American Association of Physics Teachers

 Steve Carlip's POSTER from the AAPT Topical Workshop
Teaching General Relativity to Undergraduates
Held at Syracuse University, July 20-21, 2006

Steve Carlip

 UC Davis offers a "Topics in Physics for Nonscientists" course with an emphasis that changes from year to year.  I describe an attempt to teach general relativity, using Thorne's Black Holes and Time Warps as a text and assigning a final essay   rather than an exam.  The goal was for students to learn both some qualitative features of general relativity -- what does it mean that spacetime is "four dimensional" and "curved," what is the principle of equivalence, what is an event horizon, how might we detect gravitational waves, etc. -- and something about how theoretical physics works -- how physicists approach new questions, what kinds of patterns we look for, how we view the "aesthetics" of physics, what roles experiment and theory play, etc.




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