Monday, April 02, 2012

Explosion of high-brow string/SUGRA books

Many prominent theoretical physicists have written books – or textbooks – on string/M-theory that were recently released or that will be released within a month or two (or three). You may click at the titles in the widgets to see more details.

Luis E. Ibáñez and Angel M. Uranga began to sell their book String Theory and Particle Physics: An Introduction to String Phenomenology just two weeks ago. I have already mentioned it. Be sure that the authors are among those who have the credentials to talk about the construction or isolation of realistic models or vacua in string theory, i.e. about string phenomenology.

It's very far from being the only new book about a similar topic.

At the end of May, four editors (Andrea Cappelli et al.) will release their 550-page book The Birth of String Theory on string theory from a historical perspective. You may learn string theory kind of chronologically, with various twists and turns and ignorance that people had to go through since the late 1960s. While the book is meant to be technical, some readers may appreciate the historian's point of view.

Dan Freedman of MIT, a pioneer of supergravity who is still very active, a former co-author of a paper we wrote a decade ago, and a bicyclist who exploited his leg muscles (whose power exceeded mine by 80%) to show me the historical and other places around the Greater Boston on our bike trips, finally wrote a review of Supergravity: that's his title. Antoine Van Proeyen is a co-author. I plan to dedicate a few blog entries in the near future to supergravity. It's a very technical topic and the details are annoyingly boring but they just mask some amazing beauty behind all of this. I haven't seen the book but I have no reason to doubt that Dan is a right guy who could write a book about this pet topic of his life. The book should be out at the end of April; you may pre-order it.

Oops, a guest has pointed out that none of my Amazon searches has been able to find a book by very interesting authors. Basic Concepts of String Theory (Theoretical and Mathematical Physics) written by Ralph Blumenhagen, Dieter Lüst, and Stefan Theisen will be released at the end of June 2012. It seems to be a textbook centered around conformal field theory as a description of perturbative strings, both closed and open (attached to D-branes). Aside from the world sheet perspective, there is also a spacetime discussion of these theories which not only discusses compactifications but doesn't omit fluxes in these compactifications, something that may have been absent in older string theory textbooks. At the end of each chapter, we should be recommended some references. You may pre-order it now if you don't care that it's the only book in the list that hasn't published the cover image yet.

Peter West (not to be confused with Wess or Bagger) already wrote some introductions to supersymmetry and supergravity two decades ago. He is arriving with a new volume, Introduction to Strings and Branes, at the end of June. You may pre-order the book today. As a modern book, this one should contain lots of explanations of dualities and brane dynamics, not only a mandatory account of perturbative string theory. However, it also dedicates a lot of space to string field theory, Kač-Moody algebras, Clifford algebras and spinors, and supergravity; some of these topics are omitted in most stringy textbooks.

At the end of May, Marco Baumgartl, Ilka Brunner (whom I know from Rutgers), and Michael Haack will play the role of editors of a newly released book Strings and Fundamental Physics. When I say that they're editors, it means that they haven't written the bulk of the book themselves. Instead, they picked some leading experts who can present topics pedagogically. So while the book probably won't cover the whole landscape of stringy ideas, it will do nothing else in the case of subdisciplines such as topological string theory, AdS/CFT and holography (including its applications to hydrodynamics, among others), and even a seemingly obscure topic such as "doubled field theory". It is addressed to graduate students.

In January, Koji Hashi-Motl ;-) whom I know from Harvard began to sell D-Brane: Superstrings and New Perspective of Our World. You may see that the title makes D-branes the main players of the story. He begins with the roads that lead from point-like particles to the more general strings and branes. An important second chapter is all about solitons (things like magnetic monopoles and their generalizations) and their general physical properties. He has everything to need the diverse dimensions of solitons and their implications e.g. for the braneworlds. At some point, he inevitably gets to D-branes, an important class of branes, their dynamics, and their application black hole physics, Matrix Theory, and many other issues. It looks pretty cool.

Four months ago, another prominent theorist Luis Alvarez-Gaumé teamed up with Miguel A. Vázquez-Mozo and they authored An Invitation to Quantum Field Theory. There are of course many quantum field theory textbooks on the market and I have praised many of them. But I do like the organization of this new book, too. Maybe more so than the organization of many other books. They start with a chapter explaining why quantum fields are needed at all; what's wrong with ordinary quantum mechanical theories for particles that are just "made a bit more relativistic". In the next chapter, the Casimir effect is covered, too. The rest of the book covers naturally "clumped" topics such as path integrals, representations of the Lorentz group, Lagrangians for scalars, spinors, gauge fields, Feynman rules, the Standard Model, Noether's theorem, the God (BEH) mechanism, renormalization, anomalies (a topic in which the first author is a true heavyweight), origin of mass, discrete symmetries, effective field theory, naturalness, special topics (including particle production and SUSY). Appendices cover notation, conventions, and units; and a crash course on group theory.

In January 2012, a somewhat more elementary and less stringy book by Ulrich Ellwanger, From the Universe to the Elementary Particles: A First Introduction to Cosmology and the Fundamental Interactions (Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics), came to the bookstores. It covers relativity, the evolution of the Universe, classical fields, electrodynamics, strong interactions, weak interactions, neutrino oscillations, colliders, symmetries, the Standard Model, a short treatment of quantum corrections and renormalization, and an equally short review of physics beyond the Standard Model (GUT, SUSY, extra dimensions, strings). There are exercises including solutions in the book.

In December 2011, a 2009 book composed of 7 medium-size introduction was re-released. Surveys in Differential Geometry, Vol. 16 (2011): Geometry of special holonomy and related topics contains material which heavily depends on algebraic geometry, special holonomy manifolds, and many things that you would consider similar to Calabi-Yau manifolds. And yes, Shing-Tung Yau is one of the editors.

Just a link for another book: Lectures on Quantum Gravity by Andres Gomberoff and Donald Marolf – about things such as black hole thermodynamics and Hawking radiation – was first released in 2005 but printed again in December 2011. Similarly, December 2011 produced new copies of the 2009 book Introduction to Conformal Field Theory: With Applications to String Theory (Lecture Notes in Physics) by Ralph Blumenhagen and Erik Plauschinn. It presents conformal field theories, current algebras, minimal models, Gepner models, superconformal field theories, orbifold CFTs, Verlinde formula, spectral flow, boundary CFT, and other things.

With Rodolfo Gambini's and Jorge Pullin's A First Course in Loop Quantum Gravity playing the role of an exception that confirms the rule, all of these books contains some beautiful stuff, and while I have no doubts that negatively misinterpreted and downright wrong statements and sociologically and egotistically motivated hateful conspiracy theories by low-brow populist crackpots and human trash such as Shwolin and Shmoit have been much more attractive for average readers than pretty equations, I am confident that many readers will be made very happy and enriched by the books above.

See also some not-so-new string theory textbooks.

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