We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Mathematical Sciences

MATH40820: General Relativity

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to G1K509 Mathematical Sciences


  • Analysis in Many Variables and Mathematical Physics.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To appreciate General Relativity, one of the fundamental physical theories.
  • To develop and exercise mathematical methods.


  • Differences between general and special relativity.
  • Gravity becomes geometry.
  • Differential manifold as model of spacetime.
  • Coordinates and relations between different systems.
  • Covariant derivative.
  • Geodesic curves.
  • Metric connection.
  • Distance relations, shape, units, light cones, locally inertial coordinate systems.
  • Variational principles for geodesics.
  • Curvature tensor.
  • Symmetries of curvature tensor.
  • Einstein tensor.
  • Geodesic deviation.
  • Newtonian gravity and Einstein's theory.
  • Linear form of Einstein's theory.
  • Schwarzschild solution, black holes.
  • Cosmology.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will: be able to solve complex, unpredictable and specialised problems in General Relativity.
  • have an understanding of specialised and complex theoretical mathematics in the field of General Relativity.
  • have mastered a coherent body of knowledge of these subjects demonstrated through one or more of the following topic areas:
  • Special relativity.
  • Differential manifolds.
  • Metric, covariant derivative, curvature.
  • General relativity.
  • Black holes.
  • Cosmology.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will have highly specialised and advanced mathematical skills which will be used with minimal guidance in the following areas: Geometrical awareness, Modelling.
Key Skills:
  • Students will have enhanced problem solving skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures demonstrate what is required to be learned and the application of the theory to practical examples.
  • Formatively assessed assignments provide practice in the application of logic and high level of rigour as well as feedback for the students and the lecturer on students' progress.
  • The end-of-year examination assesses the knowledge acquired and the ability to solve complex and specialised problems.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 42 2 per week for 20 weeks and 2 in term 3 1 Hour 42
Problems Classes 8 four in each of terms 1 and 2 1 Hour 8
Preparation and Reading 150
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination 3 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Eight written or electronic assignments to be assessed and returned. Other assignments are set for self-study and complete solutions are made available to students.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University