Teach for the Stars

The preface of Arnab Rai Choudhuri's Astrophysics for Physicists starts with a lament, albeit with some justification. Although astrophysics is up there with particle physics and condensed matter physics as one of the three big areas, few teaching departments offer a specialization in the subject... the closest one comes is through a course on General Relativity and Cosmology. Which, as anyone (especially afficionados of the Big Bang Theory (in reality or on TV)) will tell you, is not quite the same thing.

One consequence, or cause, depending on which way one looks at it (and depending on which way time flows in your frame of reference) is that there are few books affordable by and available to the Indian student. Most books on astrophysics, even by Indian scientists, tend to be published by presses outside India, and while they (the presses, that is) do make a local edition available, again, its not the same thing.

Rai Choudhuri, who is at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has written Astrophysics for Physicists (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge) to teach "astrophysics to physics students at advanced undergraduate or beginning graduate level. This textbook also provides an overview of astrophysics for astrophysics graduate students, before they delve into more specialized volumes. Assuming background knowledge at the level of a physics major, the textbook develops astrophysics from the basics without requiring any previous study in astronomy or astrophysics. Physical concepts, mathematical derivations and observational data are combined in a balanced way to provide a unified treatment. Topics such as general relativity and plasma physics, which are not usually covered in physics courses but used extensively in astrophysics, are developed from first principles. While the emphasis is on developing the fundamentals thoroughly, recent important discoveries are highlighted at every stage.

In our Physics section, in paperback, 490 pages, Rs 495. ISBN: 9780521176934