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
votes
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. I love ...
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 ...
22
votes
4answers
4k 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 $$\frac{d^{2}x^{\alpha}}{d\tau^{2}}+\Gamma_{\gamma\beta}^{\alpha}\frac{dx^{\beta}}{d\tau}\frac{...
19
votes
2answers
1k views

Chasing someone who has fallen into a black hole

Assume that my friend and I decided to explore a black hole. I parked the spaceship in a circular orbit safely away from the horizon. He puts on his spacesuit with a jet pack and carefully travels ...
18
votes
1answer
553 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 $k:=\...
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
948 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 (...
11
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 $, $\...
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 ...
10
votes
2answers
917 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
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 $$\frac{\mathrm d^{2}x^{\mu}}{\mathrm d\tau^{2}}+\Gamma_{\rho\sigma}^{\mu}...
10
votes
2answers
547 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 $. ...
8
votes
2answers
762 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} ...
8
votes
1answer
790 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
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
368 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
412 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 $(\nabla_\mu \nabla^\mu + m^2) \Phi=0$). ...
7
votes
2answers
302 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
340 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 valid:...
6
votes
1answer
819 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 $$\frac{D^{2}\xi^{\mu}}{D\lambda^{2}}+R_{\...
6
votes
1answer
799 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
136 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
378 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
1k 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 ...
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
493 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 + dx^...
5
votes
1answer
169 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
266 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 $$\frac{d^2x^\mu}{d\lambda^2}+\Gamma^\mu_{\rho\sigma}\frac{dx^\sigma}{d\lambda}\...
5
votes
2answers
62 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
157 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
131 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
0answers
135 views

View of the sky from inside a black hole

Consider an observer located at radius $r_o$ from a Schwarzschild black hole of radius $r_s$. The observer may be inside the event horizon ($r_o < r_s$). Suppose the observer receives a light ray ...
5
votes
1answer
375 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
3answers
739 views

Space-Time Curvature Depends on Relative Speed

When the mass of a planet causes the curvature of space-time we see that an approaching free-falling object deviates its path towards the planet. We also see the amount of that deviation depends on it'...
4
votes
4answers
618 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
784 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
191 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
179 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') \tag{3.6.6}$...
4
votes
1answer
170 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
546 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
2answers
357 views

Geodesic for Electromagnetic forces

Considering the fact that electrons tend to take the maximum conductance path to flow from A to B. This is justified by saying that $\vec{E}$ is larger in conductors. But once similarly it was thought ...
4
votes
1answer
122 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. $$\left(\frac{dr}{d\tau}\right)^2=\frac{E^2}{...