Fall 2021 - PHYS 490 D100

General Relativity and Gravitation (3)

Class Number: 1861

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo, We, Fr 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
    BLU 10031, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    PHYS 313; PHYS 384; both with a minimum grade of C-.



Gravity and space-time, Einstein's equations and their solution, tests of relativity, black holes, stellar equilibrium and collapse, and cosmological models. Quantitative.


Course Description:

Introductory course in relativity and gravitational phenomena: review of special relativity and its incompatibility with gravitation, tensor analysis with applications to relativistic physics (electromagnetism, fluids etc), differential geometry, spacetime curvature and gravity, physics on curved manifolds, relativistic stellar physics, black holes, cosmology, other topics as time permits (see below).


1) Review of special relativity and its covariant formulation:
      Lorentzian geometry, electromagnetism, relativistic continuum and particle mechanics.

2) (Pseudo) Riemannian geometry:
      Geodesic motion, symmetries, physics in curved spaces.

3) Introduction to gravitation:
      Principle of equivalence, Einstein equations, weak field approximations, Newtonian limit.

4) Stars:
      General relativistic fluid and plasma dynamics, stellar structure and equilibrium, white dwarfs andneutron stars.

5) Black holes:
      Stellar collapse, what's in there?, properties of systems with event horizons.

6) Cosmology:
      Subspaces of constant curvature, Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker spacetime, history of theuniverse incl. inflation, physical constraints on cosmological models.

7) Specialized topics depending on amount of time available and interest of students:
      Quantization issues, topology (eg. wormholes), warp-drives and time machines.


  • Assignments 20%
  • Project 35%
  • Final Examination 45%


*This marking scheme is tentative and subject to change.




1) Introduction to Relativity, W. D. McGlinn, John Hopkins University Press. (paperback is cheaper).
2) Gravitation and Cosmology : Principles and Applications of the General Theory of Relativity, S. Weinberg, Wiley and Sons.
3) Classical Theory of Fields, 4th ed., L. Landau and E. Lifshitz, Butterworth/Heinmann Co.
4) Gravitation and Spacetime, H. Ohanian and R. Ruffini, W. W. Norton and Co.
5) Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity, S. Carroll, Addison-Wesley Co.
6) Modern General Relativity, M. Guidry, Cambridge Univ. Press.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students who cannot write their exam during the course's scheduled exam time must request accommodation from their instructor in writing, clearly stating the reason for this request, before the end of the first week of classes.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.