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Books about general relativity and black holes for physics students

Are you an undergraduate student majoring in physics, engineering or math? Would you like some suggestions of books to learn about black holes and general relativity (GR) in more details, including the math involved? This blog post gives a couple of suggestions of textbooks to learn GR at different levels.

No math

Gravity’s fatal attraction: Black holes in the universe. Mitchell Begelman & Martin Rees. For the undergrads that come to me interested in doing a undergraduate research project on black holes, I always recommend to read a couple of chapters from this book. Clear, non-technical description of black hole astrophysics, getting into a bit more detail than other expositions on the subject.

Black holes and time warps. Kip Thorne. A classic, must-read book for anybody wanting an in-depth account of the history of black holes and the main discoveries until the mid-nineties. Written by one of the leaders in the field and one of the pioneers of the LIGO observatories (he eventually got a Nobel prize for LIGO). Thorne gives a lot of historical details about the development of the theory of black holes and their observations.

Soft math, for physics, math or engineering students in the first or second year

Exploring black holes: Introduction to general relativity. Edwin Taylor & John Wheeler. Appropriate for first or second year undergraduates in physics, math or engineering. Very basic introduction to the general theory of relativity. Notions of calculus are recommended.

For physics students in the third or fourth years

Gravity: An introduction to Einstein’s general relativity. James Hartle.

This a standard introduction to general relativity for physics undergrads. It explores the effects of black hole spacetimes on particle orbits and light rays and has an emphasis on modern applications of the theory.

Suggested background: vector calculus, classical mechanics (at the level of Thornton & Marion).

Disclaimer: I use this textbook in my GR course.

A first course in general relativity. Bernard Schutz.

Another classic textbook which uses the more classic approach of first introducing and motivating Einstein’s equation, then solving it for a couple of basic spacetimes (Schwarzschild, Friedmann-Robertson-Walker).

Very basic discussion of the applications.

Advanced textbooks

TBD: Carroll, MTW, Wald

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Oportunidade de iniciação científica: computação de alto desempenho

Procuro aluno(a)s interessado(a)s em Iniciação Científica em computação de alto desempenho aplicada à astrofísica. O projeto consiste em acelerar ray tracing ao redor de buracos negros—a la Interestelar—usando GPUs.

Requisitos:

  • Cursar ciência da computação, engenharia elétrica ou matemática aplicada
  • Conforto com a linguagem C
  • Conhecimentos básicos–ou forte interesse–em otimização e paralelização
  • Pontos extras: noções de programação em GPUs (OpenCL ou CUDA)

Aluno(a)s interessado(a)s favor contatar o Prof. Rodrigo Nemmen, anexando o histórico escolar.

Schnittman black hole accretion
Simulação numérica de acreção a um buraco negro. Crédito: J. Schnittman.

cartaz IC computacao

Welcome Fabio: Future master of Sgr A*

Hello everyone!

My name is Fabio Cafardo and I just started my PhD in Astrophysics at IAG-USP under the supervision of Prof. Rodrigo Nemmen. I’m really happy and motivated by this new challenge in my life.

Astronomy has always been one of my passions. But, before getting my Astrophysics degree, I worked 10 years as a Business Administrator. This experience proved to me that it is very important to work with something which you really like. That’s what I am doing now!

The topic of my research project is the high-energy emission of the supermassive black hole in the center of Our Galaxy, called Sagittarius A*. It is a fascinating topic and I really hope to provide new insights into the high energy processes occurring there.

Welcome aboard, Fabio! We are happy you switched gears and are working with us.

Welcome, Ivan

This semester, we are welcoming a new member to the group: Ivan Almeida. Ivan just graduated with stellar grades at Physics USP and will begin his work as a grad student in the group. Below are a few words from him:

Hi all, my name is Ivan Carlos de Almeida, and I’m beginning my masters degree at IAG-USP under the supervision of professor Rodrigo Nemmen. I’m a physicist recently graduated at IF-USP.

While I were an undergrad student I’ve entered the “Black Hole group” as a student of “Iniciação Científica”. This was my first effective contact with astrophysics and it was really interesting!

Since childhood I’m curious about the night sky, stars and all the cosmos. Some years later I have developed interest in General Relativity. So Black Hole physics attracted me greatly.

In the current project I’ll do HD and MHD simulations of accretion around black holes. I’ll investigate the existence of winds and if these winds provide efficient feedback inside the galaxy.

Ivan was quite successful during his undergraduate research project: we are anticipating 2 papers resulting from his work. He got the prestigious FAPESP scholarship that will fund his graduate studies. A very small fraction of students obtain this scholarship.

Welcome aboard, Ivan!

Congratulations to Raniere Menezes for his MsC degree

This is a late post, but I would like to congratulate Raniere Menezes who obtained his MsC on September. Raniere is the first graduate student who got his degree in the Black Hole Group. His master’s dissertation was on analyzing the gamma-ray variability of nearby AGNs observed with Fermi LAT.

Raniere’s work was very successful: we are writing a paper reporting the results of his analysis.  Stay tuned!

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