A set of numbers used to quantify location in space.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

36
votes
5answers
2k views

Why do we need coordinate-free descriptions?

I was reading a book on differential geometry in which it said that a problem early physicists such as Einstein faced was coordinates and they realized that physics does not obey man's coordinate ...
23
votes
5answers
4k views

Conformal transformation/ Weyl scaling are they two different things? Confused!

I see that the weyl transformation is $g_{ab} \to \Omega(x)g_{ab}$ under which Ricci scalar is not invariant. I am a bit puzzled when conformal transformation is defined as those coordinate ...
20
votes
6answers
2k views

Proving that interval preserving transformations are linear

In almost all proofs I've seen of the Lorentz transformations one starts on the assumption that the required transformations are linear. I'm wondering if there is a way to prove the linearity: Prove ...
17
votes
5answers
2k views

What does a frame of reference mean in terms of manifolds?

Because of my mathematical background, I've been finding it hard to relate the physics-talk I've been reading, with mathematical objects. In (say special) relativity, we have a Lorentzian manifold, $...
13
votes
3answers
992 views

Is “now” or “the present moment” properly defined in GR?

My question is about the extent to which "now" is defined in GR. In Minkowski spacetime, it's possible to define a "now" for an inertial observer by finding a spacelike 3-plane such that, in the ...
11
votes
4answers
945 views

Coordinates vs. Geometries: How can we know two coordinate systems describe the same geometry?

Specifically, I'm asking this because I'm taking a class on General Relativity, and in Hartle's book Gravity, in Ch. 12, after having spent some time using Schwarzschild coordinates, we are introduced ...
11
votes
2answers
3k views

Why is light described by a null geodesic?

I'm trying to wrap my head around how geodesics describe trajectories at the moment. I get that for events to be causally connected, they must be connected by a timelike curve, so free objects must ...
11
votes
1answer
351 views

Polar Decomposition of a Complex Scalar Field

People often write a complex scalar field via polar decomposition. What does this parametrization precisely mean? To be more explicit consider the following Lagrangian of a complex scalar field with ...
10
votes
6answers
3k views

Minkowski Metric Signature

When I learned about the Minkowski Space and it's coordinates, it was explained such that the metric turns out to be $$ ds^{2} = -(cdx^{0})^{2} +(dx^{1})^{2} + (dx^{2})^{2} + (dx^{3})^{2} $$ where $ ...
10
votes
3answers
565 views

Age of the universe versus absolute time [duplicate]

In Wikipedia, the age of the universe is defined as the "time elapsed since the Big Bang" while "time" links to "the cosmological time parameter of comoving coordinates" which itself links to "the ...
9
votes
4answers
184 views

How do we know the Schwarzschild solution contains an object of mass $M$?

The Schwarzschild metric is $$ds^2 = - \left( 1 - \frac{2GM}{r} \right) dt^2 + \left(1-\frac{2GM}{r}\right)^{-1} dr^2 + r^2 d\Omega^2.$$ In Carroll's GR book, it is claimed that $M$ is the mass of the ...
8
votes
2answers
813 views

Is there any situation in Physics where the Right Hand Rule is not arbitrary?

We use Right Hand Rule in calculating Torque not because that's the direction torque is pointing in the real, physical world, but because it's a convenient way to indicate the "sign" of the rotation ...
8
votes
0answers
726 views

Understanding and deriving ellipsoidal coordinates geometrically

If one were to read old texts on mathematical physics, like Maxwell, Morse & Feshbach, Hilbert and Courant, Jacobi, etc... they'd find ellipsoidal coordinates popping up, but the authors derive ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

What is considered now over astronomical distances?

For the sake of discussion, let's say that Mars is exactly 5 light-minutes away and that Earth and Mars are moving with the exact same velocity so that special relativistic effects are irrelevant. Let'...
7
votes
1answer
5k views

How to calculate roll, yaw and pitch angles from 3D co-ordinates (Euler Angles)

I have digitized a video of a flying fly in a 3-dimensional space. At all instants I know the x, y, and z co-oridinates of the following points on the fly's body --- The points are my choice, and ...
7
votes
2answers
483 views

Tensor equations in General Relativity

In the context of general relativity it is often stated that one of the main purposes of tensors is that of making equations frame-independent. Question: why is this true? I'm looking for a ...
7
votes
1answer
186 views

What coordinate system is used to describe planets positions in the universe?

