MAS3804 : Relativity and Cosmology

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To introduce the concept of spacetime and the theory of special relativity. Some preliminary ideas from general relativity will also be introduced and applied to produce a mathematical model of the expanding universe.

Module Summary
This is an introductory course in special relativity with preliminary elements of general relativity and relativistic cosmology.

Outline Of Syllabus

Preliminary concepts: Starting from situations, such as GPS navigation, where the velocity of light plays an important role, we explore ideas on the fundamental nature of space and time which form the basis of the theory of special relativity.
Consequences of basic postulates: Lorentz transformations will be introduced and used to explain length contraction and time dilation. Definitions of relativistic energy and momentum will lead among others to the famous formula E=mc^2. A four-dimensional description of special relativity will be constructed from spacetime and 4-vectors.
General relativity: The next step up from special relativity is general relativity. Elementary mathematical techniques of curved space(time) will be introduced by looking at vector calculus in curvilinear coordinate systems. This leads to an examination of the concepts of distance and curvature.
Cosmology: The aim of cosmology is to construct a mathematical model of the universe. Observations have convincingly shown that the universe is an evolving system. General relativity will be used to construct cosmological models of a homogeneous universe in the form of ordinary differential equations for the scale factor. These equations can describe the universe from its origin at the big bang to the present day.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion16:006:00Revision for class test
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion113:0013:00Revision for unseen exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Unseen exam
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture11:001:00Class test
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture31:003:00Problem classes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture21:002:00Revision lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture251:0025:00Formal lectures
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study127:0027:00Studying, practising, and gaining understanding of course material
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study33:009:00Review of coursework assignments and course test
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study26:0012:00Preparation for coursework assignments
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
PHY3022Relativity and Cosmology
MAS8804Relativity and Cosmology
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used for the delivery of theory and explanation of methods, illustrated with examples, and for giving general feedback on marked work. Problem Classes are used to help develop the students’ abilities at applying the theory to solving problems. Tutorials are used to identify and resolve specific queries raised by students and to allow students to receive individual feedback on marked work. In addition, office hours (two per week) will provide an opportunity for more direct contact between individual students and the lecturer.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A90N/A
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
PHY3022Relativity and Cosmology1N/A
MAS8804Relativity and Cosmology1N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises1M5Coursework assignments
Prob solv exercises1M5Course test
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A substantial formal unseen examination is appropriate for the assessment of the material in this module. The written exercises are expected to consist of two assignments of equal weight: the exact nature of assessment will be explained at the start of the module. The coursework assignments and the (in class) coursework test allow the students to develop their problem solving techniques, to practise the methods learnt in the module, to assess their progress and to receive feedback; these are thus formative as well as summative assessments.

Reading Lists