General Relativity

Course Aim

An introduction to General Relativity, from geometry to applications.

Course Description

We begin by introducing tensors in non-relativistic physics. We then give an overview of Special Relativity, and discuss the special nature of gravity as an “inertial force”. With this motivation, we develop the differential geometry necessary to describe curved spacetime and the geodesic motion of free-falling particles. We then proceed to Einstein’s field equations, which we analyze in the Newtonian limit and in the linearized limit (gravitational waves). Finally, we study two iconic solutions to the field equations: the Schwarzschild black hole and Friedman-Robertson-Walker cosmology. We will use Sean Carroll’s textbook as the main reference, but we will not follow it strictly.

Course Contents

1. Tensors in 3d: moment of inertia and magnetic field

2. Special Relativity in 3d language

3. Special Relativity in 4d language: Minkowski spacetime

4. Gravity as an inertial force: the equivalence principle

5. Curved spacetime: metric and Christoffel symbols

6. Geodesic motion: Newtonian limit, redshift, deflection of light

7. Curved spacetime: The Riemann tensor and its components

8. The Einstein field equations and their Newtonian limit

9. Linearized limit and gravitational waves

10. The Schwarzschild black hole

11. More on the Schwarzschild metric: precession of planets, black hole thermodynamics

12. Friedmann-Robertson-Walker cosmology


Midterm exam 25% (only if helps the final grade); Final exam 75%

Prerequisites or Prior Knowledge

Prerequisites: Maxwell’s equations in differential form. Solving Maxwell’s equations to obtain electromagnetic waves. Linear algebra of vectors and matrices.


“Spacetime and Geometry – an introduction to General Relativity”, Sean Carroll (2003) Addison Wesley

Reference Books

Landau & Lifshitz vol. 2 (“Classical Theory of Fields”).
“Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology: A Basic Introduction”, Ta-Pei Cheng.
“General Relativity”, Robert M. Wald.


Alternate years course, AY2025

Research Specialties