General Relativity for Undergraduates

Ideas, Approaches, Experiences, Insights -- Articles by Speakers and Participants
(click below to view)





Relativistic Effects in the Global Positioning System
by Neil Ashby

Some Thoughts on Involving Undergraduate Students in GR-Related Research 
by Thomas Baumgarte


Light Cones in the Schwarzschild Geometry
by Jeff Bowen

Stirring Up Undergraduate Interest in Relativity Research in a Non-Relativistic Department (PDF)
by Thomas Brueckner

Spinning Charged Bodies and the Linearized Kerr Metric (PDF)
by Joel Franklin

Quantum gravity with undergraduates
by Seth Major

General Relativity in theUndergraduate Physics Curriculum
by James Hartle

Pedagogical Strategy
by James Hartle

Tips on Teaching GR (with Tensors) to Undergraduates
by Tom Moore

Acceleration of Light at Earth’s Surface
by Richard Mould

A One-Term (1 Quarter) Undergraduate Course on General Relativity with Applications
by George W. Rainey

Teaching General Relativity: A Seven-Layer Cake
by Ian H. Redmount

The challenge of changing deeply held student beliefs about the relativityof simultaneity
by Stamatis Vokos

Student understanding of time in special relativity: Simultaneity and reference frames
by Stamatis Vokos

About Teaching General Relativity:
history, motivation, experiment

by Rainer Weiss
(4.7 Mb PDF)




BULLETIN October 6, 2007:  Edwin Taylor is looking for help Exploring Black Holes.
We need all the help we can get from both experts and lay people on the second edition of Exploring Black Holes. The first edition had many class trials of sequential drafts, with enforced feedback from students. Because of time constraints, draft materials for the second edition were used in only a single class at MIT. Your suggestions will be important for the clarity and correctness of the new edition.



How do you teach general relativity to undergraduates? Read on.

APPROACHES: Different circumstances require different approaches.  For a summary of suggestions formulated by various working groups of the workshop click on approaches.

ARTICLES: To read an article contributed by a workshop participant click on the title at the left. Click for article abstracts

TALKS: To look at the graphics and a summary of a talk click on its title at the right. 

POSTERS: Several contributors of posters submitted them for inclusion in these proceedings.  Click on posters to see them; or on poster abstracts for brief summaries of their contents.

Forty-five physics faculty from nearly as many universities met at Syracuse University on July 20 and 21, 2006 to share and improve ways to teach general relativity to undergraduates.  Some participants were university and college faculty who already teach or have taught general relativity to undergraduates and some were looking for ways to introduce concepts of general relativity into an existing physics curriculum. 

The LIGO Project, the Center for Gravitational Wave Physics at Penn State, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Syracuse University Department of Physics supported this workshop.  The publishing firms Pearson Addison Wesley and Cambridge University Press made generous distributions of current textbooks on general relativity.

Visiting experts contributed articles (listed at left) and gave talks (listed at right) on gravitational radiation and LIGO, on deviations from Newtonian gravitation and GPS, and on black holes. They particularly emphasized how to use these topics to present important ideas of general relativity to undergraduates.

Participants presented posters, many of which were then contributed for publication in these online proceedings. To see these click on Posters.

The participants worked together to describe different ways to teach general relativity to undergraduates.  They recognized that different approaches were required for different circumstances. To see their ideas and suggestions go to Approaches.

  • Who spoke and about what and when and where?  -- The program; the schedule.  See list of talks at right.

  • Who came and from where? -- List of Participants

  • What were their articles? -- Look at the column at the left or visit the list of Titles. or look at the article abstracts

  • Which participants contributed what posters? --  Look at poster abstracts.  For an index linking to posters which are part of the Proceedings go to Posters.

  • Who were the organizing committee?


  • Contribute your ideas -- Start a new page or add to an old one at AAPT's wiki.




Jorge Pullin:
A Brief Reminder on General Relativity


Jim Hartle
The Case for GR for Undergraduates



Tom Moore:
Teaching General Relativity with Tensors



Neil Ashby:
Relativity in the Global Positioning System



Peter Saulson: Teaching Gravitational Waves: A lesson in heuristic (mis)understanding of how an interferometer detects gravitational waves



Stamatis Vokos: Student Understanding (and Misunderstanding) of Important Concepts in Relativity



Don Marolf:
Teaching Black Holes



Rai Weiss:
About Teaching General Relativity: History, motivation, experiment



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