For questions involving consideration of the shortest (or longest) path between two points in a curved space (e.g. a straight line between two points on the surface of a sphere such as the earth).

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53
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4answers
3k views

GR and my journey to the centre of the Earth

[General Relativity] basically says that the reason you are sticking to the floor right now is that the shortest distance between today and tomorrow is through the center of the Earth. ...
23
votes
4answers
1k views

The Lagrangian as a metric

My question is, can the (classical) Lagrangian be thought of as a metric? That is, is there a meaningful sense in which we can think of the least-action path from the initial to the final ...
21
votes
4answers
3k views

What does this depiction of a black hole in the movie Interstellar mean?

I was expecting a whirlpool in 3D and the matter glowing from friction as it nears the center, as I expected a event horizon to be negligible visually. How does this depiction work? How big is the ...
19
votes
3answers
3k views

Why do objects follow geodesics in spacetime?

Trying to teach myself general relativity. I sort of understand the derivation of the geodesic equation ...
18
votes
1answer
530 views

Do light waves precisely follow null geodesic paths in General Relativity?

In special relativity one may show that a plane wave solution of Maxwell's equations (in a vacuum), of the form $A^a=C^a\mathrm{e}^{\mathrm{i}\psi}$ has the following properties: The normal ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

To which extent is general relativity a gauge theory?

In quantum mechanics, we know that a change of frame -- a gauge transform -- leaves the probability of an outcome measurement invariant (well, the square modulus of the wave-function, i.e. the ...
16
votes
2answers
897 views

How does one measure space-like geodesics? Or: What is the physical interpretation of space-like geodesics?

In general relativity, time-like geodesics are the trajectories of free-falling test particles, parametrized by proper time. Thus, they are easy to interpret in physical terms and are easy to measure ...
10
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the physical meaning of the affine parameter for null geodesic?

For time-like geodesic, the affine parameter is the proper time $\tau$ or its linear transform, and the geodesic equation is ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

AdS Space Boundary and Geodesics

I'm new to working with AdS space and am primarily concerned with black holes. I'm just playing round with the metric for AdS$_4$ $$ds^2=-f(r)dt^2+f^{-1}(r)dr^2+r^2d\zeta^2$$ for $f(r)=r^2+m $, ...
10
votes
2answers
529 views

How can a point-like particle “feel” gravity, if locally the curvature of spacetime is always flat?

I imagine a point-like particle can only experience the local properties of spacetime. But locally there is no curvature and no gravity, as it is often stated that Locally, as expressed in the ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Equation of motion of a photon in a given metric

I have this metric: $$ds^2=-dt^2+e^tdx^2$$ and I want to find the equation of motion (of x). for that i thought I have two options: using E.L. with the Lagrangian: $L=-\dot t ^2+e^t\dot x ^2 $. ...
9
votes
1answer
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 ...
8
votes
2answers
770 views

Orbits around the Photon sphere of a black hole (Schwarzschild coordinates)

This is a follow-up question to the answer given at What is the exact gravitational force between two masses including relativistic effects?. Unfortunately the author hasn't been online for a few ...
8
votes
1answer
775 views

In general relativity, are light-like curves light-like geodesics?

Just as the title. If a curve is light-like, i.e. a null-curve, is it definitely a null geodesic?
8
votes
1answer
3k views

Physical significance of Killing vector field along geodesic

Let us denote by $X^i=(1,\vec 0)$ the Killing vector field and by $u^i(s)$ a tangent vector field of a geodesic, where $s$ is some affine parameter. What physical significance do the scalar quantity ...
7
votes
2answers
748 views

Finding 3-Sphere Christoffel connection coefficients using variational calculus, Sean Carrol problem

I have A 3-Sphere with coordinates $x^{\mu} = (\psi,\theta,\phi)$ and the following metric: \begin{equation} ds^2 = d\psi^2 + \text{sin}^2\psi(d\theta^2 + \text{sin}^2\theta d\phi^2) \end{equation} ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

What does it mean for objects to follow the curvature of space?

In science documentaries that touch on general relativity, it is often said that gravitational pull isn't an actual a pull (as described by classical physics), but rather one body travelling in a ...
7
votes
2answers
338 views

Killing vectors in flat FLRW metric

I have the flat FLRW metric, $$ ds^2=-dt^2+a(t)^2(dx^2+dy^2+dz^2) $$ and a geodesic $\gamma(s)=(t(s),x(s),y(s),z(s))$ with parameter $s$. Two of the Killing vectors of the metric are $ \partial_x$ ...
7
votes
2answers
293 views

How warped spacetime bends trajectories of light and moving objects?

