Our common-sense conception of space, time and matter posits that everything is made up of tiny indivisible, unchangeable particles (called atoms) that move in a vast void or empty space. Advocated by Greek philosophers, Democritus and Leucippus in 5th century BCE, this simplistic notion has survived major revisions of our world view and is still held by the lay, but educated masses . Likened to an empty stage, space is sometime regarded as the arena for matter to stage its play; in the form of motion. How accurate and complete is this view? Is space a passive entity that behaves as a place holder for matter to make it presence? Or does it have physical reality, the sort that we usually ascribe to matter? Can space, if it exists in the physical sense, be independent from matter that populates it? What, then, are the attributes of space and time that would allow one to measure and hence ascribe physical reality?
In this module we retrace key developments that led Einstein to his theory of General Relativity. This module introduces students to some of the assumptions and ideas that underlie our current conception of space and time. The three strands, namely the philosophical, mathematical and physical aspects, are used as frameworks for examining the issues related to the subject matter.