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Suppose two parties $A$ and $B$, some distance apart and at rest relative to each other both had control of one massive local object each.

If party $A$ lifted their local object upward relative to $B$, than the total force of gravity on $B$'s mass would angle upwards slightly.

If B then measured this shift in gravitational pull over time a communication wave could be formed between $A$ and $B$.

Wouldn't this communication channel operate instantaneously? How does this not violate the laws of causality with respect to the speed of light?

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Possible duplicate: physics.stackexchange.com/q/26742/2451 –  Qmechanic Sep 28 '12 at 5:38
This was pretty much what got Einstein thinking about gravity and prompted him to come up with general relativity after he had developed his theory of special relativity. He realized that Newton's description of gravity was in conflict with the basis of his theory ($c$ is constant and 'the speed limit') so the description of gravity had to be adjusted. And boy did he adjust it. :) –  Wouter Jan 19 '13 at 20:30
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Alas, no, the communication would not be instantaneous. This is a valiant attempt, and it's been considered by many people before, since we're mostly all taught Newtonian gravity before we're taught about the speed of light, and the former is then never treated again prior to general relativity.

What happens is the shift in the mass of A causes a disturbance in spacetime (a small perturbation to the background metric) and this disturbance travels outward at a speed no greater than $c$. It's exactly the same as if you moved a charge collection and had someone far away with an electromagnetic receiver (well the GR equations are nonlinear and complicated, but the same principle is at work).

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I had no idea the influence of gravity traveled at the speed of light. Thanks. Need to read GR I guess. –  Andrew Tomazos Sep 28 '12 at 3:41
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You won't be able to see the effect immediately, for example if Sun suddenly vanishes, earth will continue in it's orbit for 8 minutes and 12 seconds before it going straight. Gravity travels at the speed of light...

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See also this Phys.SE post. –  Qmechanic Sep 28 '12 at 14:06
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It hasn’t been positively proven that gravity travels at the speed of light. The effect of gravity on a distant object is felt much quicker than the speed of light.

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"The effect of gravity on a distant object is felt much quicker than the speed of light." is completely wrong. –  Brandon Enright 1 hour ago
First sentence: True. Second sentence: Very Wrong. –  Chris Mueller 3 mins ago
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