Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Walter Greiner's Theoretical Physics

Walter Greiner's "Theoretical Physics: Text & Exercise Books" is slowly becoming a classic series in the vein of Sommerfeld's "Lectures" or Landau & Lifshitz's "Course." His books cover a lot of modern topics with a heavy emphasis on Quantum Mechanics (QM) & Quantum Field Theory (QFT). Two outstanding features of his books are the many worked out exercises and historical/biographical notes. The original version (in German) of this series is already legendary in Europe. So far, 13 of the 15 books in the original series have been prepared for English speaking audiences. Note, however, that the English translations lag behind the German editions by several years! Reviews of the translation itself have generally been negative, whereas the pedagogical style has received high marks. His books do not have a bibliography, however, some references are given in situ. The original series had 11 core books and 4 "A"-label advanced topics/special chapter books. Around 1990, the first English set of "Theoretical Physics" was published. Only 5 volumes covering QM & QFT were published at that point. Since then, Springer has added 4 more volumes to English series. In the late 90's, the classical physics books were given their own series ("Classical Theoretical Physics"), but they lacked the "Contents of Examples & Exercises" that were common to the "Theoretical Physics" series. All of the English series books have essentially the same forward by D. Allan Bromley written in 1989.

Theoretische Physik (Theoretical Physics - the original series)
  1. Band 1, Klassische Mechanik I, Kinematik und Dynamik der Punktteilchen - Relativität
    Volume 1, Classical Mechanics I, Kinematics & Dynamics of Point Particles and Relativity
    8th Ed. (2007),
  2. Band 2, Klassische Mechanik II, Teilchensysteme - Lagrange-Hamiltonsche Dynamik
    Volume 2, C.M. II, Systems of Particles and Lagrangian & Hamiltonian Dynamics
    8th Ed. (2008),
  3. Band 2A, Hydrodynamik
    Volume 2A, Hydrodynamics (Fluid Mechanics)
    w/ Horst Stock, 4th Ed. (1991),
  4. Band 3, Klassische Elektrodynamik
    Volume 3, Classical Electrodynamics
    7th Ed. (2008),
  5. Band 3A, Spezielle Relativitätstheorie
    Volume 3A, Special Theory of Relativity
    w/ Johann Rafelski, 3rd Ed. (1992),
  6. Band 4, Quantenmechanik, Einführung
    Volume 4, Quantum Mechanics, Introduction
    6th Ed. (2005),
  7. Band 4A, Quantentheorie: Spezielle Kapitel
    Volume 4A, Quantum Theory, Special Chapters
    4th Ed. (1993),
  8. Band 5, Quantenmechanik: Symmetrien
    Volume 5, Quantum Mechanics, Symmetries
    w/ Berndt Müller, 4th Ed. (2005),
  9. Band 6, Relativistische Quantenmechanik, Wellengleichungen
    Volume 6, Relativistic Quantum Mechanics, Wave Equations
    2nd Ed. (1999),
  10. Band 7, Quantenelektrodynamik
    Volume 7, Quantum Electrodynamics
    w/ Joachim Reinhardt, 2nd Ed. (1995),
  11. Band 7A, Feldquantisierung
    Volume 7A, Field Quantization
    w/ Joachim Reinhardt, 1st Ed. (1993),
  12. Band 8, Eichtheorie der schwachen Wechselwirkung
    Volume 8, Gauge Theory of Weak Interactions
    w/ Berndt Müller, 2nd Ed. (1994),
  13. Band 9, Thermodynamik und Statistische Mechanik
    Volume 9, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
    w/ Ludwig Neise & Horst Stöcker, 2nd Ed. (1993),
  14. Band 10, Quantenchromodynamik
    Volume 10, Quantum Chromodynamics
    w/ Andreas Schäfer, ? Ed. (2003),
  15. Band 11, Kernmodelle
    Volume 11, Nuclear Models
    w/ Joachim Maruhn, 1st Ed. (1995),
Classical Theoretical Physics - English Series
  1. Classical Mechanics, Point Particles and Relativity (amazon)
    1st English Ed. (2004), trans. from (?) 5th Ed. (1989)
  2. Classical Mechanics, Systems of Particles and Hamiltonian Dynamics
    1st English Ed. (2003), trans. from 5th Ed. (1989)
  3. Classical Electrodynamics
    1st English Ed. (1998), trans. from 5th Ed. (1991)
  4. Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
    w/ Ludwig Neise & Horst Stöcker, 1st English Ed. (1995), trans. from 1st Ed. (1987)
Theoretical Physics - English Series
(note this warning on the cheap reprints from amazon)
  1. Quantum Mechanics, An Introduction
    4th English Ed. (2001), trans. from (?) 4th Ed. (1989)
    (cheap reprint (2008)? on amazon)
    originally: Theoretical Physics 1, QM, Int, 1st English Ed. (1989)
  2. Quantum Mechanics, Special Chapters
    1st English Ed. (1998), trans. from (?) 3rd Ed. (1989)
  3. Quantum Mechanics, Symmetries
    w/ Berndt Müller, 2nd English Ed. (2004), trans. from (?) 2nd Ed. (1990)
    (cheap reprint (2008)? on amazon)
    originally: Theoretical Physics 2, QM, Sym, 1st English Ed. (1989)
  4. Relativistic Quantum Mechanics, Wave Equations
    3rd English Ed. (2000), trans. from 2nd Ed. (1987)
    originally: Theoretical Physics 3, QM, Relativistic Wave Equations, 1st English Ed. (1990)
    chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, & 13 are nearly identical to chapters 2, 4, & 5 in:
    Quantum Electrodynamics of Strong Fields

