University of Montana Physics & Astronomy

Physics 141, Einstein's Relativity Albert Einstein
Spring 2014

Professor: Dr. Nate McCrady

Office: CHCB 122
Office Hours: Tu/Th 3-4 pm, F 1-2 pm and by appointment
E-mail: nate.mccrady (at) umontana (.) edu

PHSX 141N Einstein's Relativity (Honors Course)

In this course, industrious students with a working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry and a modest exposure to calculus will gain deep insight into the counter intuitive nature of space and time and will acquire a greater appreciation for the power and beauty of theoretical physics. We will begin with a brief historical view of the study of motion including the works of Galileo, and Newton. We will explore the necessity of introducing relativity theory to match known experimental results. Einstein's special theory of relativity is introduced from a modern, geometrically oriented perspective, using space time diagrams throughout, and emphasizing the deep connection between time and space. We will carefully develop the Lorentz transformation equations and use them to explore several of the apparent "paradoxes" of the theory. Finally, we will apply the results of relativity theory to the practical real world problems of high-energy particle physics, where the use of relativity is essential. Throughout the course, we will emphasize the logical structure of relativity to show how the unexpected and counter intuitive consequences of the theory follow directly and inevitably from the principle of relativity: "the laws of physics are the same in all inertial reference frames."

Prerequisites: Working knowledge of high school algebra and trigonometry. Some exposure to high school physics and calculus is preferred.

Course Resources


From Galileo to Einstein (due Wed, Jan 29)
Newton: Principia Excerpts (due Fri, Jan 31)
HW Chapter 1a (due Mon, Feb 3)
HW Chapter 1b (due Wed, Feb 5)
HW Chapter 2a (due Fri, Feb 7)
HW Chapter 2b (due Wed, Feb 19)
HW Chapter 2c/3a (due Wed, Feb 19)
HW Chapter 3b (due Fri, Feb 21)
HW Chapter 4a (due Mon, Feb 24)
HW Chapter 4b (due Wed, Feb 26)
HW Chapter 5a (due Fri, Mar 7)
Muon discussion (due Fri, Mar 7)
HW Chapter 5b (due Mon, Mar 10)
Around-the-world clocks discussion (due Mon, Mar 10)
HW Chapter 5c (due Wed, Mar 12)
HW Chapter 5d (due Fri, Mar 14)
HW Chapter 6a and 6b (due Mon, Mar 17)
HW Chapter 6c (due Wed, Mar 19)
HW Chapter 7a (due Fri, Mar 21)
HW Chapter 7b (due Mon, Mar 24)
HW Chapter 8a (due Wed, Mar 26)
HW Chapter 8b (due Wed, Apr 9)
Review Problems (due Fri, Apr 11)
HW Chapter 9a (due Mon, Apr 14)
HW Chapter 9b (due Wed, Apr 16)
HW Chapter 10a (due Mon, Apr 21)
HW Chapter 10b (due Wed, Apr 23)

Handouts & Links

Muon video
Frisch & Smith (1963) (Time Dilation from Muons)
Description of the binomial expansion (PDF)
Hafele & Keating (1972) (Around the World Clocks)
Twin "Paradox" (PDF)
Length Contraction