I fail to see why the light follows something like the blue line and not the green line on the attached image. Figure 1 - light bends around warped spacetime Afaik. something similar happens ...
6
votes
1answer
241 views

Null geodesics in uniform gravitational field metric

I'm trying to understand the null geodesics in the metric: $$\mathrm{d}s^2 = -(1+gz)^2 \mathrm{d}t^2 + \mathrm{d}z^2 + \mathrm{d}x^2$$ In particular I'm wondering if the following intuition is ...
6
votes
1answer
771 views

Geodesic deviation equation - why does the ordinary second derivative give the correct answer?

I've calculated the correct answer to my problem, but don't understand one of the assumptions I made when doing so. I used the geodesic deviation equation ...
6
votes
1answer
792 views

Two formulas for a particle's acceleration

While on a class my teacher was taking about particle's motion in space. At some point she said the following: Consider that the particle's path is described by a curve in space defined by the ...
6
votes
1answer
133 views

How does a geodesic equation on an n-manifold deal with singularities?

My general premise is that I want to investigate the transformations between two distinct sets of vertices on n-dimensional manifolds and then find applications to theoretical physics by: ...
6
votes
3answers
346 views

Examples in which the light maximizes the optical path length

I posted a similar question about geodesics on Math.SE. Many sources (Wikibooks for instance) claim that the light could maximize the optical path length in some cases. But I don't think it's actually ...
6
votes
4answers
999 views

Lagrangian for relativistic massless point particle

For relativistic massive particle, the action is $$S ~=~ -m_0 \int ds ~=~ -m_0 \int d\lambda ~\sqrt{ g_{\mu\nu} \dot{x}^{\mu}\dot{x}^{\nu}} ~=~ \int d\lambda \ L,$$ where $ds$ is the proper time of ...
6
votes
2answers
388 views

Wave packet in curved spacetime

It is known that the classical equation of motion for a scalar field wave packet on a curved spacetime background gives the geodesic trajectory (the e.o.m. is $(\nabla_\mu \nabla^\mu + m^2) \Phi=0$). ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Geodesics equations via variational principle

I would like to recover the (timelike) geodesics equations via the variational principle of the following action: $$ \mathcal{S}[x] = -m \int d\tau = -m \int \sqrt{-g_{\mu\nu}\,dx^{\mu}\,dx^{\nu}} $$ ...
5
votes
1answer
460 views

Geodesics in AdS3

I'm having some trouble doing an easy computation with the AdS space. I'm considering $\text{AdS}_3$ space with the Poincaré coordinates, so the metric reads $$ds^2 = \frac{R^2}{z^2}(dz^2 - dt^2 + ...
5
votes
1answer
164 views

Geodesics in a point mass universe

This question may reflect my (lack of) knowledge about general relativity, please ask for any clarifications or note any corrections in the comments and I'll try to address them. The Schwarzschild ...
5
votes
1answer
142 views

Curved paths through spacetime when standing still?

I have heard that falling objects fall at the same rate irrespective of their mass. They are 'following straight line paths through curved spacetime'. Does this mean that objects that accelerate in ...
5
votes
1answer
262 views

Why doesn't this metric cover all of de Sitter space?

I'm working on a problem from Carroll's Spacetime and Geometry. Supposedly I should be able to use the geodesic equatio ...
5
votes
2answers
61 views

Wald's General Relativity, section 6.3 Page 144

I cannot understand how he reaches the conclusion in equation 6.3.36 and 6.3.37; even the terminology is somewhat confusing. This is a problem of bending of light under gravitational field. This is ...
5
votes
1answer
156 views

Is there a Maupertuis principle for General Relativity?

The motion of a point particle in classical mechanics is given by Newton's equation, $\mathbf{F}=m\mathbf{a}$. Suppose all forces considered are conservative and we have a constant total energy $h$. ...
5
votes
1answer
130 views

How is the Lagrangian defined in GR?

