PHGN 418 General Relativity Spring 2017
- Lecture: T,TR 5-6:15pm in Berthoud 106
- Text: "Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity" by Sean Carroll
- Alex's Office Hours: Monday 5-7pm in CTLM 212, Tuesday 4-5pm in BE 106 and Wednesday 2-4pm in CTLM 148.
- Peter's Office Hours: Monday 4-5pm in CTLM 212.
- Grading: Your grade will be based on lecture participation (10%), homework (40%), an oral midterm exam (20%) and a final exam (30%).
Lecture participation will be assessed by your response to questions posed during lecture. I will draw names randomly to answer questions and if you are not present or fail to respond as if paying attention, you will lose 1% of the 10% for lecture participation.
Homework will be assigned weekly. Instead of turning in your assignments I will administer short homework quizzes.
The quiz will consist of two questions from which you will choose one to answer. Each question will be very similar to a part of one of the homework problems, but not identical.
You will be allowed to use your homework solutions to help you on the quiz, but not your book. If you are a good then perhaps you will be able to work the quiz problems on the fly, but with the time constraint this will be next-to-impossible for most, so you should try your best to complete the assignments on your own. The reasons for this are two-fold. First it cuts out the motivation for simply copying someone else's homework, and secondly it will make the grading more expedient.
This course will develop and apply Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. One of the most interesting aspects of this subject is that it brings the student to our modern understanding of the earliest recognized of the fundamental forces of nature, i.e. gravitation. The student sees this first as a source of constant acceleration near the surface of the Earth (projectile motion), and then matures their understanding, with Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation, to a notion of gravitation as a central force acting between any two bodies with nozero mass. While the Newtonian view works in many applications, it fails when contemplating systems that are ginormously massive. The (more) correct theory, General Relativity, is not a simple "extension" of Newtonian gravity, but rather a complete revision of our understanding of gravity. In some cases, e.g planetary orbits, the predictions of General Relativity provide small corrections to the "for the most part correct" results of the Newtonian theory. However in other circumstances, e.g. black holes and cosmology, General Relativity gives us results that quite honestly would have sent Newton running scared and have left many other physicists scratching their heads in disbelief!
This subject is often tauted as too mathematically sophisticated for undergraduates, which I find to be a shame since the concepts underlying the theory can be expressed concisely and clearly given a reasonable effort on the part of the instructor. While the subject does involve mathematics that extend beyond what has already been encountered in most other physics courses, the truth of the matter is that it really boils down to taking what you already know and being as general as possible with it. When you leave this course, you will know far better what a "vector" is than many professional physicists. There is a wealth of material that we can study and the extent of what we do will rely in part on your diligence to the course.
- We will aim to cover as a minimum chapters 1,2,3,4,5 and 8 of Carroll. Chapters 1-4 constitute the formal development of the theory while chapters 5 and 8 discuss two of its most important applications, i.e. black holes and cosmology respectively. You will find that the flavor of he course changes quite a bit once we have completed the formal development and moved into applications.
- Additional topics can be discussed if time permits.
Lecture Topics/Reading Assignments: