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SI151V Introductory Relativity Theory 6.0 credits

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Headings with content from the Course syllabus SI151V (Spring 2024–) are denoted with an asterisk ( )

Content and learning outcomes

Course contents

Einstein's theory of relativity consists of two parts, firstly the special theory of relativity whose formulation and most important results are dealt with in this course, and secondly the general theory of relativity which is not part of the course and which deals with the law of gravitation. The special theory of relativity leads to new ways of looking at the fundamental concepts of space and time, leading to a drastic revision of central parts of Newton's classical physics. The classical physics view of time and space is discussed and specifically demonstrated how the classical physics formulation leads to errors at speeds close to the speed of light. Furthermore, the basic assumption of the special theory of relativity is formulated that the speed of light in a vacuum is a constant, an assumption that has very far-reaching consequences. The experimental basis for the theory of relativity is discussed. The most important results in the theory of relativity are treated: time dilation, length contraction, simultaneity, relativistic Doppler effect as well as the twin paradox and other paradoxes. Furthermore, relativity theory's extension of classical mechanics and Einstein's famous formula E=mc2 are discussed.

Mathematical treatment of coordinate transformations (Lorentz transformations) and space-time diagrams are included as well as relativistic collisions and decays. The course includes many important practical applications and phenomena where the theory of relativity plays a decisive role, such as maintaining a time standard with atomic clocks, GPS, the creation of new particles such as the Higgs particle at CERN and conditions for human space travel.

Intended learning outcomes

After completing the course, the student must be able to:

  • Explain the starting points of the theory of relativity and how these revise basic concepts in physics such as space, time and simultaneity.
  • Describe how the concepts of future, past and present must be changed to make sense within the special theory of relativity and determine if and how two given events can affect each other.
  • Transform time and space between different observers moving relative to each other and show how these transformations lead to length contraction and time dilation.
  • Formulate the paradoxes of relativity and solve them using Lorentz transformations, the Doppler effect and other tools from special relativity.
  • Handle the relationship between energy and mass, E=mc², in both conceptual and mathematically formulated problems, as well as perform simpler kinematic calculations.
  • Apply the theory of relativity to everyday phenomena and technology, where it plays a decisive role, and also calculate the size of the relativistic effects.

Course disposition

No information inserted

Literature and preparations

Specific prerequisites

Basic qualification and qualification in the following subjects: Mathematics D/Mathematics 3c, Physics B/Physics 2.

Recommended prerequisites

Basic qualification and special qualification in the following subjects: Mathematics D/ Mathematics 3c, Physics B/ Physics 2 and Chemistry A/ Chemistry 1 with the lowest grade passed.


The course requires no equipment


The course does not require literature

Examination and completion

If the course is discontinued, students may request to be examined during the following two academic years.

Grading scale

P, F


  • TEN1 - Homework examination 1, 2.0 credits, grading scale: P, F
  • TEN2 - Homework examination 2, 2.0 credits, grading scale: P, F
  • TEN3 - Homework examination 3, 2.0 credits, grading scale: P, F

Based on recommendation from KTH’s coordinator for disabilities, the examiner will decide how to adapt an examination for students with documented disability.

The examiner may apply another examination format when re-examining individual students.

Opportunity to complete the requirements via supplementary examination


Opportunity to raise an approved grade via renewed examination



Ethical approach

  • All members of a group are responsible for the group's work.
  • In any assessment, every student shall honestly disclose any help received and sources used.
  • In an oral assessment, every student shall be able to present and answer questions about the entire assignment and solution.

Further information

Course web

Further information about the course can be found on the Course web at the link below. Information on the Course web will later be moved to this site.

Course web SI151V

Offered by

Main field of study

Physics, Technology

Education cycle

First cycle

Add-on studies



Mattias Blennow (

Supplementary information

internet-based distance course, the course is applied for via for both program students and external students who want to read the course.