### Honors Relativity – Spring 2012

**Instructor:** Dr.
Duncan Lorimer

**Contact details:**
duncan.lorimer@mail.wvu.edu

**Overview:** In 1905, Albert Einstein published five remarkable papers. One
of them described his special theory of relativity – a radical revision of the
kinematics of rapidly moving objects that requires the unification of space and
time. A decade later, Einstein succeeded in generalizing his theory to include
the effects of gravitation. We will explore his remarkable scientific legacy that
describes gravity as the geometry of four-dimensional spacetime.

**Prerequisites:** A curiosity about the world we live in, and a willingness
to open your mind to new and unfamiliar concepts. The aim of this course is to
understand Einstein’s work by reasoning graphically and conceptually. Traditionally,
relativity is a mathematical subject. While we will work through some basic mathematical
arguments from time to time, we will not assume anything more than high-school
trigonometry. To make quantitative estimates of certain situations, we will sometimes
use formulae that will be introduced and given to you in class. A calculator might
be helpful from time to time.

**Reading material:** All material will be handed out in class. Students are
encouraged to use the University library and the Internet to find out more about
the topics we will discuss.

**Assessment:** Attendance and participation (60%); Problem sets (15%); Movie
(25%)

**Grading:** 90% or higher A+; 80-89% A; 70-79% B; 60-69% C; 50-59% D

**Homework:** Three problem sets will be distributed during the semester.
The format of the problems will be conceptual (thinking about ideas introduced
in class and making deductive reasoning), visual (drawing spacetime diagrams to
analyze situations, e.g. falling into a black hole) and numerical (using formulae
to calculate example values, e.g. how long does it take to fall into a black hole).
We will discuss each problem set in detail in class after you have worked through
the homework. Each set will count 5% towards your final grade. It is acceptable
to discuss homework problems with your fellow students, but I expect that you complete
them on your own in accordance with academic honesty.

**Movie:** On day one of class, you will be presented with a list of possible
documentary topics. Your task, working in groups of 2 or 3 students, is to put
together a short (<5 min) video documentary describing the topic. Further details
about putting the documentary together will be given in class. The movie counts
for 25% of your final grade and needs to be sent to me by April 19.

**Social justice statement**: I aim to maintain a positive learning environment
based upon open communication, mutual respect, and non-discrimination. Our University
does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, veteran status,
religion, sexual orientation, color or national origin. I welcome any suggestions
as to how to further such a positive and open environment in this class.

**Academic dishonesty statement:** It is assumed that you will follow the
University’s policies on academic honesty during this course. Students found engaging
in plagarism, cheating or forgery during any assignment or test will be subject
to the conduct code policies of the University that can be found on-line at
http://www.arc.wvu.edu/rightsa.html.

**Class schedule:** The format of each class is either a lecture, mostly using
the chalkboard, or a discussion of the homework. Bring a pencil and paper to take
notes and be prepared to participate!