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Unit of study_

PHYS4123: General Relativity and Cosmology

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity represents a pinnacle of modern physics, providing the most accurate description of the action of gravity across the cosmos. To Newton, gravity was simply a force between masses, but Einstein's mathematical language describes gravity in terms of the bending and stretching of space-time. In this course, students will review Einstein's principle of relativity, and the mathematical form of special relativity, and the flat space-time this implies. This will be expanded and generalised to consider Einstein's principle of equivalence and the implications for particle and photon motion with curved space-time. Students will explore the observational consequences of general relativity in several space-time metrics, in particular the Schwarzschild black hole, the Morris-Thorne wormhole, and the Alcubierre warp drive, elucidating the nature of the observer in determining physical quantities. Building on this knowledge, students will understand Einstein's motivation in determining the field equations, relating the distribution of mass and energy to the properties of space-time. Students will apply the field equations, including deriving the cosmological Friedmann-Robertson-Walker metric from the assumption of constant curvature, and using this to determine the universal expansion history and key observables. Students will obtain a complete picture of our modern cosmological model, understanding the constituents of the universe, the need for inflation in the earliest epochs, and the ultimate fate of the cosmos.

Code PHYS4123
Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Credit points 6
An average of at least 65 in 144 cp of units
Assumed knowledge:
A major in physics and knowledge of special relativity

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Synthesise knowledge of Newtonian gravity and special relativity from the undergraduate syllabus.
  • LO2. Demonstrate understanding of the physics of space-time and its interaction with matter and light in the General Theory of Relativity, and contrast the theory with earlier descriptions of gravity.
  • LO3. Apply physics knowledge and mathematical skills to solve problems, including applying the field equations with different metrics.
  • LO4. Analyse gravitational phenomena in nature including black holes, wormholes, warp drives, and the cosmological history of the Universe.