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I was hoping for a reference request for a book on basic/introductory condensed matter field theory. In addition to the usual topics I am looking for books with reference to classical physics (classical Lagrangian/Hamiltonian mechanics etc). At the moment I am looking at;

  • Field theories of condensed matter physics by Fradkin.
  • Condensed matter field theory by Altland and Simons.

Does anyone have experience with either of these or similar and would you describe them as accessible or hard to read etc etc (obviously subjective but if there is a general opinion ... )? I have seen the following thread. Many thanks!

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    $\begingroup$ I have only started to read the one by altland and simons and I really like it. I find that it is very easy to read and have used it as a reference for a bunch of topics when getting into research. $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '15 at 21:55
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I think you should get Altland's book.

Fradkin's book is more advanced and covers more modern (and important) topics. It also provides an excellent bibliography. However if you try to follow the derivation and reproduce the result you are likely to be disappointed. I have read in detail the Quantum Hall effect chapter, so far I have found numerous mistakes, on top of some over-simplifications.

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For an introduction, I think you can't go wrong with Altland and Simon's (A&S) book. Fradkin's derivations will seem like they leave a lot to be desired, but it's obvious to me that a more experienced physicist would be able to cope with them. For example, if you take a look at both of their presentations on the path integral for spin (as A&S call it), you'll see a stark difference in the clarity of presentation.

Moreover, A&Ss book contains fairly extensive problems with their solutions as well as exercises without solutions, while Fradkin's book does not. For somebody looking for introductory material on CMT, doing the exercises and problems is paramount to building a good understanding of the material.

I also found that A&Ss book contains more direct connection to experiments, either through experimental data or through problems and examples that relate to realistic systems. The vibe you can get from it is one of modelling systems; it helps you start from the very basics of this modelling process while Fradkin's learning curve is not only steeper, but also more detached from experiment (but do note that it also contains realistic systems of course).

I would say that once you've gone through the basic stuff from A&S (maybe the 3 first chapters?) you'll be able to start your journey through Fradkin's book, although you'll again not be able to go through the tougher sections.

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