on the gravity gradiometer. 13. The exceptional discussion on six routes to the Einstein field equation. 14. The variational principle and the initial value problem in the Einstein equation. 15. The connection between the Gauss-Weingarten equations and extrinsic curvature. 16. The ADm formulation of the dynamics of geometry. 17. The discussion on Mach's principle. 18. The radial oscillations of a Newtonian star. 19. The Hamilton-Jacobi description of motion and its employment in analyzing the central force problem. 20. The effect of the value of the cosmological constant on cosmological models and evolution of the universe. 21. The cosmological redshift and its explanation via the expansion of the universe. 22. The mathematics of the Mixmaster cosmology. 23. The dynamics of the Schwarzschild geometry. 24. The discussion on the global properties of spacetime and singularity theorems. 25. The short biographies of Hawking and Penrose. 26. The quadrupole nature of gravitational radiation. 27. The experimental justification of general relativity, particularly the description of Pound-Rebka experiment on the gravitational redshift.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two books in one,
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)The Author attempts the very remarkable objective of satisfying everybody's needs in one single book. For that purpose the book is divided into track 1 and track 2 sections. Unfortunately, this attempt is, in my opinion, not completely successful. Advanced GR readers will surely find too many trivial topics in the book, while beginners will have difficulties even with track 1 pages. My review will provide the advanced beginner's point of view. I read all track 1 sections and a few track 2 at the beginning of the book.
The first part of the book where geometrical objects, one forms and tensors are described is very pedagogical. However, as more advanced topics are introduced you are left with the unease feeling that something important is left behind. The answer is clear, what is missing is track 2 contents, but track 2 are much more difficult to read. By reading just track 1 sections you are led too fast to the deeper results of GR. The treatment is too superficial and a lot of results are taken for granted; or referred to track 2 pages.
There are a lot of exercises and examples in the book. However, few exercises are solved and the examples frequently refer to sideways difficult physical topics, surely not meant to clarify the main text.
The huge size of the book adds up to its reading difficulties. It is heavy and overwhelming. I usually try to reduce costs by choosing paperback editions, but the size of this book could justify a hardcover version.
In summary I must say this is not a book for beginners. I found its writing style confusing and my knowledge in GR was little improved by reading track 1 sections. To my discharge I must say I read without difficulties Foster & Nightingale's and Carroll's but could not get through Wald's. My recommendation would be to start with Foster's, then continue with Carrols's and next, what's next? Misner's is surely not a good third step.
The book may be more appropriate for advanced students. I intend to follow the author's suggestions and make a second reading including the most interesting track 2 sections.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)The world would be less beautiful if this book didn't exist. What a remarkable feat! The sequence that leads from the very basic concept of spacetime to the computation of the components of Riemann tensor by using forms and the Cartan equations is unparalleled. A lot of mathematical formulas follow from simple reasoning and ... drawings! The introduction of Schild's ladder to motivate the axioms for a (torsionless) connection is very clever. The introduction of curvature by means of geodesic deviation is very intuitive. The derivation of the expression for the geodesic deviation (and, consequently, of the expression for the Riemann tensor) is, again, completely intuitive. The chapter on spinors is very beautiful and useful. Still, I would never recommend this book for a beginner. For it is absolutely non-linear. I have been told that this corresponds to the ideas of Wheeler's concerning learning. Sometimes an argument at chapter 4 (say) depends on something that is intr! oduced in chapter 8. Also, the three tracks (first, second and boxes)interfere all the time, requiring much discipline from the reader. If, however, you already learned the basics (for instance, in Landau, Lifshitz), so that you know what you are looking for, "Gravitation" is unbeatable, of a class apart. I've seen mathematicians adopting the language introduced by them to explain tensors: a slot for each argument of the multilinear machine! Last, not the least, the Index and the References are of the highest quality. This shows respect for the readers. Drs. Misner, Thorne and Wheeler are to be congratulated.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forbidding but very readable if you work,
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)I used the first 11 chapters as an introduction to differential geometry and, after translating the math into my own notation, found this source to be the best available, hands down. The authors use the mathematicians' notation, labeling infinitesimal generators as tangent vectors, a notation that I personally find to be annoying. This is nearly the only readable source, in English, of Cartan's (after the fact) observation that Newtonian gravitational orbits are (limit of GR with G fixed as c goes to infinity) geodesics in space-time, with the curvature in the (x,t), (y,t) and (z,t) subspaces, with space Euclidean and time absolute. Beautiful!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite physics book on any topic!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Gravitation (Physics Series) (Paperback)Of the two shelves of physics books I own, this book is easily the one I cherish the most. I wish I had books on other physics subjects that explained things as clearly as this book does.
This book is huge, in large part because it takes the time to explain each topic very thoroughly. The authors take difficult topics, and break them down into as simple terms as possible. Although quite advanced topics are covered, very little is expected of a reader as a prerequisite, beyond sophomore level math and a brief exposure to special relativity. These things combine to make the book great for self-study, when it isn't possible to ask a professor for clarification of something glossed over in a text.
This book does a great job of explaining concepts visually, instead of only in algebraic terms. I, for one, can understand and remember concepts much better if I can picture them, instead of having to just memorize equations.
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Gravitation (Physics Series) by Charles W. Misner (Paperback - September 15, 1973)