Spring 1997 APAS 3220-001: Topics in Stars and Galaxies: RELATIVITY & COSMOLOGY

Professor Andrew J. S. Hamilton
JILA, room A706
Tel: 492-7833
email: Andrew.Hamilton@colorado.edu

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Office Hours

My office hours are M 10.30am-12.30am, T 1.30-3.30pm, F 3-4pm. However, you are welcome to walk in and talk to me at any time, although I may throw you out if I'm busy outside office hours. Generally I prefer that you do not disturb me during the hour or so before class. I am more likely to be found in my office during the afternoon than in the morning. I will make every effort to be present during office hours. Experience shows that sometimes other engagements crop up which make it impossible for me to be in during office hours. I will try to advise you in advance if I will not be in on any particular days. To be absolutely certain of catching me in, feel free to phone me, email me, or check with me in class.


I will not be grading on a curve, so that in principle everyone could get an A, provided of course you earn it. Generally, the expected median grade is C+ to B-. The grade will be based on problem set assignments, two midterms, one final, and class participation, as follows:
Problem Sets 3/7
MidtermFri 28 Feb1/7
MidtermFri 4 Apr1/7
Final7.30-10.30pm Fri 9 May2/7
Class Participation 1/7
If you add that up, it comes to 8/7. To make it add to 7/7, I will delete the worst 1/7 of your score, which means for example that you can omit one test without penalty, or you can do badly on about 1/3 of the homework, or your final will count only half.

There will probably be about 6 problem sets. Most of these will involve reading assignments, about which you will be asked to comment and to answer questions. At least one of the problem sets - a space-time - diagram, will be more mathematical.

The midterms and the final will be in class. The midterms will cover the material covered since the previous midterm. The final will cover everything, but with an emphasis on the material covered in the last 1/3 of the semester, i.e. on cosmology.

Prior to each midterm and the final, there will be review sessions, which will be announced.


Kip S. Thorne ``Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy'' 1994, Norton.

N. S. Herrington (Editor) ``Cosmology: Historical, Literary, Philosophical, Religious, & Scientific Perspectives'' 1995, Garland Publishing.


This is a course in Relativity and Cosmology for non-science students who have taken APAS 1020, 1040, or 1120. The treatment is intended to be qualititative, rather than mathematical, but we will not shy away from all mathematics. The most mathematical part of the course will be where we derive the special relativistic time dilation and Lorentz contraction formulae.

The course fulfills part B of the Natural Science Core. The course counts toward the lower division, but not upper division, requirements of the APAS minor. Students interested in a more mathematical approach should take APAS 3740.

1. Special & General Relativity, Black Holes

The first 2/3 of this course will concentrate on Einstein's Theory of Special and General Relativity, and its application to Black Holes.

In addition to the lecture material detailed below, there will be 2 sessions at the Fiske planetarium. Including time for the midterm, discussion of problem sets, etc., the schedule below should take us up to Spring Break.

Chapter numbers below refer to the text by Thorne.

1.1 Special Relativity (2 weeks; Chs. 1 & 2)

1.2 General Relativity (1.5 weeks; Chs. 2 & 3)

1.3 Compact Stars (1 week; Chs. 4-6)

1.4 Observational Evidence for Black Holes (1 week; Chs. 8 & 9)

1.5 Gravitational Waves (1 lecture; Ch. 10)
1.6 A Closer Look at Black Holes (1 week; Chs. 12-14)

2. Cosmology

The final 1/3 the course will focus on Modern Cosmology, the origin and structure of the Universe as a whole. We will cover almost exclusively sections V, VI and VII, the `scientific' part, of the text by Hetherington. We will not follow the text as closely as for Thorne.

In addition to lectures on the subjects detailed below, there will be 3 or 4 sessions at the Fiske Planetarium.

  • Historical development of Modern Cosmology
  • Expansion of the Universe
  • Geometry of the Universe
  • Galaxies
  • Dark Matter
  • Cosmic Microwave Background
  • Primordial Nucleosynthesis
  • Inflation
  • Fundamental Physics
  • The Origin of the Universe

    updated 02/21/97

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