Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

There are by now (late 2010) many tests of GTR. GTR is holding up quite well! But, surely, we do not yet have it cornered in every possible way.

In terms of the PPN parameters used to characterize low-order deviations of any theory of gravity from Newtionian ideals, where are the loosest screws? Which PPN parameter is least constrained by experiment? What kinds of experiments would help constrain it?

share|cite|improve this question
4 for those not familiar with it. – David Z Nov 23 '10 at 2:59
I'm not posting this as an answer, because I'm not sure he directly ties this to PPN parameters, but whenever I have a question about GR and experiment, the first place I go is to Clifford Will's review article: – Jerry Schirmer Nov 23 '10 at 3:15
@Jerry: it appears that he does have the relevant information in table 4 of the review. So I'd say that's worthy of being posted as an answer. – David Z Nov 23 '10 at 4:42
The answer seems to be in the Wikipedia link submitted by @David… – Frédéric Grosshans Nov 24 '10 at 15:46
up vote 2 down vote accepted

From the articles linked in the comments:

Parameter  Bound        Effects                             Experiment
---------  -----        -------                             ----------
γ − 1      2.3 x 10^-5  Time delay, Light deflection        Cassini tracking
β − 1      2.3 x 10^-4  Nordtvedt effect, Perihelion shift  Nordtvedt effect
ξ          0.001        Earth tides                         Gravimeter data
α1         10^-4        Orbit polarization                  Lunar laser ranging
α2         4 x 10^-7    Spin precession                     Sun axis' alignment
                                                            with ecliptic
α3         4 x 10^-20   Self-acceleration                   Pulsar spin-down
ζ1         0.02         -                                   Combined PPN bounds
ζ2         4 x 10^-5    Binary pulsar acceleration          PSR 1913+16
ζ3         10^-8        Newton's 3rd law                    Lunar acceleration
ζ4         0.006        -                                   Kreuzer experiment

Where the parameters are so defined:

The parameters $\gamma$ and $\beta$ are the usual Eddington–Robertson–Schiff parameters used to describe the “classical” tests of GR, and are in some sense the most important; they are the only non-zero parameters in GR and scalar-tensor gravity. The parameter $\xi$ is non-zero in any theory of gravity that predicts preferred-location effects such as a galaxy-induced anisotropy in the local gravitational constant GL (also called “Whitehead” effects); $\alpha_1$, $\alpha_2$, $\alpha_3$ measure whether or not the theory predicts post-Newtonian preferred-frame effects; $\zeta_1$, $\zeta_2$, $\zeta_3$, $\zeta_4$, measure whether or not the theory predicts violations of global conservation laws for total momentum.

And these are the GR-predicted values:

γ = β = 1 and α1 = α2 = α3 = ζ1 = ζ2 = ζ3 = ζ4 = ξ = 0

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.