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Barton Zwiebach

A first course in string theory

This book is based on courses the author gave to undergraduates. I have a feeling that most students at this level would struggle with the material - but then its a difficult subject, and this is probably their best option. The book is in two parts. The first develops the theory, leading up to closed and open relativistic quantum strings. The second gives some applications of this theory, including a chapter on string thermodynamics and black holes.

For the students wishing to work their way through the book, be warned - it's not the sort of work where you can skip some of the maths and still get an idea of what's going on (as you can with say Penrose's The Road to Reality). Rather it's necessary to work through the mathematics and complete each chapter before going on to the next (at least in the first part of the book). But it does start from a level which an undergraduate physicist should find understandable - the lagrangian of a piece of string - rather than jumping straight in with Quantum Field Theory. Relativity and quantum theory are then introduced when needed. Students who do work through this book will not just learn about a single candidate for a 'Theory of Everything', they will also get an understanding of much of the mathematics needed for the rest of modern physics  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews