General Relativity Modules

One of the strangest predictions that arose from the solutions of Einstein's general theory of relativity was a mathematical object that seemed to violate commonsense. This object would warp space and time around it so severely that any unlucky particle that happened to enter its boundaries would be unable to escape, and would be annihilated in a singularity deep inside it. In these lectures we will journey through the transition of this object from that of a mathematical solution to that of a real physical occupant of the universe, the object known as a black hole. This series will introduce the astronomers and physicists who played major roles in unravelling the mathematical clues, as well as the modern technology which captures the latest evidence of the black holes in nature. We will explore a hypothetical journey into a black hole as well as discover the important role these denizens of the universe play in galaxy formation and their structural stability.

The general relativity lectures have been divided into six modules, listed below, each with a title and a brief description of their content. It is recommended that these be viewed in the order presented, as each module builds on concepts introduced in previous modules. Clicking on the titles below will reveal an active link to the recorded lecture segment that includes a list of key learning outcomes. 

GR-1: Introduction of a New Idea

We shift our ideas from Newton’s Law of Gravity to a new set of equations that describe how gravity is a consequence of the curvature of spacetime.

GR-2: Gravity is a Curvature

Spacetime tells matter how to move, and matter tells spacetime how to curve.

GR-3: Who’s Who in the Story of Black Holes

An introduction to a few of the major scientists who applied Einstein’s ideas to better understand the life cycle of various stars.

GR-4: The Life Story of Stars

The mathematical predictions made by scientists tell a story of the life and death of stars.

GR-5: The Black Hole

The anatomy of a black hole.

GR-6: The Star Called a Black Hole

The physical attributes of a black hole and what types of physical evidence astronomers use the locate them.

About the Lecturer

Michael Burns, an astronomer out of Berkeley, California, specializing in CCD camera work for the early detection of supernovae, has taken roots in Waterloo, Ontario as an astronomy and physics teacher at Waterloo Collegiate Institute. His past experience in the satellite and telecommunications industry and his passion for education got him involved with Perimeter Institute’s ISSYP program and the Black Hole Lecture Series. As a two-time past president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for Kitchener–Waterloo, Michael has given many public lectures on a variety of astronomical topics and has written papers for the Pulsar Journal on topics ranging from inflation theory to dark matter. His private observatory incorporates some of the latest software and telescopic equipment for recording and enhancing videos of solar system objects, thus allowing his students to explore the wonders of science and experience research with real time data.