Syllabus

Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Prerequisites

8.033 (Relativity), 8.044 (Statistical Physics I), and 8.05 (Quantum Physics II).

Textbook

Zwiebach, Barton. A First Course in String Theory. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780521831437.

Additional Reference

A new readable book at the graduate level is:

Becker, Katrin, Melanie Becker, and John H. Schwarz. String Theory and M-Theory: A Modern Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780521860697.

Homework

There will be weekly homework. No late homework will be accepted. Students will be able to drop one homework - the one with the lowest grade - from their record.

Tests

There will be two tests and a final exam.

Grading

ACTIVITIES PERCENTAGES
Homework 35%
Test 1 20%
Test 2 20%
Final exam 25%

Calendar

SES # TOPICS KEY DATES
1

Announcements, introduction

Lorentz transformations

Light-cone coordinates

 
2

Energy and momentum

Compact dimensions, orbifolds

Quantum mechanics and the square well

 
3

Relativistic electrodynamics

Gauss’ law

Gravitation and Planck’s length

Homework 1 due
4 Gravitational potentials, compactification, and large extra dimensions  
5 Nonrelativistic strings and lagrangian mechanics Homework 2 due
6 The relativistic point particle: Action, reparametrizations, and equations of motion  
7 Area formula for spatial surfaces Homework 3 due
8 Area formula for spatial surfaces (cont.)  
9 Change of variables Homework 4 due
10 Relativistic strings: Nambu-Goto action, equations of motion and boundary conditions Homework 5 due
11

Static gauge, transverse velocity, and string action

Motion of free open string endpoints

 
12

The sigma-parametrization

Equations of motion and virasoro constraints

General motion for open strings

Rotating open strings

Homework 6 due
  Test 1  
13

Periodicity conditions for the motion of closed strings

The formation of cusps

Conserved currents in E&M

Conserved charges in lagrangian mechanics

 
14

Momentum charges for the string

Lorentz charges for the strings

Angular momentum of the rotating string

Discuss alpha’ and the string length l_s

General gauges: fixing tau and natural units

Homework 7 due
15 Solution of the open string motion in the light-cone gauge  
16 Light-cone fields and particles  
17 Light-cone fields and particles (cont.) Homework 8 due
18 Open strings Homework 9 due
19

Critical dimension

Constructing the state space

Tachyons

 
20 Closed strings Homework 10 due
21

Wrap-up of closed strings

Superstrings

 
  Test 2  
22 Superstrings (cont.)  
23

Closed strings

Heterotic string theory

 
24

Dp-branes

Parallel Dp’s

Homework 11 due
25 Dp-branes (cont.)  
26 Final exam review  
  Final exam week  

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Problem Sets
grading Exams with Solutions
notes Lecture Notes