Who this book is written for

Many people in think in terms of pictures, and then perhaps translate these pictures into equations in order to obtain concrete results. This book is written for anyone who would like to explore this viewpoint in studying (or teaching) theoretical physics.

The focus of most physics courses is on derivations of results and practice in using calculational tools. In addition, historical development is often the strongest organizing influence in presenting the material. The net result is that the student can gain facility yet lack a top-down vision of structure, instead seeing the material built up as an ad-hoc series of definitions, guesses, and leaps of faith. This is of course how the subject was developed historically, but a complementary bird’s-eye view can bring together the details to form a more cohesive, and possibly more inspiring, picture of exactly what is being said about nature.

For beginning graduate and advanced undergraduate students surveying the field and choosing a specialty, the hope is that this approach will be especially helpful. In particular, with this book in hand, enough jargon may be mapped to concepts to better digest survey papers and other literature in theoretical physics.

In addition, each subject carries it’s own conventions, notation, and domain of validity. An overview, presented in consistent language, can help illuminate the relationships between different subjects and make clear the common structures used across sub-fields. Sections of the book that cover material not yet learned in detail can still be useful to the student as preparation, introducing concepts and clearly demarcating the framework which future study will flesh out.

An Illustrated Handbook