ASTR 3740 Relativity & Cosmology Spring 1999: Texts
ASTR 3740 Spring 99 Homepage
Sadly, there is no one text which covers
everything in this course perfectly,
although there are several good books on each of the individual
subjects of Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Cosmology.
Some of these books are listed below.
Since I will not be following any one book,
I will not be requiring that you buy any single book in particular.
However, I have listed a small number of books as `Highly Recommended'.
One of the best relativity resources on the web is Chris Hillman's
Relativity on the World Wide Web,
which amongst other things contains a listing of
Undergraduate Level Lecture Notes and Articles.
Chris Hillman and others have compiled a comprehensive
recommended list of books on Relativity.
One of the best cosmology resources on the web is
which includes a
and sections on the
Age of the Universe
Ned Wright also offers a set of graduate level
Cosmology lecture notes (gzip'd PostScript).
Copies of my lecture notes are available at the Copy Center in Norlin Library.
I will be lecturing from these notes.
They are the same notes as I used in the Spring 1998 class.
Highly Recommended Books
If I had to choose one text book, it would be:
The first 3 weeks of the course will be on Special Relativity.
An excellent text which goes into a lot more detail than
I will have time for is:
John F. Hawley & Katherine A. Holcomb (1997)
``Foundations of Modern Cosmology''
(Oxford University Press, $50).
Beautifully written, easy to follow, bang up to date.
Mostly on cosmology, but includes extensive chapters
on special and general relativity, and even discusses wormholes.
Its disadvantage in this course is that,
being a book aimed primarily at non-science majors,
it does not cover the mathematics adequately,
although it does include more mathematics than is typical for such books.
Books on GR tend to be either wholly descriptive or unapologetically
mathematical, and there are few books which bridge the gap.
One of my favorite books of all time,
which won't really cost you anything because you can impress
your parents (or whomever) by giving it to them as a present, is:
Edwin F. Taylor & John A. Wheeler (1997) ``Spacetime Physics'' 2nd ed.
(W. H. Freeman).
A delightful introduction to special relativity.
One short final chapter on general relativity.
Pity they couldn't have added a bit more on GR.
Kip S. Thorne (1994) ``Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous
A wonderfully readable, authoritative book which takes you
to the edge of knowledge in Relativity and Black Holes,
without mathematics, and without patronizing.
Other Good Books
Leo Sartori (1996)
This book covers special relativity in a way similar to the
way I will be presenting it, with much additional commentary and discussion,
and you may prefer it to Taylor & Wheeler.
The book concludes with single chapters on general relativity
George F. R. Ellis & Ruth M. Williams (1988)
``Flat and Curved Space-Times''
(Oxford University Press).
Sadly out of print -
if it were in print,
it would be my selection for the general relativistic part of this course.
An easy to follow, readable introduction to special and general relativity,
with an emphasis on pictures and geometry.
Claims that anyone with a high-school level of mathematics
should be able to follow the arguments.
Ignazio Ciufolini & John A. Wheeler (1995) ``Gravitation and Inertia''
(Princeton U. Press).
A graduate level text, leavened with history and insight.
Richard A. Mould (1996) ``Basic Relativity'' (Springer).
Introduction to special and general relativity,
aimed at undergraduate physics students.
Has a short chapter on Cosmology at the end.
M. Begelman & M. Rees (1996)
``Gravity's Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe''
(Scientific American Library).
A popular book on the astronomy of black holes by CU's own
and Britain's Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees.
John Cramer (1997)
``Einstein's Bridge'' (Avon $13).
This is a science fiction novel involving wormholes.
The author is a practicing physicist, and knows his general relativity.
A compelling read.
Carl Sagan (1985)
``Contact'' (Pocket Books $7).
The book that eventually became a film.
Kip Thorne was the consulting general relativistic expert on this novel.
Am I allowed to say I found the book a little pompous?
George Gamow (1965; reprinted 1996) ``Mr. Tompkins in Paperback''
(Cambridge University Press).
Timothy Ferris (1997)
``The Whole Shebang : A State-Of-The-Universe(S) Report''
(Simon & Shuster $25).
There are many popular books on cosmology, and this is one of them,
written by a science journalist.
Wide-ranging. Zero math.
graduate level texts in Cosmology.
ASTR 3740 Spring 99 Homepage
Updated 16 Nov 1998