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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice introduction for self-study, making modest demands, March 19, 2011
on the reader but covering the basics in a pedagogically skillful manner. I have not read all of this book, but I have read enough to recommend it to those who want to go beyond popular explanations but are somewhat intimidated by the standard, frequently recommended introductions, e.g., Schutz's A First Course in General Relativity, Hartle's Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein's General Relativity or Cheng's Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology: A Basic Introduction (Oxford Master Series in Physics).

Update 10/02/2012: Just noticed there is a very detailed ToC is available in pdf form from the publisher's website.

I am keeping my less detailed ToC below in case that's more convenient.

Here's the Table of Contents:

Ch.1 Special Relativity and Spacetime [11 - 44]:
1.1 Basic concepts
1.2 Coordinate transformations
1.3 Consequences of Lorentz transformation
1.4 Minkowski spacetime

Interestingly, the discussion of the famous so-called Twin Paradox (no paradox at all), in which one twin stays at home and the other travels away to some distant place and back home only to find his stay-at-home twin older, is analyzed from both the stay-at-home (inertial) twin's viewpoint and the traveling (accelerated) twin's viewpoint. The two calculations agree, as one would expect since special relativity is consistent, and contrary to some misguided impressions, can deal with accelerated reference frames. Many textbooks only look at the problem from the viewpoint of the stay-at-home (inertial) twin. It's really great to see both views explicitly analyzed.

Ch.2 Special Relativity and Physical Laws [45-79]:
2.1 Invariants and physical law
2.2. Laws of mechanics
2.3 Laws of electromagnetism

Ch. 3 Geometry and Curved Spacetime [80-109]:
3.1 Line elements and differential geometry
3.2 Metrics and connections
3.3 Geodesics
3.4 Curvature

Ch. 4 General Relativity and Gravitation [110-143]:
4.1 Founding principles of GR
4.2 Basic ingredients (energy-momentum tensor, Einstein tensor)
4.3 Einstein's field equations and geodesic motion

Includes the Weak Equivalence principle, Strong Equivalence Principle, Principle of General Covariance.

Ch. 5 Schwarzschild Spacetime [144-170]:
5.1 Metric
5.2 Properties
5.3 Coordinates and measurements
5.4 Geodesic motion

Ch. 6 Black Holes [171 - 203]:
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Non-rotating black holes
6.3 Rotating black holes
6.4 Quantum mechanics and black holes (has brief discussion of Hawking radiation)

Ch 7 Testing General Relativity [204-233], including gravitational waves (7.4).

Ch 8 Relativistic Cosmology [234 - 276]:
8.1 Basic principles and supporting observations
8.2 Robertson-Walker spacetime
8.3 Friedmann equations and cosmic evolution
8.4 Friedmann-Robertson-Walker models and observations

Features I think particularly helpful for self-study:

1. Very clear, reader-friendly exposition, including chapter summaries.

2. Full solutions to all problems [pp 279-306].

3. Stresses key concepts and overall logic and physical motivation.

One will not get lost in a swamp of minutiae (as can happen with Hartle, which is a very fine book too but for many, too ponderous as a first exposure) nor sunk by a barrage of difficult mathematics (as can happen with, e.g. Schutz or D'Inverno, at least for autodidacts with limited background in math or physics).

Example: contains a nice, easy to understand discussion of why Newtonian gravity is not Lorentz invariant and later a nice exposition of Newtonian gravity as a field theory, which general relativity must reduce to in the Newtonian limit.

4. Very nicely produced with many helpful and attractively produced diagrams. [For me, visually nice diagrams make it easier to understand explanations and also make studying fun. I'm sensitive to how a book looks and have "aging eyes" so appreciate books with a lot of white space and good contrast.]

Physics or mathematics majors might feel this book is either too superficial or not rigorous enough in some places but for those who want to ease into general relativity and then move on to harder or more complete books such as Hartle, Schutz or D'Inverno, this is about as good as it gets.

Other than this book, in my view the three best books for self-study at an introductory level are:

1. Cheng's Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology: A Basic Introduction (Oxford Master Series in Physics)

2. Hartle's Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein's General Relativity

3. Schutz's A First Course in General Relativity

Cheng and Hartle are roughly at the same level of difficulty. I like the succinctness, organization, rigor and overall clarity of Cheng. It also includes answers to selected problems. Hartle, on the other hand, is wordier ("physics first'!) and has no solutions to exercises. I have used Hartle mostly as a reference and found it very helpful on many topics. Schutz is significantly more demanding, mainly because the mathematics is more abstract, but it's generally clearly written. The 1st edition of Schutz contains answers or hints to some problems but the newer edition does not. Overall, then, for the next step up from Lambourne, I think Cheng is the best choice.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mathematics AND Colored Illustrations? I Must Be Dreaming, October 5, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
But no, it's true.

Ok, folks, let's be candid. Most of you are trying to teach yourselves this stuff. You've made it through quantum mechanics, you get Special Relativity well enough, but General Relativity is an impenetrable barrier. Hartle and Wall are hard, Misner Thorne & Wheeler is terrifying.

This is the book you want. The math is clearly presented and the many diagrams and enormously helpful. Each chapter has a summary to prepare you for what follows.

Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So far so good!, December 31, 2013
I bought this book as a teaser before attending the relativity course with Open University UK, as this book is material for the course. I trusted this book would help me learn relativity in advance of the course, and I was not wrong. As a matter of fact, all the course material from OU proved comprehensive; without these courses I would have not been able to understand quantum mechanics, differential equations, simple relativity and, until now - some general relativity (as I did not finish this book yet).

Most probably you will not be able to successfully get through this material unless you already have advanced mathematical knowledge at undergraduate level (differential equations, matrices, vector spaces etc...).

What I appreciate very much about this book is that it introduces four vectors and four tensors in a "gentle" manner, your understanding of these notions comes up naturally while reading the book and learning the physics behind the pages, being less worried about the math. I am currently reading the end of the third chapter, learning about space curvature and the Reimann tensor. So far so good!
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Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology
Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology by Robert J. Lambourne (Hardcover - July 26, 2010)
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