Review Comment

[ASTR C3601] General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology

December 26, 2009

Levin, Janna
[ASTR C3601] General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Good class and great professor. If you want an in depth perspective of General Relativity and all its implications this is the course for you. That being said, if you are looking for an easy going class that takes a very general and qualitative approach to GR and black holes, this class may be a bit more than you would bargain for. The class is deceptively difficult. The course is very math intensive and relies heavily linear algebra, differential geometry and topology. If you are like me and don't have a strong background in any of these subjects, you might find the course to be a bit overwhelming at first... in fact, about a third of my the class didn't return after the second week. Still, if you are really interested in learning general relativity, I would encourage you stick with it because after a while you will realize that the course gets very repetitive and once you look back, everything will start to make sense.

Despite the dense and often times inaccessible course work Janna Levin manages to make her class an enjoyable experience. She is very approachable and shows genuine interest in ensuring that her students learn the material. She does have the tendency to speed through the material but she was always more than happy to review obscure topics.

Workload:

The problems sets range from difficult to impossible. She assigns about 10 problems from the text book every week or so. I should note that the problem sets are really intended for your own practice. They are graded but if you ace the exams, that's grade you'll get for the class... though she might change this policy.

The midterm and final were very reasonable. They were nowhere near the difficulty of the problem sets and were very straight forward.

December 20, 2008

Levin, Janna
[ASTR C3601] General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I took General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology with her.. She is absolutely fantastic. While she may not always be able to help you with specific examples during class unless time is specifically set out for that (and it sometimes is), she will always help in office hours. and she is so nice! and has been on the Colbert report!! Overall, an incredible fantastic, inspiring, wonderful physics professor. Take a class with her if you do get a chance. it is soo worth it.

Workload:

not bad at all. she is always willing to potentially reschedule problem sets if something conflicts or some other reason. one midterm, one final, and ~8 (when there should have been ~10 probably) problem sets.

January 31, 2005

Spiegel, Ed
[ASTR C3601] General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This is a fascinating and stimulating course - if you are prepared to work your butt off. Professor Spiegel is one of those guys who has literally "been there," and he's met many of the people we read about in the history of science in person. He often interrupts class with references to "when I was talking to Chandrasekhar," or "we were drinking double martinis when Bethe walked it," and other interesting (and often humorous) anecdotes to that effect. General Relativity is a fascinating peek into the way the universe works, but be forewarned, you will be doing a lot of work too. Expect to teach yourself (with significant help from Professor Spiegel) the basics of the Tensor Calculus and Differential Geometry - two mathematical subjects essential to the study of Relativity. If you can take this after taking a course which includes Lagrange's formulation of mechanics, it will help. Professor Spiegel's lectures, while interesting, can also seem disjointed from one day to the next, until he pulls it all together in time for the midterm. Also, he will make mistakes! All that being said, I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in astronomy, physics, or cosmology; if you hang in there and do the work, he won't destroy you on the grading.

Workload:

Randomly assigned problem sets, approximately 5-6 total. 1 midterm (he allows 3 hours plus; plan on spending 2 hours 15 minutes to do a careful job). 1 final (6 hours allowed; do yourself a favor and leave after 3-4 with everyone else).

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