How are planets positions described in the space and in respect to what? For example is Sun the origo and right now at this moment Earth has [coord_X, coord_Y, coord_Z]? or maybe [lng, lat]? Edit1:...
6
votes
3answers
246 views

From Manifold to Manifold?

Tensor equations are supposed to stay invariant in form wrt coordinate transformations where the metric is preserved. It is important to take note of the fact that invariance in form of the tensor ...
6
votes
2answers
562 views

Why isn't invariant notation common?

In principle, one can write quantities in a manifestly invariant - rather than covariant - fashion in e.g. special relativity. For example, rather than writing just $x^\mu$, we could write the basis ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Coordinate Transformation of Scalar Fields in QFT

By definition scalar fields are independent of coordinate system, thus I would expect a scalar field $\psi [x]$ would not change under the transformation $x^\mu \to x^\mu + \epsilon^\mu $. Correct? ...
6
votes
1answer
252 views

Geometric formulation of the equivalence principle

Let $(M,g)$ be a $4$-dimensional Lorentzian manifold. It is well know that given $(U,\psi=(x^1,\ldots,x^4))$ local chart around some $p\in M$, it is posible to find a change of coordinates given by $(...
6
votes
1answer
3k views

How to determine satellite position in J2000 from latitude, longitude and distance from Earth?

Due to my task of writing orbit prediction routines I am trying to understand the reference frames better and how to use them ( particularly for Earth orbits ). I think I get the idea of what ECI (...
6
votes
2answers
332 views

Kerr Metric in Orthogonal form

I've seen the Kerr metric usually presented in the Boyer-Lindquist coordinates where there is a cross term in the $d\phi$ and $dt$ term. I've done a good bit of searching and cannot find any ...
6
votes
3answers
230 views

How do we measure Schwarzschild coordinates?

In special relativity, we make a big fuss about setting up inertial frames of reference, and then constructing coordinate systems using networks of clocks and rulers. This gives an unambiguous ...
6
votes
5answers
896 views

Does coordinate time have physical meaning?

I have always been a little confused by the meaning of the "$t$" which appears in spacetime intervals or metrics in general relativity. I concluded that $t$ was just a mathematical thing which allow ...
6
votes
0answers
178 views

Is there an equivalent of Rindler coordinates for an object in centripetal motion?

Rindler coordinates are a parametrization of (a subset of) Minkowski space that are "natural" for an object experiencing constant acceleration - more specifically, an object experiencing constant ...
5
votes
2answers
197 views

Why do we use orthogonal axes?

I have been asked several times that “why do we use orthogonal axes in coordinate systems?” and I was always replying that “because of simplicity”. But, today morning, someone asked me that question ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

How to understand the definition of vector and tensor?

Physics texts like to define vector as something that transform like a vector and tensor as something that transform like a tensor, which is different from the definition in math books. I am having ...
5
votes
3answers
451 views

A thought experiment on vision and curved spacetime

What follows is a long self-made example to deal with my conceptual issues of visualizing curved spacetime. Imagine an observer floating somewhere in space. He feels no strain on his body, ...
5
votes
3answers
181 views

Velocity in a turning reference frame

I often see the relation that $\vec v=\vec v_0+ \vec \omega \times \vec r$ in a turning reference frame, but where does it actually come from and how do I arrive at the acceleration being $$\vec a=\...
5
votes
3answers
176 views

Integral in different coordinate systems

In Griffiths' electrodynamics book, he uses the equation, $$\nabla^2\mathbf{A}=-\mu_0 \mathbf{J},$$ to state that $$\mathbf{A}(\mathbf{r}) = \frac{\mu_0}{4\pi}\int\frac{\mathbf{J}(\mathbf{r}')}{|\...
5
votes
2answers
139 views

Kerr Metric from rotated Schwarzschild?

Say we have got a system in GR that is described by the Schwazschild metric. Then we perform a coordinate transform that gives the metric in a rotating system. Why is the transformed metric not the ...
5
votes
3answers
702 views

How to prove a symmetric tensor is indeed a tensor?

