||Relativity and Cosmology
||Dr T.J. Harries
||15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
||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.
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:
Module Specific Skills and Knowledge:
- give coherent explanations of the principles associated with:
special relativity, general relativity, and cosmology;
- interpret observational data in terms of the Standard
Model of the evolution of the universe;
- describe experiments and observational evidence to test the
general theory of relativity, explain how these support the
general theory and can be used to criticise and rule-out
- apply tensors to the description of curved spaces;
- solve problems by applying the principles of relativity;
- deduce the Friedmann equations describing the evolution of the Universe.
- explain what is meant by: intrinsic and extrinsic curvatures,
the curvature of space, local inertial reference frame, and
- describe world lines of particles and photons in a curved space-time;
- describe the Cosmological Principle and the Robertson-Walker metric;
Discipline Specific Skills and Knowledge:
- explain to non-specialists the basis of one of the corner-stones
of 20th century Physics;
Personal and Key Transferable / Employment Skills and Knowledge:
- locate, retrieve and evaluate relevant information from the WWW.
- meet deadlines for completion of work to be discussed in
class by developing appropriate time-management strategies.
Key aspects of special relativity
- Galilean and Lorentz transformations
- Length contraction and time dilation
- Doppler effect
- Relativistic mechanics
Accelerated reference frames
- The person in the lift
- Inertial forces
- Tidal forces
- Euclidean spaces
- Curvature in one and two dimensions
- Intrinsic and extrinsic curvature
- Riemannian curvature
- Introduction to tensors
Application to space-time physics
- The equivalence principle
- Tidal forces and local inertial frames
- Equations for world lines of free particles and photons
- Schwarzschild metric
- Black holes
Experimental tests of general relativity
- Advance of perihelion of mercury
- Bending of light
- Gravitational red shift
- The cosmological principle
- Robertson-Walker metric
- Red-shift distance relation
- The Friedmann equations
- Cosmic microwave background
- Helium production
Five Credits of Additional Material / Workload
- 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
|2×1-hour problems/revision classes
|5×6-hour self-study packages
|4×4-hour problem sets
|Reading, private study and revision
||Discussion in class
||4 × Problems sets
||4 hours per set
||Solutions discussed in problems classes.
||2 hours 30 minutes
||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).
Prior Knowledge Requirements
||Vector Mechanics (PHY1021), Introduction to Astrophysics (PHY1022) and Mathematics with Physical Applications (PHY2025)
Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.
|Original form of assessment
||Form of re-assessment
||Time scale for re-assessment
||Written examination (100%)
||August/September assessment period
Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.
KIS Data Summary
|Learning activities and teaching methods|
|SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities
|GIS - guided independent study
|PLS - placement/study abroad
|IoP Accreditation Checklist
- N/A this is an optional module
||MPhys and PGRS only
||Physics; Theory; Spaces; Curvature; Time; Curves; General theory; Shifts; Cosmological; Equation; Inertial frame.