Polchinski_string theory_tracingcurves blog

Reading Polchinski – My notes on string theory

When I was in the first year of my undergraduate degree, I started self-studying string theory. At that time, I set myself the task of working through Joe Polchinski’s two volume textbook, String Theory. It was honestly one of the best years of my life, despite the general uncertainty about my academic future at the time. I also began a project of sharing my own notes on this blog, as an extension of my enthusiasm.

Between the time as a first year undergraduate student and the commencement of my Masters the next year, I hadn’t much time to finish converting my notes to latex and uploading them to this blog. Things move fast, and quickly I was on to double field theory, developing my interests in M-theory, and other cool stuff with pressures of producing a thesis. Also, in that time, I had to change my web hosting service. As a result of transferring my blog, the latex broke in all of my old posts (including what string notes I had uploaded) which was a bit frustrating.

I have been intending to reupload what notes I had converted to latex and then to also continue my project for sometime. Now that I have settled into my PhD years, I feel able again to take up the task (of course, as and when the time becomes available). As part of my scholarship, I also feel obliged to participate in science communication. Sharing technical and explanatory notes in maths/physics is probably where I am most capable.


I consider my handwritten notes a product of rigorous examination and review, organised around the central motivation to rederive the whole of bosonic and then superstring theory from first principles, or, where appropriate, at least from as close to first principles as possible. They are a thorough companion to Polchinski’s textbook, providing a workthrough of its many pages and subtle details. They also offer a lot of comments from my own perspective, such as when making an interesting observation or offering more background work than presented in Polchinski’s textbook. I have also developed my own preferences, such as emphasising at the outset the notion of string theory as a generalisation point particle theory.

Due to the way I upload latex to my blog nowadays, what I currently plan to do is start from the very beginning and reupload everything that was already posted and then work toward uploading the rest. As the notes were originally written for myself, converting them to latex and organsing them in a presentable way takes quite a bit of time. I like the idea of uploading one batch of notes at a time as individual posts, such as in presenting one lecture note at a time (working page by page through Polchinski). Eventually I will also create a directory on my blog, where the reader may navigate by topic through the complete notes. (I will also file everything under the tag, ‘Notes on String Theory’). They may or may not prove useful for others, but, to be honest, I ultimately doing it because it is something I enjoy.

As for what is to come next: in the first entry we will start with a brief review of the non-relativistic string, before moving to a review of the relativistic free-point particle in a separate note. This will then take us to the first pages of Polchinski and the construction of the Nambu-Goto action.