Montana State University

PHSX 405-801: Special Relativity

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Sep 14-Dec 04, 2015
Credit: 3 undergraduate
Tuition & Fees: $910.65 NSTA members 10% discount
Instructor(s): Gregory Reinemer

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Course Description

This course approaches Einstein's theory of Special Relativity with a geometric perspective instead of through the Lorentz Transformation used in most introductory texts. There are two advantages. First, since geometry is the foundation for General Relativity (GR), this approach affords a seamless transition for students taking GR in the spring. Secondly, it leads to a more useful method for problem-solving in SR (Special Relativity) and with a modified Pythagorean Theorem and spacetime diagrams we can answer any question with confidence. The first part of the course builds these problem-solving techniques; then we demystify the various “paradoxes” in SR, which are really just naive questions rather than true paradoxes. Toward the end we explore the implications for energy and momentum conservation necessary for analyzing particle collisions at relativistic speeds.

Note: This course is a prerequisite for General Relativity, which is scheduled for spring semester 2016.

Meeting Place and Times

Teachers log into the course at a time of day that best fits their schedule. While the course is in session it will be necessary to login at least 4-6 times per week. Typically you will spend 10-12 hours each week either online or offline working on course related assignments to stay current and successfully complete this 3 credit upper level undergraduate course. If you are unfamiliar with this field of study and/or method of delivery, you may require more time.


Gregory Reinemer, PhD. in physics from Montana State University, Bozeman MT. He is a veteran online instructor and has been teaching Special Relativity for MSU for nine years.


Satisfactory completion of an introductory physics course.

Target Audience

This course is designed primarily for high school science teachers. However, college undergraduates are welcome and special high school students may be considered on recommendation of their teacher.

Time Commitment:

10-12 hours per week. If you are unfamiliar with this field of study and/or method of delivery, you may require more time.

Tuition and Fees

 Program Fee $158.70
 Computer Fee$10.65
 Distributed Learning Fee$75.00

A $30 registration fee is also charged once per semester.

The costs above assume that you are taking only MSU Extended University courses during the semester that the course is offered. If you also registered for courses through the MSU Registrar, the regular MSU fee structure may apply.

A $40 late fee will be assessed if payment is not posted to your account by 3 pm (Mountain Time) of the course start date (or the business day before if the course starts on a weekend or a holiday).

To learn more about tuition and fees, please see the University Business Services' Student Accounts Web page.

NSTA Members are eligible to receive a 10% discount on tuition.

Required Books/Materials

  • Taylor, E., and Wheeler, A.; Spacetime Physics, 2nd Edition. W.H. Freeman, 1992.

You are on your own to purchase Spacetime Physics. It is available through

Computer Requirements:

  • Computer running Windows XP Service Pack 3 or newer or Mac OS X.5 (Leopard) or higher
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Internet access
  • Ideally, homework will be submitted electronically as a Microsoft Word document, but other options will be considered on an individual basis.
  • You will need to use an equation editor for homework. Word has a built-in editor that works fine, but it may not have been installed automatically with Office. Another option is MathType, an editor that replaces Microsoft Equation in Word. There is also an equation editor in D2L, your web interface with the course, for use in the online discussion.
  • You will also need to download and learn how to use Geogebra, a free drawing/math program you can download at Geogebra (

This course uses a learning management system. You will learn more closer to the course start date.

Do not let the software requirements stop you from taking this course. We are willing to work with you and your system.

For More Information

regarding registration, please contact Kelly Boyce by phone at (800)282-6062 or (406)994-6812, or by email at

For questions regarding course content, please contact Gregory Reinemer at

How to Register

Register Online

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