General Relativity and Cosmology

Course content

The purpose of this course is that the student obtains a basic understanding of general relativity and its applications.

The first part of the course gives an introduction to Einstein's theory of general relativity. The second part of the course gives an introduction to its applications to planetary motion, bending of light, black holes, gravitational waves and cosmology.


MScProgramme in Physics

MSc Programme in Physics w. minor subject

Learning outcome


  • When the course is finished it is expected that the student is able to explain Einsteins equivalence principle, explain how this leads to introducing a general metric for space-time, and describe the physical and mathematical meaning of geodesic motion.
  • The student should be able to apply the principle of general covariance along with the mathematical tools of tensors and covariant derivatives to formulate laws of nature. 
  • The student should understand the notion of curvature of space-time and explain how this can be used to arrive at the Einstein equations.
  • The student should be able to derive the Schwarzschild geometry around a static and spherically symmetric distribution of matter, describe the geodesics in this geometry and apply this to planetary orbits in the solar system and the bending of light around massive objects.
  • The student should be able to show how the Schwarzschild solution gives rise to the notion of black holes.
  • The student should be able to interpret the Kerr metric as a rotating black hole.
  • The student should be able to explain what a gravitational wave is and how it affects the relative motion of test particles.
  • Finally, the student should be able to explain the basic ingredients of cosmology as derived in the framework of general relativity, including the evolution of the scale factor of the universe given different energy momentum components.


The course introduces the student to the concept of gravity as a property of the geometry of spacetime itself, leading to Einstein's theory of general relativity. This includes Einsteins equivalence principle, the concept of general covariance, geodesic motion and the Einstein equations. As applications we will discuss the Schwarzschild solution and its geodesics, black holes, gravitational waves and cosmology.

This course makes use of previously obtained knowledge in Newtonian mechanics, special relativity and vector calculus as well other related fields such as astrophysics and particle physics. After the course, the student should have a better picture of how general relativity fits into the latter subjects. Furthermore, the course is a good preparation for other more advanced courses in for example cosmology, high-energy physics and string theory.

Lectures and theoretical exercises

See Absalon for final course material. The following is an example of expected course litterature.

Lecture notes by Troels Harmark

The mandatory courses on first and second year of the bachelor (particularly the courses covering classical mechanics, special relativity, mathematical methods, electromagnetism). Analytical mechanics is not a necessary prerequisite.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 min
No preparation time.
Only certain aids allowed

One "A4" piece of paper with the students notes.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
More internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

see learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 35
  • Practical exercises
  • 21
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Preparation
  • 149,5
  • English
  • 206,0