MP352: Special Relativity

Spring 2020 semester (2nd semester of 2019-2020)

Lecturer:   Masud Haque   (

Lectures & Tutorials

Lecture times and locations:     Tuesdays, 12:05, Physics Hall;     Fridays, 16:05, Hall D (Arts Block).

Tutorials:     Wednesdays 10:05, Hall C (Arts Block).

The tutor is Aonghus Hunter-McCabe (


It will be assumed that you have met Special Relativity previously, at the level taught in the first year Mathematical Physics class (MP110) in our department.

You are strongly advised to review Special Relativity at the level of the text of Resnick-Halliday-Walker, i.e., at the level of MP110.

I strongly suggest doing this at the beginning of the semester.

Problem sets

Problem set 03.     Due Monday February 24th.

Problem set 02.     Due Monday February 17th.

Problem set 01.     Due Monday February 10th.

Continuous Assessment and the purpose of problem sets

The plan is to assign one problem set every week. They will be posted on this webpage. The assignments will be due mondays, in the drawer marked 352 near the front door of the Theoretical Physics department.

We might not be able to mark all the assignments; some assignments might go un-marked. We will not announce beforehand which assignments are to be marked, so it will be to your advantage to submit every assignment.

Assignment marks (`continuous assessment') will be counted toward the final module mark only if they are to the students' advantage.
(The policy is module-dependent and varies within the Mathematical Physics department. In some modules, continuous assessment always counts toward the final module mark.)

HOWEVER: Do not think of the assignments as voluntary or optional. Without working on each assignment set, you are likely to get lost quickly, as the module will build on the assignments and assume that you have learned the material you are supposed to learn through doing the assignments.


Here are some derivations of the Lorentz transformations for a standard boost.
If you spot any typos or errors, please let me know.

Material, sources

Special Relativity challenges our intuition and takes effort to digest; so I strongly suggest trying to read a fair bit every week.

For example, you could aim to work through two sections of Nash's notes (below) every week, or a similar amount of work from another text.

Nash notes:

lecture notes of Prof. Charles Nash, who taught MP352 some years ago
This has some overlap with the material covered now in MP352. Unfortunately, the ordering is different.


There are many textbooks covering special relativity. Our library carries a number of these textbooks.
Special relativity is also covered in many textbooks on classical mechanics or electrodynamics/electromagnetism, and often summarized in the beginning of texts on general relativity or particle physics.
I list a selection below.

(I omit publisher and publication date; should be easy enough to find.)

Material available online:

Please let me know if any of the links don't work.

The wikipedia page on Lorentz Transformations contains material very relevant to this module. Highly recommended.

The following `lecture notes' or other links are at various levels; mostly they cover the more elementary half of this module.

In MP352 we discuss the Lorentz group (together with the rotation group and the Poincare group); these are not covered in more elementary treatments or in Nash's notes. The following links might help.

Electromagnetism in special relativity is covered in some of the references given above. In addition:

Widely discussed basic material which are mathematically simple but cause conceptual confusions:

Practice Problems

Problem bank (``problem set 12'')
This is marked as `Problem set 12', but it is really a large collection of problems covering all the module material.
Should be useful for practice and for learning the material more thoroughly.

Solutions to previous exams   +   Sample Exams

Below are solutions to some past exams.
(The length of exams has changed since 2017.)

2018 August (repeat) exam

2018 May exam

2017 May exam

2016 August (repeat) exam

2016 May exam

2015 May exam

Below are sample exams for practice. They are in the style of previous (2017-2018) exams. Future exams may be structured slightly differently, but the material covered and the level of difficulty should be similar.

Sample exam 1

Sample exam 2

Sample exam 3

Sample exam 4