    w/ Berndt Müller & Johann Rafelski, 2nd Ed. (1985)
  5. Field Quantization
    w/ Joachim Reinhardt, 1st English Ed. (1996), trans. from 1st Ed. (1993)
    (cheap reprint (2008)? on amazon)
  6. Quantum Electrodynamics
    w/ Joachim Reinhardt, 4th English Ed. (2009), trans. from 2nd Ed. (1995)
    originally: Theoretical Physics 4, QED, 1st English Ed. (1992)
  7. Quantum Chromodynamics
    w/ Stefan Schramm & Eckart Stein, 3rd English Ed. (2007), trans. from ? Ed. (1989)
  8. Nuclear Models
    w/ Joachim A. Maruhn, 1st English Ed. (1996), trans. from 1st Ed. (1995)
    appears to be an update to the three volume Nuclear Theory w/ Judah M. Eisenberg:
    Volume 1, Nuclear Models
    Volume 2, Excitation Mechanisms of the Nucleus
    Volume 3, Microscopic Theory of the Nucleus
  9. Gauge Theory of Weak Interactions
    w/ Berndt Müller, 3rd English Ed. (2000), trans. from 1st Ed. (1986)
    (4th English Ed. (2009) on amazon)
    originally: Theoretical Physics 5, GToWI, 1st English Ed. (1993)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Addison Wesley/Benjamin Cummings Books Since 2000

Addison Wesley & Benjamin Cummings (imprints of Pearson) have been updating classic texts over the last 8 years or so. In addition they've done a commendable job filling in the gap for undergraduate/graduate texts in astrophysics & cosmology. Their recent books can be identified by the attractive & consistent cover scheme they've been applying. Here's a fairly complete list in reverse chronological order:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Google Book Search

I've been trying to decide the best way to reference books on this blog. I've decided to go with Google. Amazon is fantastic, but Google Books has a couple of features that I love (1) a direct link to worldcat for library info and (2) a way to personalize comments for each book in a library. Over the next few days, all of the links in this blog will be switched over. In addition, all the books in my collection (plus many more) will be listed.

Finally, I am working on a very long and thorough post regarding books for General Relativity.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

String Theory Books

String theory is a difficult subject that is still evolving. As a field of study becomes more familiar and better understood, the books that are published about it start becoming addressed to a wider audience (professional → student → layperson). There are plenty of popular books on the subject, but IMHO the more relevant indication of a field's conceptual progress is the availability of undergraduate level texts (practitioner → graduate student → undergraduate student). String theory is starting to approach the advanced undergraduate level, as evidenced by these books in reverse chronological order:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I'm "All the News That's Fit to Print" and an insufferable showboat

Well, as I mentioned before, I won this. The whole story is here. I thought it was all over after Fine Books & Collections Magazine announced the winner of the 2008 contest. Then in mid-November, I was contacted by a NYT reporter. They were looking for students with "unusual" collections for their Education Life section. Physics textbooks appears to have fit the bill. The end result of the phone interview and photo shoot by a local photographer are two slides in their Trendsetting: Collectors' Items slide show.

