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Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology: A Basic Introduction (Oxford Master Series in Physics) [Paperback]

Ta-Pei Cheng
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 11, 2010 0199573646 978-0199573646 2
Einstein's general theory of relativity is introduced in this advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate level textbook. Topics include special relativity, in the formalism of Minkowski's four-dimensional space-time, the principle of equivalence, Riemannian geometry and tensor analysis, Einstein field equation, as well as many modern cosmological subjects, from primordial inflation and cosmic microwave anisotropy to the dark energy that propels an accelerating universe. The author presents the subject with an emphasis on physical examples and simple applications without the full tensor apparatus. The reader first learns how to describe curved spacetime. At this mathematically more accessible level, the reader can already study the many interesting phenomena such as gravitational lensing, precession of Mercury's perihelion, black holes, and cosmology. The full tensor formulation is presented later, when the Einstein equation is solved for a few symmetric cases. Many modern topics in cosmology are discussed in this book: from inflation, cosmic microwave anisotropy to the "dark energy" that propels an accelerating universe. Mathematical accessibility, together with the various pedagogical devices (e.g., worked-out solutions of chapter-end problems), make it practical for interested readers to use the book to study general relativity and cosmology on their own.

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Editorial Reviews


The book "... is perhaps a bit modest in its title: Comprehensive rather than Basic is probably more appropriate. This second edition expands upon the 2005 textbook, which is a 'Physics First' presentation of relativity and cosmology." --- Journal of General Relativity & Gravitation (2011) 43:359-360.

Review from previous edition: "This is a great time to have published a fresh new undergraduate text on relativity and cosmology...this is an excellent textbook which this reviewer would rate as the text of choice for a course on relativity and cosmology aimed at physics and astronomy undergraduates." --American Journal of Physics

About the Author

Ta-Pei Cheng is currently Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. He took his Ph.D. at Rockefeller University in 1969, followed by post-doctoral study at Rockefeller University and at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton). He has been on the faculty of University of Missouri - St. Louis from 1973 to the present day, and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1982.

Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Master Series in Physics (Book 11)
  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (January 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199573646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199573646
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 3.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ta-Pei Cheng is a particle physics theorist. Born in Shanghai, he moved to the U.S., via Hong Kong, in 1960. After graduating from Dartmouth College, he received a PhD in 1969 from Rockefeller University with the noted physicist and Einstein biographer Abraham Pais. He is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, as well as an Adjunct Professor at Portland State University in Oregon. Among the many concurrent appointments, he was at the Institute for Advanced study (Princeton) 1969-71, 77-78, and 87-88, the University of Minnesota 1979-80, and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab 1982-83. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1982. Besides having published some highly cited research papers, he is the co-author (with Ling-Fong Li) of the book "Gauge Theory of Elementary Particle Physics" (Oxford, 1984) that had introduced the subject to several generations of particle physics students. Its companion book "GTEPP: Problems and Solutions" was published in 2000. Professor Cheng is also the author of "Relativity, Gravitation, and Cosmology: A basic introduction", (published by Oxford in 2005, second edition in 2010). It is among the first books adopting a `physics-first approach' to the pedagogy of Einstein's general theory of relativity. In 2013 Oxford University Press published his book, "Einstein's Physics: Atoms, Quanta, and Relativity - Derived, explained, & appraised", which introduces Einstein's physics to a general readership having an introductory physics background.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Material to begin with and test yourself. February 25, 2005
By Darran
I'm a second year astrophysics student from Ireland.

Recently I've tried to learn the Mathematics of General Relativity in detail, outside of my course and have bought numerous books in the process.

In my opinion this book and "A First Course in General Relativity by Bernard F. Schutz" are perfect complementary texts to learn the main basis of General Relativity on your own.

The author has provided an unbelievable amount of questions and not a single one of them is pointless exercise.

The book is Divided into three sections:

Part 1: Metric description of Space-Time

Very well written intro to General Relativity which delves into Black Holes and Mercury's Orbit, without the full on Field Equation and Tensors.

Part 2: Cosmology

Still keeping to the metric description of space-time, cosmology is introduced. The mathematics of concepts like the closed and open universes are explained really well.

Part 3: Full Tensor Formulism

I was able to learn Tensors from this, using Chapter 3 from Schutz's book as a companion.

The questions at the end of each chapter really test your knowledge and after reading this you will be able to manipulate the field equation for simple cases and move onto more advanced books if you wish.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Let me preface this review by saying I majored in physics and finished college 14 years ago. I've always wanted to study GR but went to dental school right after college and so never got the chance. With the latest developments in cosmology, ie, dark flow, dark energy, dark matter, I finally couldn't suppress my curiosity any longer. The framework for understanding cosmology is GR.

I own the other GR books by Hartle, Schutz and Carroll. Each of them is more a textbook to accompany a lecture course than one for the self-taught crowd.

