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A First Course in String Theory Hardcover – 22 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 695 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (22 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780521880329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521880329
  • ASIN: 0521880327
  • Product Dimensions: 18.9 x 3.2 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'A refreshingly different approach to string theory that requires remarkably little previous knowledge of quantum theory or relativity. This highlights fundamental features of the theory that make it so radically different from theories based on point-like particles. This book makes the subject amenable to undergraduates but it will also appeal greatly to beginning researchers who may be overwhelmed by the standard textbooks.' Michael Green, University of Cambridge

'Barton Zwiebach has written a careful and thorough introduction to string theory that is suitable for a full-year course at the advanced undergraduate level. There has been much demand for a book about string theory at this level, and this one should go a long way towards meeting that demand.' John Schwarz, California Institute of Technology

'There is a great curiosity about string theory, not only among physics undergraduates but also among professional scientists outside of the field. This audience needs a text that goes much further than the popular accounts but without the full technical detail of a graduate text. Zwiebach's book meets this need in a clear and accessible manner. It is well-grounded in familiar physical concepts, and proceeds through some of the most timely and exciting aspects of the subject.' Joseph Polchinski, University of California, Santa Barbara

'Zwiebach, a respected researcher in the field and a much beloved teacher at MIT, is truly faithful to his goal of making string theory accessible to advanced undergraduates – the test develops intuition before formalism, usually through simplified and illustrative examples … Zwiebach avoids the temptation of including topics that would weigh the book down and make many students rush it back to the shelf and quit the course.' Physics Today

'… well-written … takes us through the hottest topics in string theory research, requiring only a solid background in mechanics and some basic quantum mechanics. … This is not just one more text in the ever-growing canon of popular books on string theory …' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'… the book provides an excellent basis for an introductory course on string theory and is well-suited for self-study by graduate students or any physicist who wants to learn the basics of string theory.' Zentralblatt MATH

'… excellent introduction by Zwiebach… aimed at advanced undergraduates who have some background in quantum mechanics and special relativity, but have not necessarily mastered quantum field theory and general relativity yet … the book … is a very thorough introduction to the subject … Equipped with this background, the reader can safely start to tackle the books by Green, Schwarz and Witten and by Polchinski.' Marcel L. Vonk, Mathematical Reviews Clippings

Book Description

Zwiebach is once again faithful to his goal of making string theory accessible to undergraduates. This text now includes AdS/CFT correspondence, as well introducing superstrings. With almost 300 problems and exercises it is perfectly suited for introductory courses for students with a background in physics.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. clark on 2 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover
this is a great book for people who aren't hard core theoretical physicists who are already steeped in field theory but want a proper introduction to string theory that doesn't skip over the maths. You should know basic calculus and vector calculus. Some familiarity with basic physics like Maxwell's equations and basic quantum theory would help but mostly it really is easy for an uninitiated non physicist to read. Provided you're comfortable with a bit of maths. :)
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By Jet Lagged TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a textbook in String Theory. It is written by Barton Zwiebach of MIT and published by Cambridge University Press. I have a copy of the first edition, reprinted with amendments in 2005.

This fully comprehensive work is not for the mathematical faint of heart. Master the material in here and you will be doing well.

There were no courses on string theory when I was at college. So I bought this work in case I ever wanted to delve into the matter. A rather optimistic hope - but you never know. Maybe someday...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Graeme Douglas on 20 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Those of you with undergraduate level ability in mathematics and physics (at minimum) will find this book an engaging and educational text. As an educational book, it ticks all the right boxes, with numerous examples and problems that I can well-believe some Professor will set for his students. It is certainly not aimed at a casual reader. Having said that, I found it engaging, thoughtfully-compiled and well-written.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
String Theory is Tough 22 Mar. 2010
By Dr. Richard L. Plumer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book for someone just learning string theory. I'm trying to do all the problems and many of them are quite tough (I have a PhD in physics.) The thought
that these problems are assigned to undergraduates at MIT is somewhat depressing - either I'm getting senile or they are awesomely talented. Maybe a little of both.
I wish I could get a hold of the solutions (which are available to instructors). Many of the problems teach things about theoretical physics IN GENERAL which I wish I had learned
as an undergraduate (or even as a grad student.)
One of the negatives in struggling with this material is the thought that string theory is really just a step toward M-theory, which is the best candidate for a "theory of everything."
One has to master four or five different string theories and then be told that strings are really not relevant to the currently accepted theory. Since I am retired and have plenty of time, I will continue to struggle with it, but it takes plenty of patience.
In the hands of an instructor who can review (or present solutions) to the problems, this is a wonderful book.
Congratulations to Professor Zwiebach for producing a great text.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
High quality instruction - but only for the physics professional 11 Oct. 2013
By Doctor.Generosity - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a long and careful buildup of the mathematical machinery of string theory, patiently developing the tools theorists use to work this subject. The book is carefully laid out and shows the high quality materials which can be achieved when a text is developed out of a real course tested with real students over a period of time. It is an introduction to string theory which leaves no term undefined, no basic undeveloped but brings the student to the threshold of current research in a logical sequence. I find it easy to read and follow Zwiebach's style of writing.

