Einstein’s general relativity is increasingly important in contemporary physics on the frontiers of very large distance scales (astrophysics and cosmology) and very small length scales (elementary particle physics). This paper makes the case for a “physics first” approach to introducing general relativity to undergraduate physics majors.

1.
W.
Hiscock
,
presented at the 2005 April Meeting of the APS
, Tampa, FL, April 16,
2005
.
2.
M.
Berry
,
Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation
(
Institute of Physics
, Bristol and Philadelphia,
1993
).
3.
W.
Burke
,
Spacetime, Geometry, Cosmology
(
University Science Books
, Mill Valley,
1980
).
4.
J.
Callahan
,
The Geometry of Spacetime: An Introduction to Special and General Relativity
(
Springer
, New York,
2000
).
5.
T.-P.
Cheng
,
Relativity, Gravitation, and Cosmology: A Basic Introduction
(
Oxford University Press
, New York,
2005
).
6.
C.
Clarke
,
Elementary General Relativity
(
Edward Arnold
, London,
1979
and
Wiley
, New York,
1980
).
7.
G. F. R.
Ellis
and
R. M.
Williams
,
Flat and Curved Spacetime
(
Clarendon
, Oxford,
1988
).
8.
J.
Foster
and
J. D.
Nightingale
,
A Short Course in General Relativity
(
Springer-Verlag
, New York,
1995
).
9.
R.
Geroch
,
General Relativity from A to B
(
University of Chicago Press
, Chicago,
1978
).
10.
R.
Hakim
,
Introduction to Relativistic Gravitation
(
Cambridge University Press
, Cambridge,
1999
).
11.
J. B.
Hartle
,
Gravity
(
Addison-Wesley
, San Francisco,
2003
).
12.
L.
Hughston
and
K. P.
Tod
,
An Introduction to General Relativity
(
Cambridge University Press
, Cambridge,
1990
).
13.
R.
D’Inverno
,
Introducing Einstein’s Relativity
(
Oxford University Press
, Oxford,
1995
).
14.
I. R.
Kenyon
,
General Relativity
(
Oxford University Press
, Oxford and New York,
1990
).
15.
M.
Ludvigsen
,
General Relativity: A Geometric Approach
(
Cambridge University Press
, Cambridge and New York,
1999
).
16.
J. L.
Martin
,
General Relativity: A Guide to its Consequences for Gravity and Cosmology
(
Halsted
, New York,
1988
).
17.
H.
O’Hanian
and
R.
Ruffini
,
Gravitation and Spacetime
(
Norton
, New York,
1994
).
18.
W.
Rindler
,
Essential Relativity: Special, General, and Cosmological
(
Springer-Verlag
, New York,
1977
).
19.
B. F.
Schutz
,
A First Course in General Relativity
(
Cambridge University Press
, Cambridge,
1985
).
20.
B. F.
Schutz
,
Gravity From the Ground Up
(
Cambridge University Press
, New York,
2003
).
21.
E. F.
Taylor
and
J. A.
Wheeler
,
Exploring Black Holes
(
Addison-Wesley Longman
, San Francisco,
2000
).
22.
P.
Tourrenc
,
Relativity and Gravitation
(
Cambridge University Press
, Cambridge,
1997
).
23.
This list consists of texts known to the author, published after 1975, and judged to be introductory. It does not pretend to be either complete or selective, nor is it a representation that the texts are readily available.
24.
For example,
B.
Bertotti
,
B. L.
Less
, and
P.
Tortora
, “
A test of general relativity using radio links with the Cassini spacecraft
,”
Nature (London)
425
,
374
376
(
2003
).
25.
For example,
N.
Ashby
, “
Relativity and the global positioning system
,”
Phys. Today
55
(
5
),
41
47
(
2002
).
26.
J.
Hartle
 et al,
Gravitational Physics: Exploring the Structure of Space and Time
(
National Academy Press
, Washington, D.C.,
1999
).
27.
W.
Freedman
,
B.
Madore
 et al, “
Final results from the Hubble space telescope project to measure the Hubble constant
,”
Astrophys. J.
553
,
47
72
(
2001
);
28.
D. N.
Spergel
 et al, “
First year Wilkinson microwave anisotropy probe (WMAP) observations: Determination of cosmological parameters
,”
Astrophys. J., Suppl. Ser.
148
,
175
194
(
2003
),
J. L.
Tonry
 et al, “
Cosmological results from high-z supernovae
,”
Astrophys. J.
594
,
1
24
(
2003
),
29.
For more on the importance of general relativity in contemporary physics, see for example, Ref. 26.
30.
L.
Landau
and
E. M.
Lifshitz
,
The Classical Theory of Fields
(
Pergamon
, London,
1962
).
31.
C. W.
Misner
,
K. S.
Thorne
, and
J. A.
Wheeler
,
Gravitation
(
W. H. Freeman
, San Francisco,
1970
).
32.
R.
Wald
,
General Relativity
(
University of Chicago Press
, Chicago,
1984
).
33.
S.
Weinberg
,
Gravitation and Cosmology
(
Wiley
, New York,
1972
).
34.
See, for example,
C. S.
Reynolds
and
M. A.
Nowak
, “
Fluorescent iron lines as a probe of astrophysical black hole systems
,”
Phys. Rep.
377
,
389
466
(
2003
),
A. C.
Fabian
,
K.
Iwasawa
,
C. S.
Reynolds
, and
A. J.
Young
, “
Broad iron lines in active galactic nuclei
,”
Publ. Astron. Soc. Pac.
112
,
1145
1161
(
2000
),
35.
I. I.
Shapiro
, “
Solar system tests of general relativity
,” in
General Relativity and Gravitation: 12th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation
, edited by
N.
Ashby
,
D. F.
Bartlett
, and
W.
Wyss
(
Cambridge University Press
, Cambridge,
1990
), pp.
313
330
.
AAPT members receive access to the American Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.