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Unit information: General Relativity and Cosmology in 2016/17

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Unit name General Relativity and Cosmology
Unit code PHYSM1900
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Antognozzi
Open unit status Not open

Relevant third year physics units.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit gives an introduction to the General Theory of Relativity and, via tensor calculus, derives the equations governing the behaviour of matter and radiation in the universe. Cosmological models based on Einstein's field equations will be described and their observable consequences discussed. Recent developments in dark matter and dark energy are discussed. Black holes and gravitational radiation are also described.


  • To provide a physical understanding of the General Theory of Relativity, to demonstrate how to apply the theory to the universe as a whole, and to show how what we measure relates to the intrinsic properties of the universe at earlier times.
  • To make students familiar with the way in which the concept of a curved space-time relates to cosmological theories, and enable them to calculate the observable consequences of the evolution of the universe.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the limitations of Newtonian gravity the principle of equivalence and its use to calculate redshifts.
  • Make calculations using relativistic four-vectors and tensors and use metric tensors in calculations of relativistic invariants.
  • Describe the role of the stress-energy tensor and its properties in Special Relativity.
  • Derive the Freidmann-Robertson-Walker (FRW) solutions of Einstein's equations and show how these lead to different histories of the Universe
  • Show how the properties of geodesics in FRW metrics lead to observable redshifts, and the concepts of different distance measures.
  • Reproduce the derivation of Hubble's law.
  • Describe how to measure cosmological parameters.
  • Work with other metrics, such as the weak field metric and the Schwarzschild metric
  • describe the properties of radiation dominated universes and the production of the Cosmic Microwave Background
  • Discuss recent developments in cosmology in terms of dark matter and dark energy;

Teaching details

Lectures and problems classes

Assessment Details

Formative assessment is provided through problems classes. The final unit mark comes from a 2 hour written examination (100%)

Reading and References

Schutz, B.F. A First Course in General Relativity