Ed Spiegel

Feb 2005

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.