General Relativity and Quantum Fields

Module code: PA4609

Our current understanding of gravity comes from Einstein’s celebrated theory of General Relativity.  It continues to stand the test of time - recent observations of gravitational waves are in precise agreement with predictions made by Einstein more than a century ago.  General Relativity allows us to explore exotic objects like black holes and wormholes which can provide deep insight into our universe.

In contrast, Quantum Field Theory (QFT) is the science of the very small - we can think of it as a relativistic version of quantum mechanics.  Fundamentally QFT allows us to think of the fundamental particles of nature as the result of exciting some fundamental fields which permeate the universe. At first, these two theories seem unrelated, however they are in fact connected- GR is a classical theory and does not include quantum mechanical effects, so if we want to develop a quantum theory of gravity (which still eludes us!) then it makes sense to study the meeting point of these two theories -the black hole. 

In this module we will first explore General Relativity and then give an introduction to Quantum Field Theory.  Finally, we can bring the two together and investigate the quantum effects on Black holes which leads us to Hawking radiation and the information paradox.

Topics covered

  • Differential geometry (mathematics of general relativity)
  • General relativity & black holes
  • Quantum field theory

Learning 

  • 30 hours of lectures
  • 2 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 118 hours of guided independent study

Assessment

  • Coursework (30%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (70%)