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What class is general relativity taught in?

  1. Dec 30, 2012 #1
    I'm in the United States, taking undergraduate courses, and I believe I had what was an introduction to special relativity in Modern Physics class (Lorenz transformations, time dilation, the relativistic doppler effect, time dilation, length contraction, etc.). I just wonder what class general relativity is taught in.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2012 #2
    depending on the schools, you may find an introduction to general relativity covered in an undergraduate differential geometry class from the math department. you can also check to see if your school offers a graduate general relativity course.
  4. Dec 30, 2012 #3
    For the most part, its not taught. Most people even with PhDs in physics have never taken a course in general relativity or differential geometry. Its not relevant to most research out there so its usually only taken up by the small class of physicists whos research does use it.
  5. Dec 30, 2012 #4
    Thanks so much demonelite123 and ModusPwnd :) Checking the math dept. now to see if there is a differential geometry class.

    Modus...what research is it relevant to? You can give me a broad answer and I will look into it.
  6. Dec 30, 2012 #5


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    He definitely doesn't mean the scientific reasearch done by mathematical/theoretical physicists in the areas of (quantum) gravity and string theory.

    Still for a graduate of physics, a course on and let's say decent knowledge of GR is a must, even if working at CERN attempting to find traces of SUSY.
  7. Dec 30, 2012 #6


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    For me, GR falls into the category of: "Things I more than likely won't need directly for research but was glad I learned about when I could"!

    It's the study of a full fundamental force of nature, gravity! I think a PhD Physicist should be embarrassed if (s)he could not explain it lucidly to an undergraduate!
  8. Dec 30, 2012 #7


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    I'm not sure what ModusPwnd means. I have many friends doing physics at various institutions in the states and they all say their course catalogs list an undergraduate GR class, my uni included. I don't think it is all that uncommon anymore.
  9. Dec 30, 2012 #8


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    I think the textbook by Hartle was influential in bringing GR into the undegraduate curriculum.
  10. Dec 30, 2012 #9


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    Yeah it would seem so because most of the textbook listings for said undergraduate GR classes seem to be either Schutz or Hartle.
  11. Dec 30, 2012 #10
    It's not that uncommon, but it's still an elective at all institutions I've seen and many people get a PhD without ever seeing GR.
  12. Dec 30, 2012 #11

    I like Serena

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    When I was studying physics, GR was only an upper level physics course that was optional.
    It wasn't part of any real program.
    I guess that was because it has a very limited application in real life.
    I followed it myself because I was very much interested in it.
    Differential geometry was an optional upper level math course.
    I did not see any physicists there and it was only a handful of people attending the classes.
  13. Dec 30, 2012 #12


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    When I first attended university, GR was either upper level (4th year) or a graduate level course, and it was an elective. These days it seems to be a graduate level course because of the prerequisites.

    Here is one example:

    Rice University, PHYS 561 General Relativity

    Prerequisites: Special Relativity, Classical Mechanics, Classical Electrodynamics, Tensor Calculus
    or instructor consent
    Text: Hans Stephani: Relativity: An Introduction to Special and General Relativity
    (Cambridge Paperback, 2004)

    Other Useful References:
    Stephani (S): General Relativity (Cambridge 1990)
    Lightman, Press, Price & Teukolsky (LPPT): Problem Book in Relativity &
    Gravitation (Princeton 1975)
    Hartle (H): Gravity (Addison-Wesley 2003)
    Hobson, Efstathiou and Lasenby (HEL): General Relativity (Cambridge 2006)
    Landau & Lifgarbagez (LL): Classical Theory of Fields (Pergamon 1989)
    Weinberg (W): Gravitation & Cosmology (Wiley 1972)
    Schutz (Sh): First Course in General Relativity (Cambridge 1985)
    Misner, Thorne & Wheeler (MTW): Gravitation (Freeman 1973)
    Rindler (R): Essential Relativity (Springer 1969)
    Adler, Bazin & Schiffer (ABS): General Relativity (McGraw Hill 1965)

    Course outline - http://physics.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=170

    An introductory to GR course may be taught in undergraduate programs at some universities.
  14. Dec 30, 2012 #13


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    Except for every time you use a GPS.
  15. Dec 30, 2012 #14


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    Yes, quite unfortunately this is true.
  16. Dec 31, 2012 #15
    My school teaches it at the undergraduate level but it's an upper-division class.
  17. Dec 31, 2012 #16
    GR is a mandatory 4th year course at my university (not in the US).
  18. Dec 31, 2012 #17
    While this debate about the merits of teaching GR to undergraduates is interesting, I don't think it's especially on point for the OP's question.

    HeLiXe: as GR is a very involved subject, it is unlikely to be taught within another course—with the possible exception of a very extensive differential geometry class, as someone else mentioned. Unless you are mathematician, attempting such a rigorous course as your first look at GR is probably too ambitious. If your university offers it to undergraduates, it will likely be an upper level class (possibly cross listed from the list of first year graduate courses) simply called "General Relativity" (or some variant). Such undergraduate courses are usually pretty self-contained mathematically, and so the instructor would spend roughly the first half of the course developing the necessary differential geometry before introducing the physics.
  19. Dec 31, 2012 #18
    None of these courses have general relativity or special relativity, right? That's a shame. :( I'll be forever stuck in classical physics and I won't ever touch quantum physics. =\

    Introduction to Engineering
    General Chemistry
    Calculus I
    Linear Algebra
    Physics: Mechanics
    Digital Computation and Programming
    Principles of Engineering Economics
    Electric Circuit Analysis
    Calculus II
    Physics: Waves and Fields
    Software Systems
    Digital Systems
    Electric Networks
    Differential Equations and Vector Calculus
    Solid State Physics
    Communication in the Engineering Professions
    Engineering Algorithms and Data Structures
    Field Theory
    Electronic Circuits I
    Discrete Mathematics for Engineers
    Operating Systems
    Microprocessor Systems
    Electronic Circuits II
    Signals and Systems I
    Probability and Stochastic Processes
    Computer Organization and Architecture
    Object Oriented Eng Analysis and Design
    Communication Systems
    Control Systems
    Basic Thermodynamics and Fluids
    Engineering Design
    Digital Systems Engineering
    Computer Networks
    Hardware/Software Codesign of Embed Sys
    CMOS Analog Integrated Circuits
    Low Power Digital Integrated Circuits
    Digital Communication Systems
    Biomedical Signal Analysis
    Digital Control System Design
    System Identification
    Law and Ethics in Engineering Practice
    Design Project
    Programming Language
    Advanced Computer Architecture
    Digital System Design Automation
    Advanced Computer Networks
    Software Engineering
    Electronic Sensors and Measurement
    Signals and Systems II
    Real-Time Computer Control Systems
    VLSI Circuit Testing
    Cellular Mobile Communications
    VLSI Systems
    Intro to Digital Image Processing
    Optical Communication Systems
    Intelligent Systems
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  20. Dec 31, 2012 #19
    not from the looks of it >_>
    usually after physics with calculus I and II you can take Modern Physics or some other variant which is an upper level course...usually 3000 level. An introduction to special relativity and quantum physics is there...specifically quantum mechanics. Modern physics is usually a prequisite for Quantum Mechanics, so if you have some free electives and really want to learn quantum mechanics, you can take modern physics and then quantum mechanics.

    Thanks for your replies everyone. I am reading through them now.
  21. Dec 31, 2012 #20
    This book?
    Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein's General Relativity...ISBN 978-0805386622
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