April 15th, 2009

beartato phd

(no subject)

My for-on-the-airplane reading, A. Zee's "Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell", is so good, and is much less intimidating than the title would suggest. I read his more popularized "Fearful Symmetry" quite a while ago and totally didn't get it because I didn't really understand anything about modern physics, but now that I know like epsilon about it, I am being rewarded a hundredfold. Zee is definitely entered into the set of my personal physics-pedagogical heroes along with Baez and Feynman (and in fact it was Zee plugging his own book in his introduction to the reprinting of Feynman's "QED" that got me to check it out from the library in the first place...). As a computer scientist, I still feel dizzy with all the continuous math, but Zee time and time again stands up and says "you know what? we could short-circuit a ton of ad hoc crazy historical garbage and let the reader re-derive the essential point of this part of the theory if only they were given the following hints and clear mental model of what's going on" and I love it so much.

I mean, don't get me wrong, it's still tough material, and he doesn't wave a magic wand over it and make it easy, but it's a breath of fresh air compared to many other physics texts I've looked at from the standpoint of intuitive clarity.