PHYM006 Relativity and Cosmology 2017-18
Dr T.J. Harries
Delivery Weeks: T2:01-11
Level: 7 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 32 students (approx)


This module is an introduction to the special and general theories of relativity. Although the course avoids the use of advanced mathematical topics and emphasises the concepts behind the theory, students will require a good level level of mathematical fluency and intuition in order to engage with material.

Module Aims

The module aims to develop an understanding of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. The General Theory will also be introduced and applied to the standard cosmological model and to the three historical tests of the theory: the precession of the perihelion of mercury, the bending of light passing close to the sun and the gravitational red shift.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

  1. Introduction
  2. Key aspects of special relativity
    1. Galilean and Lorentz transformations
    2. Length contraction and time dilation
    3. Doppler effect
    4. Relativistic mechanics
  3. Accelerated reference frames
    1. The person in the lift
    2. Inertial forces
    3. Tidal forces
  4. Curved spaces
    1. Euclidean spaces
    2. Curvature in one and two dimensions
    3. Intrinsic and extrinsic curvature
    4. Riemannian curvature
    5. Introduction to tensors
  5. Application to space-time physics
    1. The equivalence principle
    2. Tidal forces and local inertial frames
    3. Equations for world lines of free particles and photons
    4. Schwarzschild metric
    5. Black holes
  6. Experimental tests of general relativity
    1. Advance of perihelion of mercury
    2. Bending of light
    3. Gravitational red shift
  7. Cosmology
    1. The cosmological principle
    2. Robertson-Walker metric
    3. Red-shift distance relation
    4. The Friedmann equations
    5. Cosmic microwave background
    6. Helium production
  8. Five Credits of Additional Material / Workload
    1. The coverage of the 'Relativity and Cosmology' module is being increased from 10 credits in 2012/13 to 15 credits in 2013/14. As a result the above syllabus will be expanded.

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
20×1-hour lectures 20 hours SLT
2×1-hour problems/revision classes 2 hours SLT
5×6-hour self-study packages 30 hours GIS
4×4-hour problem sets 16 hours GIS
Reading, private study and revision 82 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Guided self-study 5×6-hour packages Fortnightly 1-12 Discussion in class
0% 4 × Problems sets 4 hours per set Fortnightly 1-12 Solutions discussed in problems classes.
100% Final Examination 2 hours 30 minutes May/June 1-12 Mark via MyExeter, collective feedback via ELE and solutions.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules Vector Mechanics (PHY1021), Introduction to Astrophysics (PHY1022) and Mathematics with Physical Applications (PHY2025)
Co-requisite Modules none


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment
Whole module Written examination (100%) 1-12 August/September assessment period

Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 22 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 128 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 0%
Written exams 100%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • N/A this is an optional module
Availability MPhys and PGRS only
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Theory; Spaces; Curvature; Time; Curves; General theory; Shifts; Cosmological; Equation; Inertial frame.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised N/A