Our professor defined a rank $(k,l)$ tensor as something that transforms like a tensor as follows: $$T^{\mu_1' \mu_2'...\mu_k'}{}_{\nu_1'\nu_2'...\nu_l'} ~=~ \Lambda^{\mu_1'}{}_{\mu_1}...\Lambda^{\...
5
votes
2answers
546 views

Lorentz transformation in light cone coordinates in string theory

What is the explicit form of the Lorentz transformation changing the light cone coordinates in the light cone gauge in string theory? The extended nature of the strings complicate matters, especially ...
5
votes
1answer
168 views

Curvilinear Coordinates and basis vectors

In these notes, $\frac{\partial \vec{r}} {\partial q_i}$ is stated to form a basis set for the vector space. How does this happen? Also, how does one justify this equation from Goldstein's ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Centrifugal Force and Polar Coordinates

In Classical Mechanics, both Goldstein and Taylor (authors of different books with the same title) talk about the centrifugal force term when solving the Euler-Lagrange equation for the two body ...
5
votes
3answers
361 views

Is the equivalence principle strictly fulfilled by general relativity?

The equivalence principle states The outcome of any local experiment in a freely falling laboratory is independent of the velocity of the laboratory and its location in spacetime. Any real local ...
5
votes
1answer
453 views

Is General Relativity applicable for all coordinate systems?

My understanding was that relativistic physics can be expressed in any inertial coordinate system, but not arbitrary systems. That is, no experiment can determine if we are "still" or "moving" at a ...
5
votes
1answer
216 views

Extent of coordinate freedom to set metric components along a spacetime path

If we describe spacetime with a Lorentzian manifold, it is always possible to choose a coordinate system such that at any particular point $x^\alpha$, the components of the metric are: $$ g_{\mu\nu}(x^...
5
votes
1answer
992 views

What do up-left orthogonality has in common with up-down and what is their relationship?

I am familiar with the true (or general) notion of orthogonality, given in the Linear Algebra and Pythagoras theorem derived from the $\vec x \cdot \vec y = 0$. I have also recently got to know that ...
5
votes
1answer
142 views

What is the difference between active and passive transformations in Quantum Mechanics?

I am trying to understand what each transformation means and what their differences are but many books that don't state which transformation they are referring to make it a bit confusing to understand ...
5
votes
3answers
370 views

Coordinates for FLRW metric

In GR, coordinate are just a tool for us to describe the physics, they should be equivalent. However, in standard form of FLRW metric, it can be inferred that the universe is expanding, but we can do ...
5
votes
1answer
572 views

6 independent Einstein field equations?

I can't understand the comment on page 409, Gravitation, by Misner, Thorne, Wheeler It follows that the ten components $G_{\alpha\beta} =8\pi T_{\alpha\beta}$ of the field equation must not ...
5
votes
1answer
751 views

failing to see the conundrum in the Einstein hole argument

I've been reading about the Einstein hole argument, and i fail to understand what makes active diffeomorphisms "special" compared to passive diffeomorphismsm also known as good old coordinate ...
4
votes
3answers
611 views

Clarifying what metric counts as flat space

In (2D) Cartesian coordinates, the Euclidean metric... $$\begin{bmatrix} 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 \end{bmatrix}$$ ...is flat space. If the diagonal elements are exchanged for other real numbers ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Metric tensor in special and general relativity

I'm having trouble understanding the metric tensor in general relativity. What I've understood so far has come from my course lecture notes used in conjunction with "The Road to Reality" by Roger ...
4
votes
4answers
255 views

What makes a coordinate curved?

Bear with me while I try to explain exactly what the question is. The question Can a curvature in time (and not space) cause acceleration? is imagining a coordinate system in which the curvature is ...
4
votes
3answers
267 views

If a Killing vector field is timelike, can it be set to $\partial/\partial t$?

If one has a Killing vector that turned out to be a timelike Killing vector field because of negative norm. Can we set this Killing vector field equal to $\partial/\partial t$?
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Light-cone coordinates

The light-cone coordinates are defined as $$x^{\pm} ~=~\frac{x^0 \pm x^3}{\sqrt{2}}.$$ Then in the light cone coordinates the position 4-vector becomes: $(x^+, x^-, x^1, x^2)$ . Zwiebach, in his A ...
4
votes
3answers
400 views

First Postulate of Special Relativity: What does it mean?

Wikipedia has this quote: Special principle of relativity: If a system of coordinates K is chosen so that, in relation to it, physical laws hold good in their simplest form, the same laws hold ...