Summary and Info
Chow introduces the mathematical methods essential to understanding and applying general relativity--tensor calculus, some differential geometry, etc.--but leaves to more advanced references derivations that a beginning student would likely find overly long and tedious. The book employs standard tensor analysis--which requires only basic calculus for its understanding--and resists the temptation to adopt more powerful mathematical formalisms (like exterior calculus and differential forms) used by researchers in the field. In this way, the student can concentrate on learning physics--and not be distracted by the complexities of unfamiliar mathematical methods. The book also offers comprehensive discussion of the physics of black holes. The author hits just the right level of presentation: sufficient mathematical detail to demonstrate or make plausible the physical attributes of black holes - in contrast to "hand-waving" discussions found in popularizations of the subject - yet not so much mathematics as to lose track of the physics in an impenetrable forest of equations. An equally strong point is the author's discussion of the most exciting contemporary issues in astrophysics apart from black holes: recent measurements of the cosmic microwave background, the existence of the cosmological constant, dark matter, dark energy and the accelerated expansion of the universe. The final chapters on unification and inflation are also very well done and not generally found in other introductory treatments of general relativity. In sum, the book is highly informative and has a user-friendly style, which should make it an attractive choice for teachers and students.