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Overview. A General Relativity Workbook (Thomas A. Moore, 2013) is an innovative new textbook on general relativity designed to support a one-semester course for upper-level undergraduates (it is also suitable for individual independent study). Its unusual overview-workbook format makes it easy for students to see the "big picture" at the same time as it encourages them to "gain ownership" of the material by guiding them to work through the mathematics on their own. Based on the author's experience in teaching fourteen iterations of undergraduate general relativity, this design has proven very effective for building student mastery of this facinating but challenging subject.

Physics Foremost. This textbook focuses on the physics rather than the mathematics, setting general relaitivy firmly in the context of contemporary applications to astrophysics. While the book does guide students through a simple but comprehensive treatment of tensor calculus, the mathematics is developed slowly so that students have a chance to fully absorb each aspect of the formalism and see it applied in physical contexts before moving on to more complicated aspects. Students get to the "good stuff" (such as black holes) quickly, before having to deal with the complexities of the Riemann tensor and the subtlties of the Einstein equation. The book also uses a variety of tools to make the physics more accessible and the mathematics less burdensome, including free computer software and a simple worksheet for calculating Ricci tensor components.

Flexibility. The textbook is also designed to give instructors maximum flexibility in designing courses. The "one chapter per class session" design helps instructors pace the course appropriately. A flow chart at the beginning of each chapter shows how sections depend on each other, and the final three sections (on cosmology, gravitational waves, and rotating black holes) are independent of each other and can be pursued to the depth that each instructor desires.

Resources. This website provides a variety of resources for exploring this textbook in more depth:

  • Features summarizes its innovative features and pedagogy.
  • Contents displays a flow-chart listing all the chapters and showing how they are related.
  • Course Design discusses how to design a course based on this book.
  • Resources provides links to supporting documents, software, and errata.

The Book is Now in Print! Univeristy Science Books published the book in late September, and it is available directly from the publisher here (as well as various other resellers). Potential instructors should go to USB's professors' resources site to request an examination or desk copy.

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The book has now been published by University Science Books! You can purchase a copy directly from the publisher here.

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Thomas A. Moore has been a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Pomona College for 22 years. He does theoretical research on detecting gravitational waves using LISA (now eLISA-NGO). Send him a message.