How to Learn General Theory of Relativity — A Self-Study Guide

| February 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

General theory of relativity — Einstein’s magnum opus — has introduced to modern physics many new concepts such as dynamic spacetime, black holes, gravitational time dilation, the accelerating universe and many others. These concepts undoubtedly revolutionised our understanding of the world and now are an inseparable part of the fabric of modern science. Given this, it’s no wonder that general theory of relativity is one of the popular university courses among physicists and astrophysicists. So here we have gathered some of the best free online resources to help those with an interest in learning GR. The courses are roughly given in order of difficulty, but take that with a pinch of salt. Finally, a list of some of the best classic textbooks of GR are supplied as well.

Prerequisites

Free General Relativity Courses

1. International Winter School on Gravity and Light 2015 (Basic/Medium Difficulty)

This is a collection of 28 video lectures by Frederic P Schuller from the WE-Haraeus international winter school. It’s a thorough introduction to the basic prerequisites of GR. The topics covered include topology, tangent spaces, fields, parallel transport, metric manifolds, integrals on manifolds, optical geometry, cosmology, gravitational waves and others. The tutorial problems and videos are available here.

2. General Relativity by Leonard Susskind (2012) (Medium Difficulty)

This highly recommended course on General Relativity by Leonard Susskind includes 10 lectures. The subjects covered include the equivalence principle, curved geometry, space-time geometry, introduction to tensors and all the other good stuff you need for the basics. There’s also a similar course by Susskind from 2009, but I personally found the newer course more informative and simpler-to-understand.

3. Einstein’s General Relativity and Gravitation (Medium Difficulty)

Here we have a course by Prof Herbert W. Hamber on the basics of GR.  It contains 24 lectures that go deeply into the field equations, their derivations and possible solutions. In addition, 3 lectures introducing special relativity are included as well.

4.  Introduction to General Theory of Relativity — Coursera (Advanced)

This course from Coursera offers a thorough introduction into the main principles of general relativity. The syllabus includes general covariance, Einstein-Hilbert action, Schwarzschild solution, Penrose diagrams, tests of GR, Kerr solution, gravitational waves and cosmology. As other Coursera courses it includes  both weekly video lectures and assignments. In addition, the student has online access to a discussion forum.

5. Relativity — Perimeter Institute (Advanced)

In this series of lectures Prof Michael Duff goes deep into the mathematical framework of general relativity. More advanced topics, such as modifications of gravity, scalar field theories, Kaluza-Klein theory, quantum gravity and other areas are discussed. The link above gives access to the lectures in different video formats as well as in written form.

Best GR Textbooks

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