Top positive review
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A Nearly Perfect Introductory Text
on December 28, 2011
I definitely fell into an odd class of people who wanted to educate myself about string theory, yet I am not and will never be an academic physicist. What I needed was a text that introduced string theory and its mathematical underpinnings in a rigorous way, but one that was geared more for well informed, mathematically inclined amateurs, than for graduate students.
This book fit the bill very nicely. It is not a "popular" account of the field for interested non-science majors, but it is doubtlessly a good text for an undergraduate level course in string theory for physics majors. If you prefer to avoid calculus, linear algebra, geometry, and math in general, this book is not for you. For that matter, if you don't have a reasonable grasp of quantum field theory and relativity, this book is not for you.
The great strength of this work, for me, was the clear and concise explanations of the material. Although I do own both Barton Zwiebach's, "A First Course in String Theory" and Elias Kiritsis's, "String Theory in a Nutshell" only very rarely did I feel the need to consult either of those to clarify the points made by the authors in this book.
The one niggling criticism I have is that I would have preferred there be more exercises and problems throughout the book. At least for my purposes, being engaged in self-study, struggling through exercises is key to cementing the concepts in my mind. That was where I was very glad to have "String Theory in a Nutshell," as it contains close to 500 exercises, whereas this book has around 300, divided between 'exercises' (for which solutions are provided) and the more numerous 'problems' (for which they are not).
I a bit feel stingy giving this text 4-stars simply because I'd have preferred there be more exercises, but giving it 4.5 stars is not an option. Suffice it to say that I could have just as easily rounded up to five stars.
There are a number of topics omitted by the authors that have come up in subsequent study, but it shouldn't be shocking that a 700-page treatment of a fast moving field like string theory would fail to be entirely comprehensive. Those unaddressed topics (that I presently know of) are treated in more advanced texts, and thus far I don't believe that the quality or usefulness of this book suffers for any of the omissions.
If I could only recommend one of the three introductory texts on string theory that I've read, I would generally select this one. I found the discussions far more clear in this book than I did in Kiritsis's treatment of the same topics, and both books are more mathematically rigorous than Zwiebach's "A First Course in String Theory."
Armed with what I've learned from the authors, I am now in a position where I can turn to graduate level texts without succumbing to frustration at my own ignorance. "String Theory and M-Theory" provided me with the solid foundation I was hoping for; one on which I can easily build.