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 target ASTR 3740 Relativity & Cosmology Spring 2014: Syllabus


This is an upper division course intended to introduce science students to special and general relativity, to black holes, and to cosmology. We will spend 5 weeks on Special Relativity, 5 weeks on General Relativity and Black Holes, and 5 weeks on Cosmology. For more details, see the Timetable.

This course is an elective for the APS major, tracks A or B, and for the APS minor. The pre/coequisites are: PHYS 2130 or 2170, and MATH 2400 or APPM 2350.

The course will combine visualization, physical understanding, and mathematics. I will assume that you are familiar and comfortable with matrices (necessary for understanding Lorentz transformations) and with calculus (necessary for understanding metrics). The mathematics will not be fearsome (we will not be doing tensors or anything like that), but I will assume that you are the kind of person for whom mathematics helps rather than hinders understanding. If you do not fall into this category, you should consider taking one of the lower division courses ASTR 2030 Black Holes, which is being taught this semester, Spring 2014, or ASTR 2010 Modern Cosmology, which will be taught next semester, Fall 2014.


There will be two midterms and one final, at the dates and times given in the Timetable.

The exams will cover material discussed in class, and will consist largely of short answer or short essay questions. The two midterms will cover material covered in the previous 5 weeks, The final will cover all material covered cumulatively during the semester, with an emphasis on material covered since the Spring Break.

There will be summary sessions prior to each exam.

In class group Projects

There will be three in class group Projects, as scheduled on the Timetable.

The projects are intended to engender thought and discussion, and to exercise your powers of logic. They are not designed to be chug-and-plug exercises.

Each project will take place during a full class period. For the project, you will assemble into groups of 3 or 4. You should immediately assign one of your group to be the "Scribe". The group should discuss and solve the project together.

It is the Scribe's responsibility to write up the results obtained by the group, and to submit them at the end of class. I will accept only one submission from each group. The write-up must include the name of the Scribe, and the names of all the other members of the group.

To simplify the logistics, the groups will be informal, probably consisting of your nearest neighbors. You do not have to stay in the same group, and indeed I encourage you to rotate into other groups.

If possible, you should rotate the role of Scribe. Make a goal that you personally should be Scribe for at least one group project during the semester.

Problem sets

There will be several (nine are planned) problem sets, which will be handed out in class, and which will also be downloadable from Problems. You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to collaborate with each other on problem sets, but what you submit for grade must be your own work.

There will be a tendency for problem sets to be more mathematical than exams or group projects.


Grading will be weighted as follows:

If you add that up, it comes to 8/7. To make it add to 100%, I will delete the worst 1/7 of your score. That means you can do badly on two problem sets, or on the projects, or on one of the midterms, or your final will count only half.

Fiske Planetarium

CU's Fiske Planetarium has been reserved at the usual class time as listed in the Timetable. You should go directly to Fiske (Campus map) on the listed days.

Students with Disabilities

The law requires us to make reasonable accomodations to students with learning or physical disabilities. If you need such accomodations, then you should tell me about them in a timely manner. Normally, you should have obtained supporting documentation from the university's Disability Services.

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Updated 2014 Jan 13