The General Relativity Tutorial

John Baez

This is bunch of interconnected web pages that serve as an informal introduction to that beautiful and amazingly accurate theory of gravity called general relativity. The goal is to explain the basic equation in this theory - Einstein's equation - with a minimum of fuss and muss.

If you want, you can dive right in and read the adventures of

This is the fun part! In these tales, the hapless peasant Oz learns general relativity from a grumpy but powerful wizard.

But, unless you are already familiar with general relativity, to follow these adventures you'll need to look at other material from time to time, like this:

Clicking on any of the underlined key concepts will then take you to the corresponding point in this more detailed

When you're here, clicking on any underlined key concept takes you to a still more detailed exposition of that concept.

A more formal presentation of all this material can be found here:

including some extra stuff, but leaving out many other things.

The adventures of Oz and the Wizard originated on the newsgroup sci.physics. Much of them were written by Oz and I, but there are also substantial contributions by Ted Bunn, Ed Green, Keith Ramsay, Bruce Scott, Bronis Vidugiris, and Michael Weiss.

You can also get

as it actually occurred on sci.physics. This has much more detail than the material above, and it's a lot of fun, but it's a bit disorganized. If someone wants to make webpages out of this stuff, please do - and let me have copies.

General relativity is usually written with lots of superscripts and subscripts. Mitchell Charity has kindly improved these web pages so that they look nice. However, not all old web browsers can handle this. If you don't see the word `superscript' raised in this sentence, click here, and you will get the old version of these pages, without nice-looking superscripts and subscripts.

What Next?

This tutorial is no substitute for reading books on general relativity and doing the exercises - just like dipping your toe in the ocean is no substitute for learning to swim.

Unfortunately, the best books on general relativity still cost money. But, they're worth the price. So:

Here are four nontechnical introductions, all quite different in flavor. You can't really learn the details of general relativity from these books, but they're written by world-class experts, and they're a great way to get an intuitive feel for the subject:

Before you get serious about learning general relativity, it helps to have special relativity down cold. For this, try:

When you're ready to actually dive into general relativity, you might start with one of these books:

And when you want to really master general relativity, you'll have to read the classics:

If you want to bone up on your geometry before getting deeper into general relativity you should check out:

To be honest, I must admit to having written a book dealing with general relativity myself:

It concentrates on the mathematics of general relativity and other gauge fields, such as Maxwell's equations and the Yang-Mills equations, which describe the strong and electroweak forces.

"Newton, forgive me; you found the only way which, in your age, was just about possible for a man of highest thought and creative power" - Albert Einstein

© 2006 John Baez