The Theory of General Relativity

Prof. Pierre van Baal, IL 265 (Oort gebouw), tel. 071-5275502.

Instituut Lorentz for Theoretical Physics

Space and time of the course: De Sitter room, spring 2006. This course was taught in 2006 and 2008 by Yuri Levin. It will now be given by others.

Einstein's Theory of General Relativity encompasses Newton's theory of gravitation for weak fields, but as for Special Relativity it gives rise to a dramatic revision of our understanding of space and time. Next to the formulation of the theory, also applications important for (astro-)physical research will be discussed in some detail. Topics to be covered will include the principle of equivalence, the field equations, the experimental tests of the theory using the advance of the perihelion of Mercury, bending of light and the more recent verification on the basis gravitational radiation from binary pulsar systems. Of course we will also entertain you with black holes and cosmological consequence of the theory. Typically the last lecture will give a glossary of the more modern developments, like Hawking radiation.

Required reading: The course will follow the book " A short course in General Relativity" by J. Foster and J.D. Nightingale (Springer Verlag 1995 (2nd edition), corrected 3rd printing 2001), ISBN 0-387-94295-5 (pbk). Students are required to have the book when the course starts.

Recommend reading, but not required, is the book "Introducing Einstein's Relativity" by Ray d'Inverno (Oxford Univ. Press UK, 1992, reprinted with corrections 1995), ISBN 978-0-19-859686-8 (pbk). This book covers also the more recent (sometimes more formal) developments. In addition there are of course many other textbooks, including the one by Einstein himself, "The meaning of relativity" (his semi-popular book of 1916 is even available online in an English translation).

Required Level: Only a good and thorough knowledge of Special Relativity (and Classical Mechanics) is really necessary. Some background (from mathematics courses) in geometry will be very helpful though. The course is intended for 4th/5th year students.

For Dutch speaking students: de ervaringen van een studente in dichtvorm!

Material and exercises covered per session - 2004
FN=Foster and Nightingale

Extra exercises 1 t/m 13 are available in PostScript (237kb) and PDF (136kb) format. They will be handed out during the course. To make the extra exercises the following matrial should have been studied: For exercises 1-3, till paragraph FN.2.4; for 4-7 till paragraph FN.3.5, for 6g, 6h, 8 and 9 till the end of chapter FN.3; for 10, chapter FN.4; for 11-12, chapter FN.5 and finally for exercise 13, chapter FN.6.
For Dutch speaking students: Ervaringen van een studente in dichtvorm!
Page last updated: 16 June 2009. Webpage first created Augustus 1999 (till 2004 in Dutch -- no longer maintained).