APS News

First Online Graduate Physics Textbook Hits the Web

Physics graduate students weary of lugging massive tomes on quantum field theory to and from campus will be relieved to hear that an electronic alternative is now available. Warren Siegel, a high energy physicist at SUNY-Stony Brook's C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics, is offering his own comprehensive textbook on quantum and classical field theory free of charge. Entitled Fields, the textbook can be accessed through Los Alamos National Laboratory's preprint archive (see xxx.lanl.gov/abs/hep-th/9912205).

Employing what he considers to be a more pragmatic approach to the subject than most traditional textbooks, Siegel's tome emphasizes both concepts and calculations. Besides the usual introductory topics, the book includes a chapter on general relativity, introductory chapters on supergravity and strings, and treatments of many practical techniques, such as the 1/N expansion (color ordering) and super spacecone (spinor helicity) gauges.

According to Siegel, an online graduate textbook is simply the next logical step in electronic publication, and believes that electronic textbooks have several advantages. For example, the PDF Web format enables more general and efficient searches than with a standard index, as well as a separate table of contents window with links to various chapters and subsections. In addition, the PDF format enables students to make use of built-in Web links for internal references to outside work, enabling them to remotely access related publications electronically. And rather than lugging heavy books around, students can download the file to a ZIP disk for easy transport to and from campus.

Nor is Siegel overly concerned with possible copyright infringements of his work, pointing to the fact that scientists routinely publish preprints via the LANL archive, which itself can serve as a publication record. And unlike standard preprints, Fields is more of a review of quantum field theory rather than presenting new research. There remains the slight possibility of someone downloading the textbook with an eye towards claiming it as their own and selling it for profit, but Siegel reasons, "Who's going to pay for something they can already get for free?"

For other online physics textbooks available to the public, see physics.about.com/b/a/007513.htm.


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