**Caltech's Physics 237-2002**

**Gravitational
Waves**

*Course Description*

This course is an introduction to all major aspects
of gravitational waves:

- Their physical and mathematical descriptions;
- Their generation, propagation and interaction withdetectors;
- Their astrophysical sources (the big bang, early-universe phenomena,
binary stars, black holes, supernovae, neutron stars, ...); and
- Gravitational wave detectors (their design, underlying physics, noise
and noise control, and data analysis) with emphasis on earth-based interferometers
(LIGO, VIRGO, GEO600, TAMA) and space-based interferometers (LISA), but also
including resonant-mass detectors, doppler tracking of spacecraft, pulsar
timing, and polarization of the cosmic microwave background.

The course is designed for physics graduate students or advanced undergraduates,
and for scientists and engineers who have been working in other fields and
are contemplating switching to gravitational-wave research -- experimental,
theoretical, or both. The live audience for the course [at Caltech in
winter & spring 2002] was composed of about 1/3 advanced undergraduates,
1/3 graduate students, and 1/3 postdoctoral or higher-level scientists and
engineers. Mihai Bondarescu (a first-year grad student) had the idea
to make videos of all the lectures and put them on the web along with all
the other course materials, so that students and scientists elsewhere could
benefit from this unique and timely course. Mihai was the sparkplug
and driving force behind the videos and this course website.

Prerequisites for this course are an understanding of classical mechanics
at a level a little below the book *Classical Mechanics* by H. Goldstein,
and of electrodynamics at a level a little below *the book Classical Electrodynamics*
by J.D. Jackson. An understanding of special relativity at the level
of these texts is assumed, but no prior acquaintance with general relativity
is required: A brief introduction to general relativity is given in
Lectures 3, 4 and 5.

There is no textbook for this course. (No appropriate textbook covering
the entire field has yet been written; this subject is too new and is developing
too rapidly.) However, for each lecture, a list of reading material
is provided. The readings are divided into two classes, *suggested
reading* (an amount appropriate for a course like this), and *supplementary
reading* (much larger amounts, for people who seek a deeper and more detailed
understanding).

For each lecture (except those in the last week of each term, Weeks 10 and
19) a set of exercises is provided, along with detailed solutions. The
Caltech students who took this course were expected to solve reasonably well
about half of the exercises. Upon turning in their solutions for grading,
the students were given the "official" solutions provided on this web site.

I am far from happy with this course. To some extent it grew organically
as the winter and spring passed, refusing to conform itself to my (somewhat
ill-conceived) plans. Next time around the course will surely be better,
and on the third pass it might actually be very good. However, I think
that this first version of the course is sufficiently good to be a useful
resource for students, scientists, and engineers who wish to learn the basics
of gravitational-wave science at this seminal epoch in this field's maturation.

**Kip S. Thorne**

** **Caltech

28 July 2002

**Links to this course's
other web pages:**

Course
home page

Outlines of course:

Part
A - Gravitational-Wave Theory and Sources

Part
B - Gravitational-Wave Detection: original outline

Part
B - Gravitational-Wave Detection: alternative outline, with the order
of the lectures made more logical

Course Materials