This book reads more like a novel. The author begins with why Einstein tackled the problem of generalizing special relativity and why that generalization would also be a theory of gravity (Equivalence Principle). The book includes a good intro to special relativiy (SR) at the intermediate college level. This is followed by Minkowski's spacetime which is a deeper mathematical description of SR. From there, the next few chapters elucidate on the Metric tensor and the curvature of spacetime.

After you've learned the Metric, there is a chapter on black holes and 3 chapters on cosmology (expanding universe, inflation, cosmic microwave background, the cosmological constant and how it can be used to take into account dark matter and dark energy, and much more). I particularly enjoyed the cosmology part of the book. It gives you a taste of how modern physicists are using GR to tackle the biggest questions in cosmology. And it gives you a break to absorb the theory before going deeper mathematically.

The final part of the book gives a complete treatment of GR using tensors and ends with a chapter on gravity waves.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best introduction to GR available! August 15, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The best introduction to General and Special Relativity I have ever read! I got frustrated trying to self study from Schutz, Hartle and Carroll simply because there was no way to check if I was doing the exercises correctly. They are all well written books, but if you want to learn GR on your own this is the book to start with (Although, it doesn't hurt to have them as a supplement). Most answers are included to the exercises and there are plenty of worked examples.

The layout of the book is very close to that of Hartle. There are boxes that stray a bit from the main text to go into more detail or to work out an example.

He also walks you through the process of showing that Maxwell's equations are invariant under the Lorentz transformation, which I found particularly interesting because all of the other introductory books that I have read (If I remember correctly) neglect this, or take it as a given that you have seen this before.

At half the price of other books on GR in the same category, there really is no reason why you shouldn't add this one to your collection. Especially if you are learning the subject on your own.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book for self-study August 8, 2010
By Heidi
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Learning general relativity has always been a dream of mine. This book made it possible for me to learn GR on my own. A dream come true!
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a gem July 5, 2007
Intermediate level, with clear presentation, lots of graphics and exercises, ideal for self-study. In one word, excellent.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fundamentals April 23, 2010
Excellent overview text. Enough detail for people with a physics background; an alternative to an exhaustive course on general relativity.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ta-Pei's book is MUCH better than Sean Carroll's textbook November 26, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a physics graduate student without pre-knowledge about GR, and I must say:

This Ta-Pei's book is MUCH better than Sean Carroll's textbook <<An Introduction to General Relativity: Space and Geometry>>, simply because the Ta-Pei's book provides much more detailed and rigorous explanation with more illustrative diagrams than what the Sean's book does.

For example, Ta-Pei book provides two different ways to derive the Geodesic equations on the page 88, 106 and 320, whereas Sean is only able to provide one way to derive it on the page 105. I always want to know how the Geodesic equation is related to the Lagrange. and Ta-Pei's book explains this very well, whereas Sean does not explain anything about it.

Many description on Sean is unclear, he tries to teach me how to do GR by using Differential Geometry without teaching me how to do Differential Geometry. This causes me to waste lots of time to figure out what Sean's book actually means. For example, Sean is awful to explain what "One-form" means. Rather than introducing such complicated concept from Differential Geometry, Ta-Pei teaches me how to do GR by introducing highly self-contained mathematical concept. In Ta-Pei's way, I do not have to look for more advanced math textbooks in order to understand what he really means. This saves me enormous amount of time. Some description on Ta-Pei is marvellous. For example, on the top of the page 147, "the roles of time and space are interchanged when crossing over the r=r*." This concise description captures the whole feature of the event horizon! That is awesome!

I also like the diagrams on Ta-Pei's book, for example on the page 106 the fig 6.3, which is simple but means a lot to me. Another example, fig 7.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Relativity, Gravitation and cosmology :hard to read
The book has many interesting perspectives and shades lights on various problems.
BUT I found it hard to read because it is full of referrals to formulas and paragraphs in... Read more
Published 25 days ago by ghassan HALABY
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite GR Book!
I graduated with a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 1988 and quickly entered management; therefore my mathematics have not be extensively exercised for many years. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Lane R. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Gravitational Waves
This book has a fairly comprehensive introduction to gravitational waves (Chapter 15) -- currently of interest from the perspective of the Inflationary Theory of cosmology. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Terry
5.0 out of 5 stars Cosmology Basics
This book provides a basic introduction to cosmology without complicated mathematics. While I enjoy higher level math and physics, I wanted a cosmology book that would provide the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by LRS
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit low of a level
This book attempts to teach General Relativity at a sophomore level of sophistication. It takes the "let's ignore tensors instead of trying to teach them" approach. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Nate
5.0 out of 5 stars LOVE IT!!!
I love this book on General relativity and cosmology. It is fun to read and covers tensor analysis latter in the book. Read more
Published on March 10, 2012 by PersonReviewing
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