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Book Review УIntroduction to General RelativityФ by Lewis Ryder.

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Ann. Phys. (Leipzig) 18, No. 10 – 11, 809 (2009) / DOI 10.1002/andp.200910372
Book Review
“Introduction to General Relativity”, by Lewis Ryder, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-521-84563-2, XV+441 pages, GBP 45.00 / USD 75.00 (hardcover)
Milutin Blagojević∗
Institute of Physics, P. O. Box 68, 11080 Belgrade, Serbia
Published online: 19 October 2009
Key words Physical basis of General Relativity, differential geometry, classical tests, black holes,
gravitational radiation, cosmology.
PACS 01.30.Vv
While the electromagnetic, weak and also, to some extent, the strong interactions of elementary particles
can be described by a unified quantum field theory, the related status of the gravitational interaction is much
less clear. Attempts to clarify the position of gravity in this context resulted in a more intensive study of its
dynamical structure in the last five decades; as a consequence, a course on General Relativity is nowadays
the usual option to final year undergraduates. The aim of Lewis Ryder’s book is to provide a pedagogical
introduction to General Relativity for advanced undergraduate or beginning graduate students.
The book contains over 100 figures that illustrate the exposition, a number of exercises in which the
ideas discussed in the text are deepened and extended, and extensive suggestions for further reading at the
end of each chapter.
The first part of the book (Chaps. 1–6) is dedicated to the foundation of general relativity. After a short
but instructive exposition of the crucial ideas of Einstein’s approach to gravity, the equivalence principle
and the principle of general covariance, there is an introduction to differential geometry, including also its
modern, coordinate-free formulation, whereupon one comes to Einstein’s field equations, Schwarzschild
solution and the related observational tests, and then to the Lense-Thirring effect, recently confirmed by
observations. The second part (Chaps. 7–10), apart from some technical details in Chap. 8, covers the core
topics of general relativity: Schwarzschild and Kerr black holes, gravitational radiation and cosmology. In
the last chapter, the author offers an outline of the gauge approach to gravity, which should be taken as a
motivation for further study of the subject.
As one can see, the choice of topics is pretty standard. Today, when we have a number of good textbooks
on General Relativity, it is quite natural for a potential reader to ask whether we really need a new book
on the subject. To answer this dilemma, I wish to stress that the real value of this book is not in the choice
of topics, but in an excellent style of exposition. Lewis Ryder is an experienced writer who cares about
his readers. Typically, each topic in the book is highlighted from different perspectives: the author starts
from an intuitive introduction, then he continues with a careful exposition of the main subject, including
all the necessary calculational details and observational aspects, and ends up with a convincing discussion
of possible physical consequences. An illuminating example for author’s style is the exposition of black
holes: the intuitive aspects are mentioned already in discussing Schwarzschild solution (frozen stars), then
we have the process of formation of black holes (white dwarfs and neutron stars), the explanation of their
physical and geometric aspects, generalization to the rotating black holes, and so on. Moreover, the reader
can find here a number of concepts that appear in the current literature on black holes (Penrose diagrams,
surface gravity, the black hole thermodynamics, trapped surfaces, naked singularities).
Lewis Ryder’s research interests in the last fifteen years have been focused on the subjects involving
both particle physics and gravity. With such a background, he naturally looks at General Relativity from a
somewhat wider perspective, which is particularly visible in his exposition of cosmology, but not only there.
This modern and inspiring textbook is highly recommended not only for a course on General Relativity, but
also to those who wish to learn this exciting subject by a self-study.
∗
E-mail: mb@phy.bg.ac.rs
© 2009 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
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