# Learn Physics: Special & General Relativity Basics

• Noctisdark
In summary, the conversation discusses the mathematical background needed to learn special and general relativity. Special relativity requires a precalculus background and an understanding of coordinate systems, while general relativity requires knowledge of vector and tensor analysis, which is a part of differential geometry along with differential forms.
Noctisdark
Hi PF,
Summer is almost here, and I've decided to use it to learn modern physics, but a little bit confused .
So what is the mathematical back ground needed to learn special and general relativity ? Where exactly should start ?

Special Relativity expects a precalculus background ie algebra, geometry and trigonometry and an understanding of coordinate systems.

General Relativity deals with spacetime curvature and so requires knowledge of vector and tensor analysis.

Noctisdark
Thank you jedishrfu, just a little question, tensor analysis, is it a part of differential geometry ?

## 1. What is the difference between special and general relativity?

Special relativity deals with the laws of physics in inertial (non-accelerating) reference frames, while general relativity includes the effects of gravity and acceleration on space and time.

## 2. Why is the speed of light considered constant in relativity?

According to Einstein's theory of special relativity, the speed of light is constant for all observers, regardless of their relative motion. This is because the laws of physics should be the same for all observers in inertial reference frames.

## 3. How does relativity affect our understanding of time and space?

In special relativity, time and space are relative concepts, meaning they are affected by an observer's relative motion. General relativity goes further by showing that gravity also affects the curvature of space and time. This results in phenomena like time dilation and gravitational lensing.

## 4. Can you provide an example of how relativity is applied in real-world situations?

One example of relativity in action is the Global Positioning System (GPS). The satellites in the GPS system use special relativity to accurately measure time, while general relativity is used to account for the difference in gravitational pull at different altitudes.

## 5. Is it possible to understand relativity without a strong background in math?

While a strong understanding of mathematics is helpful in fully comprehending relativity, it is possible to understand the basic concepts and principles without advanced math skills. Many resources, such as books and videos, provide explanations of relativity in a more accessible way for non-experts.

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