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MAS8804 : Relativity

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Ian Moss
  • Owning School: Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To introduce the concept of spacetime, the theory of special relativity and some preliminary ideas from general relativity.

Module Summary

An introduction to the Special and General theories of Relativity.

Outline Of Syllabus

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.

Lorentz transformations will be introduced and used to explain length contraction and time dilation. Definitions of energy and momentum will lead to the correct version of the famous formula E=mc^2 and Newtonian dynamics will be generalized to be consistent with Special Relativity. The module focuses on a four-dimensional description of special relativity based on spacetime and 4-vectors, and will be making use of the Minkowski line element. The concept of a line element describing geometry will be briefly introduced.

Special Relativity no longer applies in the presence of gravity which requires the theory of General Relativity. We will introduce the equivalence principle as the physical basis of General Relativity and study the line element of weak gravitational fields. The basic mathematical structure of General Relativity, spacetime curvature and geodesics, will be briefly described.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00Formal Lectures - Present in Person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture21:002:00Revision Lectures - Present in Person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture51:005:00Problem Classes – Synchronous On-Line
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion151:0015:00Completion of in course assessments
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Examination
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion111:0011:00Revision for examination
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study451:0045:00Preparation time for lectures, background reading, and completion of coursework
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
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.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A80N/A
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises1M10Coursework assignment
Prob solv exercises1M10Coursework assignment
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A substantial formal unseen examination is appropriate for the assessment of the material in this module. The coursework assignments 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 assessments have a secondary formative purpose as well as their primary summative purpose.

In the event of on-campus examinations not being possible, an on-line alternative assessment will be used for written examination 1.

Reading Lists