In retrospect, I wish I would have made my Landau & Lifshitz's Course, Feynman's Lectures, or Sommerfeld's Lectures standout more in the photographs. On the other hand, you can see one of my dad's book on the right stack of books. Unfortunately, I didn't have his other book for the photo shoot. The other books in the photo are (left stack):
  1. Magnetic Induction in Iron and Other Metals by J.A. Ewing
  2. Quarks & Leptons by Francis Halzen & Alan D. Martin
  3. An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory by M.E. Peskin & D.V. Schroeder
  4. Relativistic Quantum Mechanics by J.D. Bjorken & S.D. Drell
  5. Relativistic Quantum Fields by J.D. Bjorken & S.D. Drell
  6. Relativistische Elektronen - Theorie II by E.M. Rose
  7. Relativistische Elektronen - Theorie I by E.M. Rose
  8. Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Raymond A. Serway
  9. Physics,Vol 1 by James S. Walker
  10. Physics by Douglas C. Giancoli
  11. Physics by Eugene Hecht
  12. Introduction to Nuclear Physics by Harold A. Enge
  13. Nuclear Shell Theory by A. de-Shalit and I. Taimi
The book that I'm "reading" is The Radio Engineering Handbook edited by K. Henney and the other books are (right stack):
  1. Atom-Photon Interactions by C. Cohen-Tannoudji, J. Dupont-Roc, & G. Grynberg
  2. Photons and Atoms by by C. Cohen-Tannoudji, J. Dupont-Roc, & G. Grynberg
  3. Quantum Electronics by Amnon Yariv
  4. Statistical Optics by Joseph W. Goodman
  5. Thermal Field Theory by Michel Le Bellac
  6. Elementary Particles by Enrico Fermi
  7. Statistical Mechanics by Richard E. Wilde & Surjit Singh
  8. Statistical Mechanics by Raj K. Pathria
  9. An Introduction to Quarks and Partons by Frank E. Close
  10. High Energy Particles by Bruno Rossi
  11. Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell by A. Zee
  12. Selected Papers on Quantum Electrodynamics by J. Schwinger
  13. Modern Elementary Particle Physics by Gordon L. Kane
  14. The Quantum Theory of Radiation by W. Heitler
An amusing side note: during the photo shoot, they wanted me to pose with one of my older "antique" looking books. Having "antique" books is not the point of the collection, but luckily I had a few that looked old.

Studying for the Physics GRE

Recently I was asked for recommendations on books for studying for the GRE Physics Test. First of all, one needs a broad-based calculus based physics (for scientists & engineers) textbook. There are many out there, but I'd recommend one of the following:
These are all more or less equivalent to Halliday & Resnick (the classic of the genre). What's especially nice is that there are many used/older editions of these books that come very cheap online. Each of them have versions which come with chapters on "modern physics" that cover basic atomic, solid state, nuclear, & particle physics. As a subject by subject supplement to the above, I would recommend:
  1. Classical Mechanics
    Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems by Jerry B. Marion (now w/ S.T. Thornton)
  2. Electricity & Magnetism
    Introduction to Electrodynamics by David J. Griffiths
    Electricity and Magnetism
    by Edward M. Purcell
  3. Optics & Waves
    Waves by Frank S. Crawford
    Vibrations and Waves by Anthony P. French
  4. Thermodynamics/Statistical Mechanics
    Thermal Physics by Charles Kittel
  5. Quantum Mechanics
    Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by David J. Griffiths
  6. Atomic Physics
    Concepts of Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
    Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles by R.M. Eisberg & R. Resnick
    Elementary Atomic Structure by Gordon K. Woodgate
  7. Special Relativity
    Special Relativity by Anthony P. French
    Spacetime Physics by Edwin F. Taylor & John A. Wheeler
  8. Lab Methods
    An Introduction to Error Analysis by John R. Taylor
    Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences by P.R. Bevington & D.K. Robinson
    Techniques for Nuclear and Particle Physics Experiments by William R. Leo
  9. Specialized Topics (Nuclear, Particle, Condensed Matter)
    Concepts of Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
    Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles by R.M. Eisberg & R. Resnick
    Introduction to Elementary Particles by David J. Griffiths
    Introduction to High Energy Physics by Donald H. Perkins

Some of these books are more advanced than necessary for the Physics GRE, but they do a good job of presenting the relevant material. I would in particular point out Griffiths' books. Examples and problems from his books have an uncanny ability to show up as questions on the GRE.

I would not recommend Tribble's Princeton Guide to Advanced Physics or GRE Physics by REA. They both present a list of equations and formulas with little context. This might be useful if the both books weren't full of mistakes. The REA book also contains 4 practice tests which are unrepresentative of the real test and therefore useless.

Finally there are books published by the ETS that contain actual past exams. The most recent one is available online here. The rest are available at the bottom of the Ohio State SPS GRE webpage. This website claims to have worked solutions for every question on all four exams.

UPDATE (Jan. 09, 2009)

An American Physics Student in England gives some very useful advice here.
  • summary: study the positronium "atom"
    section 5.14 & 4.2.1 in Perkins, 3rd & 4th ed., respectively
    section 5.6 in Griffiths, 1st ed. (probably in the same place for 2nd ed.)
The very revealing story of a W&M student who scored a 990 on the Physics GRE is here.
  • summary: spend some time thinking about/practicing "strategy and test-taking techniques"