About the Course

Advanced Topics in Physics: Special Relativity

  • Grade 9+
  • CTY-Level

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

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

Students should bring basic school supplies like pens, notebooks, and folders to their summer program. You will be notified of any additional items needed before the course begins. All other materials will be provided by CTY.

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 Mathematics at CTY

Explore the study of shapes

Geometry courses allow students to describe the world around them in basic and profound ways. Our younger students learn about shape, scale, and proportion in Geometry and Spatial Sense. Middle School students explore beautiful applications of lines, angles, non-Euclidean geometry, and more in Geometry through Art. And advanced students explore the underlying mathematics and fundamental characteristics of shapes, distance, and continuous deformations in our proof-based Topology course.

Dive deep into logic and reasoning

Our courses in formal logic give you the tools to question the world around you. Younger students are introduced to different types of reasoning, as well as the strengths and weaknesses inherent in various forms of critical analysis in Inductive and Deductive Reasoning. Older students explore how logical reasoning can explain (or fail to explain) counter-intuitive results in Paradoxes and Infinities, or take a more rigorous approach to formal logic in Mathematical Logic.

Meet our instructors and staff