Physics 230A, String Theory

Physics 230A, String Theory, Winter 2012

Instructor: Joe Polchinski, joep [at] kitp [dot] ucsb [dot] edu

Course Web Site:

Class: MW 12:30-1:45 South Hall 1430.  Note that M 1/16 and M 2/20 are holidays.

Office Hours: T 2:00-3:00, F 1:30-2:30, and by appointment, Kohn Hall 2319. Feel free to email me with questions.  Check here for updates to schedule as conflicts may arise.



Textbook: String Theory, Volume 1, Polchinski, and the class notes. Last update (more on supersymmetric D-branes, superstring dualities) 3/14/12

Homework: Every one or two weeks

Grader: Ahmed Almheiri, notahmed [at] gmail [dot] com, office hours MW 3-4.

Final exam: Take-home

The focus of the course is the construction of perturbative string theory as a sum over world-sheets. This is still the most direct way into the subject, but in recent years, the understanding of string theory has greatly broadened, especially as a result of AdS/CFT duality. Gary Horowitz plans to focus on AdS/CFT in 230B, and my ambitious goal for 230A is to teach you everything that you need to know on the string side to get into this.

Syllabus, subject to change.  Chapters refer to the class notes.  Please read the notes before class... that way we can move faster and do more good stuff at the end!


M 1/9:  Ch. 1, Overview.  Ch. 2,  Classical strings in light-cone gauge.

W 1/11:  Finish Ch. 2.  Ch. 3, Quantum strings in light-cone gauge.

W 1/18:  Finish Ch. 3. 

M 1/23:  Finish Ch. 3. Ch. 4, The Polyakov path integral.

W 1/25:  Ch. 5, The Virasoro algebra

M 1/30:  Ch. 6, Old covariant quantization

W 2/1:  Ch. 7, Local operators and their properties, OPE

M 2/6:  Finish Ch. 7.  Ch. 8, Vertex operators

W 2/8:  Ch. 9: Tree level amplitudes

M 2/13:  Ch. 10: Tree level amplitudes II

W 2/15:  Ch. 11:  One loop amplitudes

W 2/22:  Finish Ch. 11.  Start Ch. 12, Strings in curved spacetime

M 2/27:  Finish Ch. 12.  Ch. 13, Toroidal compactification

W 2/29:  Finish Ch. 13.  Start Ch. 14, D-branes 

M 3/5:  Finish Ch. 14, D-brane action.  Start Ch. 15, Superstrings

W 3/7:  Finish Ch. 15.

M 3/12:  Ch. 16, Superstring theories

W 3/14:  Ch. 17, Dualities


Homework #1, Due Wednesday 1/25 in Ahmed's mailbox, Broida 5207.  Solutions #1

Homework #2, Due Wednesday 2/1, 5pm.  Solutions #2

Homework #3, Due Wednesday 2/15, 5pm.  Solutions #3

Homework #4, Due Wednesday 2/22, 5pm.  Solutions #4

Homework #5, Due Wednesday 2/29, 5pm.  Solutions #5

Homework #6, Due Wednesday 3/7, 5pm.  Solutions #6

Homework #7, Due Wednesday 3/14, 5pm.  Solutions #7