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General Relativity

Spring 2018

"... until at last it came to me that time was suspect!" - A. Einstein (Shankland interview 1950)

"... the concept of time is nothing more than a convenient, although potentially treacherous, device for summarizing compactly all the relationships holding between clocks." - N. D. Mermin It's About Time

"Grossmann is getting his doctorate on a topic that is connected with fiddling around and non-Euclidean geometry. I don't know exactly what it is."
- A. Einstein to Mileva Maric, 1902

"We should take comfort in two conjoined features of nature: first, that our world is incredibly strange and therefore supremely fascinating. . . second, that however bizarre and arcane our world might be, nature remains comprehensible to the human mind." - Stephen Jay Gould

Instructor: Seth Major, smajor, x4919, Sci G064

Office Hours:
Wednesday 2 - 5:00 PM.

Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday 10:30-11:45 in Sci Ctr G047
Text: Bernard Schutz, A First Course in General Relativity, 2nd edition


Cygus-A in X-ray



Thank you for great seemster!

Course Info and Documents (pdf):

Course Syllabus

Problem Sets (pdf):



  • A listing (pdf) of possible presentation topics.
  • SR: A translation of "Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies", Einstein's original 1905 paper on special relativity. Here's a pdf (1.9 MB) of the original article in German pubished in Annalen der Physik.
  • SR: Beautiful animations of the apparent geometry of relativistic moving objects. The dice and the ride down Marktgasse in Tuebingen are particularly good. Note, however, that redshift is not accounted for.
  • GR: An applet displaying parallel transport on a sphere. This uses Java.
  • GR: A link to the paper (pdf) by Baez and Bunn on the meaning of the Einstein equations. (For an older published version see Amer. Jour. Phys. 73 (2005) 644-652.
  • GR: About the stunning visualizations of black holes in Interstellar.
  • GR: Wee, light comes! Lillie found this link to some visualizations, including of the warp drive light cone structure.
  • GR: Here's the html version of the "einstein.nb" Mathematica notebook.
  • GR: A link to Hartle's Mathematica notebook files.
  • GR: The GW discovery paper on GW 150914 from LIGO and a simulation of the event.
  • GR: A piece by Cliff Will on the Gravity Probe B experiment.
  • GR: A simulation of the effects an observer with angular momentum falling into a black hole would see. Thanks to Alexei for sending this!
  • Additional Reading:

    • Jim Hartle, Gravity: An Introduction to Einsetin's General Relativity
    • Dan Styer, Relativity for the Questioning Mind
    • Kip Thorne, The Science of Interstellar
    • Kip Thorne, Black Holes, Warp Drives, and Einstein's Outrageous Leagacy
    • Dennis Overbye, Einstein in Love (A wonderful ``1st half" biography of Einstein. It ends in 1915.)
    • Abraham Pais, Subtile is the Lord (A full biography of Einstein with a careful treatment of the science.)
    • Paul Krugman's The Theory of Intersellar Trade written many years ago.

    Last modified 18 May 2018
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