Skip to main content

PHYS 422 — Introduction to General Relativity

Location:    MP-309       Time:    Mon, Wed 3:40pm – 4:55pm
Prerequisites:    PHYS 309 — Intro. Modern Physics,     PHYS 381 — Electromagnetic Theory
Text:    “Gravity” by James B. Hartle (Addison-Wesley, 2003)
Instructor:    Dr. Hanna     (208) 426-3775     MP-423
Office Hours:    Tue, Fri 3:30pm – 5:00pm, or by appointment
Special Lecturers:    Aaron Sup

WeekMon dateTopics
Part 1:   Newtonian Physics and Special Relativity
(Exam 1 over Chapters 1 to 5 on Wed Feb 11)
1.1/12Gravity, Geometry ;    Newtonian Physics
reading:    Chapters 1, 2, 3
due 1/21:    Homework 1
2.1/19(Holiday);    Concepts of Special Relativity I
reading:      (No Class);    Chapter 4
due 1/26:    Homework 2
3.1/26Concepts of SR II;    SR Kinematics
reading:    Chapter 4, 5
due 2/2:    Homework 3
4.2/2SR Dynamics I;    SR Dynamics II
reading:      Chapter 5
due 2/9:    Homework 4
5.2/9Relativistic E&M;   Exam 1
reading:      Chapter 5
due 2/18:    Homework 5
Part 2:    Curved Spacetime and Geodesics
(Exam 2 over Chapters 6 to 8 on Wed Mar 17)
6.2/16(Holiday);    Concepts of General Relativity I
reading:      (No Class);   Chapter 6
due 2/23:    Homework 6
7.2/23Concepts of GR II;    Curved Spacetime I
reading:    Chapter 6;    Chapter 7
due 3/1:    Homework 7
8.3/1Curved Spacetime II;   Geodesics I
reading:      Chapter 7;    Chapter 8
due 3/11:    Homework 8
9.3/8Geodesics II;   Geodesics III
reading:      Chapter 8;    Chapter 8
due 3/11:    Homework 8
10.3/15Review;   Exam 2
reading:      Chapters 6 to 8
due 3/29:    Homework 9
SPRING BREAK 3/22 - 3/26

Part 3:    Schwarzschild Solution (and Black Holes?) (as time permits)
(Exam 3 over Chapters 9, 12?, 13? on Wed Apr 28)
11.3/29Schwarzschild & Redshift;   Orbits I
reading:    Chapter 9
due 4/5:    Homework 10
12.4/5Orbits II;  Orbits III
reading:    Chapter 9
due 4/12:    Homework 11
13.4/12Schwarzschild Black Holes;  Collapse?
reading:    Chapter 12?
due 4/19: Homework 12
14.4/19Kruskal-Szekeres;  Nonspherical Collapse?
reading:    Chapter 12?
due 4/26: Homework 13
15.4/26Black Holes I?;  Exam 3
reading:    Chapter 13?
due 5/3:  Homework 14
16.5/3Black Holes II;  Black Holes III?
reading:    Chapter 13?
due 5/10: Homework 15
5/10Final Exam
reading:    comprehensive text, notes, problems, exams
*** FINAL EXAM (Comprehensive) on Wednesday 5/12, 3:30-5:30pm ***


To obtain a basic understanding of the key concepts of special and general relativity, especially spacetime and its curvature, and to successfully apply basic concepts and mathematical techniques of relativity to solve elementary problems in relativity physics. The course objectives will be accomplished by students working through the assigned parts of text, including all assigned readings and homework problems, and through in-class discussion and lecture, group exercises, and student presentations. The first eight chapters of the text will form the core material to be mastered, to provide interested students with the basis needed for independent study of the rest of the textbook.  Additional material beyond the first eight chapters will be covered as time permits.  Assessment will come from the tests (which will be based on the assigned parts of the text, the assigned homework problems, and the classroom discussions and lectures), the assigned homework, and  in-class participation.


60% of your grade is based on the exams. ALL EXAMS WILL BE COUNTED, AND NO MAKE-UP EXAMS WILL BE GIVEN. There will be three in-class exams (worth 15% each) and a comprehensive two-hour final exam (worth 15%.) You may bring one 8.5″ by 11″ sheet of formulas for each one-hour exam, along with your formula sheets from your previous PHYS 422 exams. All formula sheets must be labeled at the top by exam number, be signed and handwritten by you, and be turned in with your exam. Your formula sheet should contain only numbered formulas from those sections of the chapters that are covered on the exam, and you must write the textbook equation number next to each formula. No other comments, drawing, or other information are allowed on the formula sheet. It is your responsibility to know the meaning of every symbol on your formula sheet, and to understand the meaning, applicability, and use of every equation you include on your formula sheet.


40% of your grade is based on the homework. Hand in what you have on the due date, at the beginning of class. NO LATE HOMEWORK ACCEPTED. Homework problems will form the basis for many of the exam problems. Look over your graded homework carefully and make sure you can work and understand every assigned homework problem. You are strongly encouraged to talk to the instructor about homework problems that you do not understand.


In-class presentations by students on selected topics from the textbook will be required.


Consult the syllabus and read the relevant parts of the assigned readings before the material is covered in class. As you read, write down any questions you have and bring them to class. Ask questions in class.

Academic Honesty:

Although you are encouraged to discuss the class lectures, readings, and assignments with your classmates, all the work that you turn in must be your own. Write up your homeworks and take your exams on your own.  NO CHEATING OR PLAGIARISM (PRESENTING OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK AS IF IT WERE YOUR OWN) WILL BE TOLERATED, INCLUDING ANY USE OF HOMEWORK SOLUTIONS FOUND ON THE WEB OR IN OTHER BOOKS OUTSIDE OF THE ASSIGNED TEXT. If you make use of sources besides the class lectures or textbooks, you must provide explicit written references to the sources you used. Failure to follow this rule or any others listed in the Student Code of Conduct could have drastic consequences, including (but not limited to) ejection from the course with a failing grade.

Syllabus and Schedule:

The timing, duration, and number of topics, and the dates of homeworks and exams listed on the syllabus, are TENTATIVE, and will be readjusted throughout the semester as needed.  The goal is to cover the first eight chapters of the textbook thoroughly, and to cover additional material as time permits.  Because this is the first time this instructor has taught this subject, expect plenty of revisions and adjustments.  The syllabus will be updated frequently throughout the semester, and posted on the web.  You are expected to check the web regularly and frequently for changes to the syllabus.


A = 87.5 – 100,   B = 75 – 87.5,   C = 60 – 75,   D = 45 – 60