Course code:



IM - Introductory/Intermediate

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • QR - Quantitative Reasoning
  • ES - Environmental Science

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Every other year

This version of Physics II covers Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Topics covered include the principle of relativity, spacetime intervals and proper time, coordinate transformations, Lorentz contraction, and relativistic energy and momentum. We will start with first principles and carefully build toward key results, allowing students to see how relativity—one of the pillars of modern physics—was constructed and how it coheres as a mathematically consistent and experimentally verified theory. To gain a sense of the scientific, social, and material context in which the theory of relativity was developed, we will read Einstein’s Clocks and Poincaré’s Maps: Empires of Time, by Peter Galison.  This class makes extensive use of algebra. Students should be comfortable working with mathematical abstraction. Evaluation based on weekly problem sets, class participation, several short writing assignments, and a final exam or project.


Comfort with high-school level algebra.

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.