However, this is not a 'popular' book. There are such 'popular' books which attempt to give some elements of string theory or other contemporary physics or cosmology but fail miserably. A classroom text won't have that problem. (To see an example how NOT to communicate string theory to anyone, take a look at "The Little Book of String Theory" by Steven Gubser of Princeton, which substitutes analogies about dancing for real teaching, and is of little value to readers of any background.)

No one should make the mistake the Zwiebach book is for the general reader - it is not. Don't be misled that it is an undergraduate course text; true, but an MIT advanced undergraduate text, for elite MIT physics pre-professionals who are at the level of graduate students elsewhere. Also their preparation is extensive and uniform. The book is perfectly understandable for the physics student on a PhD track and already familiar with electromagnetism, relativity and quantum mechanics. But not otherwise. For example, there is a one page review of the variational principle of least action in mechanics; no one who hasn't studied this before is going to learn it in one page. Besides the target audience of professional-track MIT students, the book may be accessible for self study by physicists and engineers working in other fields who want to understand what all the shouting is about and are willing to put in the time and concentration. The second edition corrects numerous errors and misprints of the first edition which could cause much puzzlement otherwise.

It is a lot of work to develop a polished text like this and many universities unfortunately do not really reward research faculty for doing so. MIT is different and Prof. Zwiebach has received well deserved honors for producing the course and the book. As string theory is one of the frontier intellectual explorations of humankind in our generation, it is a worthy subject to learn and to teach.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Pleasant aprroach 14 May 2012
By Fidel Orozco - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an engineer and faithful follower of theoretical physics, I was trying to understand Superstring Theory. After "The universe elegant" (Greene) and "The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design" (Suskind), and even "The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next" (Smolin), I have been fortunate to encounter this book. Barton Zwiebach offered a pedagogic and intelligent exposition. Everything is explained with so good figures, Lagrangian and Action Principle as main rules for deductions, evolution scheme from just a point to D-branes, explanation of every assertion and formulae, updating with current state of the art, orientations for further readings, all of them are just some of the virtues of this book. Its lectures allow me to get more lectures about the subject. Thanks to Mr Zwiebach for allowing me the opportunity to enjoy this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
From a Theoretical Physics Teachers Perspective 25 Oct. 2012
By Ronald E. Byers - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most well written and easy to follow textbooks I have read. Care is taken for stepwise development as the reader moves along. Stepwise developement permits reuse of ideas deveoped earlier, a kind of review, with incremental increase in complexity.
I started in the second half to find out about intersting topics in the literature and was able to use references to earlier developement in the book to clearify issues I had. I then found a comfortable starting point halfway through the first section to prepare a better foundation.
The reward of being able to determine how each theorem arises from earlier equations (concepts) makes the book hard to lay down (like a good novel.)
I'm sorry I can't comment about the problems because I was too buisy with the text to take the time to try any of them.
I obviously recommend the text.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great Book! 5 Mar. 2012
By Jon S. Wesick - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked up this book to find out where string theory came from and it satisfied my curiosity. It's very clearly written and a lot of fun. Even if string theory turns out to be wrong, applying physics to higher dimensions is still a great review of the 4-D variety.

The author says this is a textbook for undergraduates but I don't think I would have had enough quantum mechanics to understand it until after my first year of graduate school. In addition I'd suggest readers have a background in special relativity, the Lagrangian formalism, E&M, and at least an intro to quantum field theory.
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