Here’s the first Bureau 42 textbook review, and it’s about a textbook covering introductory particle physics. If you want to see more textbook reviews on more subjects, let us know in the comments below. Between the three of us, we’ve probably got a lot of subjects covered.

General Information

Title: Introduction to Elementary Particles
Author: David Griffiths
Original Publication Date: 1987
ISBN: 9471-60386-4
Cover Price: none, but it’s a specialized textbook, so it’s not exactly cheap
Intended Audience: senior undergraduate physics students, beginning graduate students
Buy from: Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Subject Covered

The basics of elementary particle physics, including all four basic interactions, classifications of particles, Feynman diagrams and the corresponding integrals, and the other standard stuff in the field.

High Point

The high point has to be the tone. Griffiths’ texts are written in a colloquial voice, that makes it read more like a conversation than a typical math text. The explanations are very clear.

Low Point

He used CGS units instead of MKS units. It’s a major pain for those of his who learned electromagnetics from his text on that subject, which uses MKS units and provides no help converting from one to the other.

The Scores

Since this is the first textbook review, I’ll leave in the descriptors we’ve decided to use.

Clarity – was the text comprehensible and clear?

The clarity of the text is excellent. The concepts are rarely confusing (as a result of the language). The notation in formulae had no cases of the same symbol being used for two different things, as far as I can recall. I give it 6 out of 6.

Structure – was the text easy to follow and cross reference?

The structure of the text was excellent. There was a logical flow from one section to another, that didn’t give me the feeling that I needed something that hadn’t been covered yet to do the problems at hand. I give it 6 out of 6.

Examples – were they plentiful, applicable, instructive and useful?

The examples were few, but they were always instructive, and usually integrated into the text. They were used to provide insight into physical processes rather than just demonstrate how to do problems. More examples would have been nice, but the ones that are here are excellent. I give it 4 out of 6.

Exercises – were they useful, and solvable? Were solutions given?

The exercises at the end of each chapter were appropriate to the level of the reader, and were often used to discuss topics that didn’t warrant inclusion in the main text. Selected answers (and, perhaps, selected solutions) would have been useful to ensure that the student really is on the right track, especially since there weren’t that many examples. I give it 4 out of 6.

Completeness – did the text feel lacking in any respect?

The completeness was good, but not spectacular. It’s intended as an introduction to the subject, and not a definitive text, so there was always the feeling that there could be further discussion on the topics. The references lists in each chapter are detailed enough to point the reader where he/she wants to go for more, but still, it’s not actually in this book. I give it 3 out of 6.

Editing – were the examples and exercise solutions accurate? Were there many typos, etc.?

The editing was fairly good. There were very few errors, and those that are in there have been published in errata lists that have been made available to professors. In most cases, the typos don’t lead to confusion. Still, it’s not perfect, so I’ll have to give it 5 out of 6.

Overall – standard: was this book beneficial in learning the subject matter? If teaching this subject, would you assign this textbook?

Overall, this is an excellent text for the target audience.If you know a bit about calculus, linear algebra, and quantum mechanics, you should be able to pick this up and run with it. I’d assign it if I were teaching the subject to undergrads. I give it 5 out of 6, because the CGS units would be a hassle.

In total, Introduction to Elementary Particles received 33 out of 42.