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8.20 Introduction to Special Relativity

Prereq: Physics I (GIR), Calculus I (GIR)
U (IAP)
9 Units. REST

Introduces the basic ideas and equations of Einstein's special theory of relativity. Topics include Lorentz transformations, length contraction and time dilation, four vectors, Lorentz invariants, relativistic energy and momentum, relativistic kinematics, Doppler shift, space-time diagrams, relativity paradoxes, and some concepts of general relativity. Intended for freshmen and sophomores. Not usable as a restricted elective by Physics majors. Credit cannot be received for 8.20 if credit for 8.033 is or has been received in the same or prior terms.

J. Formaggio

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The Department of Physics offers undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate training, with a wide range of options for specialization. The emphasis of both the undergraduate curriculum and the graduate program is on understanding the fundamental principles that appear to govern the behavior of the physical world, including space and time and matter and energy in all its forms, from the subatomic to the cosmological and from the elementary to the complex. The Department of Physics strives to be at the forefront of many areas where new physics can be found. Consequently, the department works on problems where extreme conditions may reveal new behavior: from clusters of galaxies or the entire universe to elementary particles or the strings that may be the substructure of these particles; from collisions of nuclei at relativistic velocities that make droplets of matter hotter than anything since the Big Bang to laser-cooled atoms so cold that their wave functions overlap, resulting in a macroscopic collective state, the Bose-Einstein condensate; and from individual atoms to unusual materials, such as high-temperature superconductors and those that are important in biology. Pushing the limits provides the opportunity to observe new general principles and test theories of the structure and behavior of matter and energy.