About the Course

Advanced Topics in Physics: Special Relativity

If a woman travels to a nearby star system at close to the speed of light, she will return much younger than her twin sister, who stayed home. This is just one of the discoveries revealed by Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, which revolutionized physics. Perhaps the most famous equation in science, E = mc2, revealed that matter and energy are equivalent, setting the stage for atomic bombs and nuclear power plants. It showed that an object’s length depends on its speed relative to an observer, that the passage of time depends on relative motion, and that an object’s mass varies with speed. This course explores the problems and inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics, then shifts focus to Einstein’s groundbreaking solution, the Special Theory of Relativity. Through class discussions and extensive problem solving, you’ll learn about the principle of relativity and the light postulate, simultaneity, relativistic kinematic and dynamic calculations, light cones, k-calculus, and Minkowski space, and explore mathematical concepts underlying Einstein’s general theory of relativity and how they can help us understand the universe.

Typical Class Size: 18-20

Course Overview

Summer Dates & Locations

Registration deadline:

Session One

The Johns Hopkins University
Residential cost: $6,819
Commuter cost: $5,999

Session Two

The Johns Hopkins University
Residential cost: $6,819
Commuter cost: $5,999

Testing and Prerequisites

  Math Verbal
Required Level CTY-Level Not required
Check your eligibility using existing test scores If you do not have existing test scores:

Students must achieve qualifying scores on an advanced assessment to be eligible for CTY programs. If you don’t have qualifying scores, you have several different testing options. We’ll help you find the right option for your situation.

Sign up for Testing Learn More

Course Prerequisites

Advanced Topics in Physics: Special Relativity requires:

1 prerequisite

Algebra II and trigonometry, and either CTY’s Fast-Paced High School Physics or at least a B in conceptual physics or high school physics

Cost and Financial Aid

  • Tuition
    • Varies
  • Application fee
    • Nonrefundable Application Fee - $50 (Waived for financial aid applicants)
    • Nonrefundable International Fee - $250 (outside US only)

Financial Aid is available

We are committed to serving all talented youth regardless of financial circumstances. Financial assistance is available based on need.

Learn More

Course Materials

Please acquire all course materials by the course start date, unless noted as perishable. Items marked as “perishable” should not be acquired until the student needs them in the course. If you have questions about these materials or difficulty locating them, please contact [email protected].

Sample Reading

These titles have been featured in past sessions of the course, and may be included this summer. CTY provides students with all texts; no purchase is required.

  • Spacetime Physics, Edwin F. Taylor and John Archibald Wheeler

Technical Requirements

Students must bring a tablet, laptop computer, or Chromebook for use during the session. A smartphone will not be sufficient.

About Science and Engineering at CTY

Explore space and our planet

In our Introduction to Astronomy course, we’ll visit a nearby observatory or planetarium, see what the cosmos looks like through various spectra, and immerse ourselves in the science and technology that bring the universe closer to home. In Marine Ecology, we’ll visit local wetlands and tidepools, observe flora and fauna, collect water samples and analyze them for clues about their health and humans’ impact. And in The Global Environment, we will explore the human impact on our environment and generate proposals for addressing climate change.

Bond over chemistry

Our chemistry courses help you see the world differently, starting at the atomic level. The Edible World gives budding chefs and science lovers a glimpse into the chemical reactions that happen when we make food, and the chemical makeup of meals and treats we eat every day. In our Crystals and Polymers course, we’ll synthesize slime, grow rock candy, and isolate strawberry DNA to learn about the molecular structure of naturally occurring gems and human-produced plastics. In Chemistry in Society, we’ll consider how the chemicals in products can both enhance and degrade the world around us; produce biodiesel in a lab to understand alternative fuels; and prepare aspirin to learn about the healing and toxic properties of pharmaceuticals.

Meet our instructors and staff