Reading about the Schwarzschild metric in general relativity I see that sometimes $$L=g_{\mu\nu}\dot{x}^{\mu}\dot{x}^{\nu}$$ and sometimes $$L=\sqrt{g_{\mu\nu}\dot{x}^{\mu}\dot{x}^{\nu}}.$$ Which is ...
5
votes
1answer
63 views

What's the definition of incompleteness of a coordinate system and a spacetime?

I always see in GR textbooks that some coordinates or some spacetime is incomplete, such as Rindler spacetime and spacetially flat FRW universe with only positive cosmological constant. This ...
5
votes
1answer
3k views

Can anyone please explain Hawking-Penrose Singularity Theorems and geodesic incompleteness?

Can anyone please explain Hawking-Penrose Singularity Theorems and geodesic incompleteness? In easy to understand plain English please.
5
votes
1answer
1k views

Geodesic Equation from energy-momentum conservation

I've been reading the excelent review from Eric Poisson found here. While studying it I stumbled in a proof that I can't make... I can't find a way to go from Eq.(19.3) to the one before Eq.(19.4) ...
5
votes
1answer
354 views

Ray tracing in General Relativity

I would like to find out what one would see at the Schwarzschild radius of a massive non-rotating black hole, if the black hole is surrounded by a bright ring. For that, I would place the observer at ...
4
votes
3answers
10k views

Why does light always travel in a straight line?

No matter the frame light is in, it always moves in a straight line in that frame. Why is that? It doesn't seem like something to me that should necessarily be true. If some one runs forward and sends ...
4
votes
4answers
575 views

Geodesic Equation from variation: Is the squared lagrangian equivalent?

It is well known that geodesics on some manifold $M$, covered by some coordinates ${x_\mu}$, say with a Riemannian metric can be obtained by an action principle . Let $C$ be curve $\mathbb{R} \to M$, ...
4
votes
1answer
771 views

How do we know the geodesic is a minimum?

The geodesic equation is derived from the Euler-Lagrange equation, which (as I understand it) is a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure that the geodesic is a minimum. The introductory GR ...
4
votes
1answer
186 views

Is the zero acceleration path also the shortest path between two points?

In flat, free, Euclidean space, the shortest path and the zero acceleration path are the same path, which is a straight line. However, in general relativity, is the zero acceleration path also the ...
4
votes
1answer
175 views

A question about the higher-order Weyl variation for the geodesic distance

I have a question in deriving Eqs. (3.6.15b) and (3.6.15c) in Polchinski's string theory vol I p. 105. Given $$\Delta (\sigma,\sigma') = \frac{ \alpha'}{2} \ln d^2 (\sigma, \sigma') ...
4
votes
1answer
168 views

“WLOG” re Schwarzschild geodesics

Why, when studying geodesics in the Schwarzschild metric, one can WLOG set $$\theta=\frac{\pi}{2}$$ to be equatorial? I assume it is so because when digging around the internet, most references seem ...
4
votes
2answers
536 views

Local inertial coordinates/Fermi normal coordinates

It is said that we can introduce local inertial coordinates/Fermi normal coordinates for any timelike geodesic. But why only for timelike geodesics? What about null geodesics? Perhaps it has to do ...
4
votes
1answer
121 views

Sign of $dr$ in Schwarzschild geodesics

There is an equation that relates energy $E$, angular momentum $L$ and other constants and variables to find $\left(\frac{dr}{d\tau}\right)^2$ in a plane. ...
4
votes
1answer
584 views

How far does typical view of clouds/atmosphere extend?

The specific "sub questions" I'm asking are: When you are looking at clouds just on the horizon, how far away would they be? How wide (in km) is that total field of vision at roughly cloud height. ...
4
votes
2answers
179 views

How close can an observer approach the black hole in an unpowered flyby without falling into it?

In classical mechanics by choosing the right trajectory you can approach a planet arbitrarily closely, if there is no atmosphere or anything to slow you down, you can approach the surface then fly ...
4
votes
1answer
213 views

Geodesics in Kerr

I'm interested in plotting the trajectories of null geodesics near an uncharged rotating black hole (described by the Kerr solution) which involves a system of first order differential equations. Kerr ...
4
votes
1answer
203 views

Geodesic Deviation between Test Particles from Gravitational Wave

I'm having trouble understanding how Carroll (Spacetime and Geometry, p.296) explains the effect of a passing gravitational wave on test particles. If we have two geodesics with tangents $\vec{U}$, ...