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June 24, 2004
I'm Not Bragging Or Anything, But ...

My sister just bought my son a physics textbook off of his Amazon wish list, and we've all had a pretty good laugh reading one of the reviews. First, you have to understand that my son considers this his pleasure reading for the summer ... and you'll understand why we're all laughing.

Proudly laughing, my sister adds ... but laughing just the same.

The first few chapters (homotopy, homology) are rather dry, but the text picks up after that. The manifold chapter is really good, particularly the Lie groups section which gives a geometric viewpoint of the objects which get very little attention in a typical particle physics course. Unfortunately, nothing is said on representation theory, but that can be found in Georgi's book. The cohomology chapter is wonderfully quick and to the point. I found myself having to tell myself to slow down because of the excitement I had in reading it.

Can you feel the excitement? That chapter on cohomology sounds gripping!

The Riemannian geometry chapter reads wonderfully and serves as a great reference for all those general relativity formulae you always forget.

Right along with my keys ...

The end of that chapter has an exquisite little bit on spinors in curved spacetime. The complex geometry chapter is also wonderful. I find myself going back to it all the time when reading Polchinski's string text. The chapters on fiber bundles seem a bit on the overly mathy side, but then again, all the pain is in the definitions which becomes well worth it in the end.

Sounds vaguely R-rated, doesn't it?

I haven't read the last few chapters (spending all of my time in Polchinski!) but I definitely will when I have some spare time. The notation in Nakahara is also really self explanatory and standard. It is written with the physicist in mind who doesn't mind a bit of sloppiness or ambiguity in his notation.

With regards to Frankel, Nakahara is much more modular than Frankel. Each chapter of Nakahara is pretty much self contained whereas Frankel kinda needs to be read straight through. I find it very difficult to just look up a random thing in Frankel and learn about it on the spot, whereas this seems to work in Nakahara just fine. Frankel is a bit more respectful of proper mathematics which also makes it a harder text to read for physicists.

Nakahara is a great text. When I visited Caltech I noticed it on the bookshelf of every theorist that I talked to. Anyone who wants to understand how it is that geometry is so important in modern theoretical physics would do himself a favor in buying this book.

Well, don't all line up at once ...

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 24, 2004 9:23 PM

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