The class consists of four units covering the topics listed below, one per week. The units are downloadable as either Adobe Acrobat files or Microsoft Word documents. Download the Acrobat Reader for almost any platform for free.

There are assignments included with each unit, due at midnight Eastern Time on the following Sunday. Send them by e-mail to the address given in the registration letter. Please use plain text representations of math as described on the Math page.

I also urge you to visit the Relativity Discussion Board. Think of this as a kind of student lounge for discussions about the class. I will also occasionally post reading suggestions and other class material.


I. Introduction
A. Class procedures
B. Topics to be covered
C. Readings
D. Kinematics vs. dynamics
E. Symbols & math

II. Einstein biographical (external link)
A. Early life
B. Early work
C. General relativity
D. Life in the U.S.

III. Principles of Special Relativity (S.R.)
A. Frames of reference
B. Galilean relativity
C. Postulates of S.R.
D. Time dilation / length contraction
E. Spacetime
F. The spacetime interval
G. Light cones / causality

IV. Why S.R.?
A. Einstein riding the light beam
Michelson-Morley Experiment
C. Philosophical reasons
D. What is real, anyway?

V. Consequences and paradoxes
A. Relativity of simultaneity
B. Simultaneity paradoxes
C. The twin paradox
D. The Doppler effect

VI. Matter and energy
A. Energy and time
B. E=mc2
C. Nuclear fission
D. Nuclear fusion

VII. Principles of General Relativity (G.R.)
A. Newtonian gravitation
B. Equivalence Principle
C. Geometry of curved spacetime

VIII. Predictions and consequences
A. Tests of G.R.
B. Cosmology
C. Black holes
D. Interstellar travel
E. Gravitational Radiation

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