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General Relativity: 1972 Lecture Notes (Lecture Notes Series) (Volume 1) Paperback – February 25, 2013
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( Vol.11, No.5, by Wood ): it being hardly favorable.Then, a brief mention by Physicist John Baez ( " what is covered is very well explained" ). Next up,perusal of the reviews on Amazon; again, they span the gamut. (Now, my turn at it.)
Robert Geroch has written a unique exposition at a (semi-) popular level (or, semi-technical level) accessible to most anyone who cares to profit through careful, accurate, elucidation of (basics of) General Relativity. Profit, that is,from lucid prose, very few equations and a concentration on fundamental conceptions. Proffered herein: an opportunity to learn basics from a professional researcher, also being a masterful teacher of General Relativity. Is it plodding ? At times, yes. But, once up and running, all proceeds accordingly.
Who, then, in 1978 was serving up this kind of perspective on the topic at hand ( topic, that is, of General Relativity) ?
Parsed into two Parts : (A) The Space-Time Viewpoint and (B) General Relativity.
Part One: Retains the hyphen in 'Space-Time', this is excellent pedagogy !
The book should be required reading for undergraduate students whilst preparing for study in further coursework in Relativity.
Robert Geroch proffers a viewpoint neglected in many (if not most) undergraduate physics courses. Certainly neglected in mine:
At University, in four years of undergraduate study, not one physics professor ever uttered the word " Space-Time Interval "
when the subject of Relativity was approached, described, explained. The trend: Write down the Lorentz Transformations
and then to be finished with the entire subject ! No thinking required ! This is a deplorable trend, in my opinion.
Therefore, this book does fulfill a definite need. It did then (when published in 1978), as it does now.
However, many hours of thinking is a requirement with perusal of this book (especially for a semi-popular exposition).
A few words from the author:
(1) "...to summarize, world-lines of particles now acquire time-functions." (Page 80).
(2) "...the Interval is intrinsic to Space-Time..."(Page 91).
(3) "...from the Interval one can determine how light goes and how clocks move and tick..." (Page 112).
(4) "...I see physics as an ongoing process...everything is tentative,confusing,subject to caveats..." (Page 140).
(5) "...Is Space-Time really curved?...One should think of this quantity as simply the mathematical result
of a certain geometrical construction." (Page 170).
(6) "...one thinks of Einstein's equation as being the fundamental thing all by itself..."(Page 176).
And, it goes without saying (or, it should) that the final Chapter, Black Holes, is a beautiful rendering of the confluence of all
of the previous Chapters: amalgamating Events, Space-Time Interval and Einstein's Equation.(Figures and illustrations abound)
Again, this book is the beginning of a journey, Geroch offers insight not often expatiated in publications at this level.
The schema of ideas which permeate Relativity, as presented by one with sure compass, sure direction.
Highly Recommended as a prelude for students who wish to embark on further studies in this arena.
Geroch concludes thus: " Physics is a human activity, and, as such, it is vague, uncertain and judgmental." (Page 221).
( I ask any student: when was the last time you heard a professor of physics admit that ? )
Addenda: As of June 2017 Robert Geroch's 1972 Lecture Notes in General Relativity are available on the webpage of the University
of Chicago. These, along with his other available Lecture Notes, are essential study materials for the advanced student of Physics.
This book is the clearest, most concise introduction to the General Theory of Relativity ever written. Here you will find General Relativity developed from first principles using Geroch’s own unique and justly famous pedagogical approach to the subject. The geometrical spacetime reasoning is very intuitive and leads to a deeply satisfying understanding of the material. The coverage of topics is amazing for such a short volume. All the standard results including the Friedmann universes, the cosmological redshift, the Schwarzschild metric and the bending of light are derived in a compact, and elegant way. But the discussion also includes a large variety of advanced topics not usually found in a book at the introductory level. Chapter 34, for example, presents a simple proof of the singularity theorems that is really delightful.
Any serious student of General Relativity should own this book. And while the book may be read to great benefit on its own, I would suggest if you are a serious student, that you first buy and work through the companion volume, Geroch’s 1972 Differential Geometry lecture notes which are also available in the same series from the Minkowski Institute Press. This is not required for reading the General Relativity lectures but it will certainly increase your understanding and enjoyment of them. And even if you are a mathematically sophisticated reader you should not neglect Geroch’s delightful little non-mathematical book, General Relativity From A to B, University of Chicago Press, which really should be read as a companion to the General Relativity lecture notes.
If you want to learn General Relativity, then buy this book and work through it. You will be amazed at how much you learn in a short period of time, and the enduring value of the approach to the subject that it presents.