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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18
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
545 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do objects follow geodesics in spacetime?

Trying to teach myself general relativity. I sort of understand the derivation of the geodesic equation ...
13
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
418 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
527 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
2answers
474 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
424 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 $, ...
6
votes
2answers
315 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} ...
6
votes
1answer
483 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?
6
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
164 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$ ...
6
votes
1answer
403 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
98 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: ...
5
votes
1answer
97 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
2k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
301 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
57 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
645 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
169 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
4k 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
1answer
519 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
2answers
372 views

Geodesics equations via variational principle

I would like to recover the (timelike) geodesics equations via the variational principle of the following action: $$ \mathcal{S}[x] = -m \int d\tau = -m \int \sqrt{-g_{\mu\nu}\,dx^{\mu}\,dx^{\nu}} $$ ...
4
votes
3answers
81 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
114 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
121 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
121 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
1answer
106 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
78 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
3answers
589 views

Action for a point particle in a curved spacetime

Is this action for a point particle in a curved spacetime correct? $$\mathcal S =-Mc \int ds = -Mc \int_{\xi_0}^{\xi_1}\sqrt{g_{\mu\nu}(x)\frac{dx^\mu(\xi)}{d\xi} \frac{dx^\nu(\xi)}{d\xi}} \ \ d\xi$$
3
votes
2answers
370 views

Which of these two textbook equations of geodesic deviation is correct?

My previous question Geodesic deviation on a 2-sphere - is this the right track? got shot down as “off topic”, so I'm having a second stab at it. Misner et al's Gravitation (p34) gives the geodesic ...
3
votes
2answers
461 views

Geodesic equations

I am having trouble understanding how the following statement (taken from some old notes) is true: For a 2 dimensional space such that $$ds^2=\frac{1}{u^2}(-du^2+dv^2)$$ the timelike geodesics ...
3
votes
1answer
116 views

Can geodesics in a Lorentzian manifold change their character?

From a physics perspective, it's pretty easy to see why a a massive particle will be restricted to timelike paths, etc. but does the math guarantee that on its own or do we have to impose it? More ...
3
votes
1answer
115 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 + ...
3
votes
2answers
149 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Null geodesic given metric

I (desperately) need help with the following: What is the null geodesic for the space time $$ds^2=-x^2 dt^2 +dx^2?$$ I don't know how to transform a metric into a geodesic...! There is no need to ...
3
votes
2answers
171 views

Can a curvature in time (and not space) cause acceleration?

I realize that the curvature of space-time causes acceleration (gravity). Is it possible to have a curvature only of space, or a curvature only of time? If so, would a curvature only of space, or a ...
3
votes
1answer
144 views

Schwarzschild geodesics

I've found on Wikipedia that energy $E$ and angular momentum $L$ of a particle are conserved quantities in Schwarzschild metric. It's written: $$L=mr^2 \frac {d\phi} {d\tau},$$ ...
3
votes
1answer
537 views

Problem with convergent geodesics at 2D sphere

There is a chapter on general relativity in the book Spacetime Physics Introduction To Special Relativity by Taylor and Wheeler, which qualitatively explains how attractive gravitational force can be ...
3
votes
1answer
192 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. ...
3
votes
2answers
239 views

Using the area element in derivation of geodesic

In the derivation of the geodesic, one starts with the integral of the line element (arclength): $$L(C)=\int_{\tau_1}^{\tau_2}d\tau\sqrt{g_{\mu \nu}\dot{x}^{\mu} \dot{x}^{\nu}}$$ The integrand is ...
3
votes
1answer
72 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
189 views

Does the formula $ \theta = \frac{v}{c} $ to find out deflection of light make sense?

I read in reliable sites that GR and classical physics calculate the angle of deflection in the same manner. The formula is almost identical: $$\theta = \frac{4GM}{c^2*r} \rightarrow \frac{4GM}{c*r} = ...
3
votes
0answers
123 views

How does one refute a Machian mechanism for inertial emergence?

Introduction: Consider the diagrams representing the duality between the weak and strong principles of equivalence. Now based on how these diagrams were taught to us (at least how they were taught ...
3
votes
0answers
77 views

Gravitational effects and metric spaces

Could somebody please explain something regarding the Nordstrom metric? In particular, I am referring to the last part of question 3 on this sheet -- about the freely falling massive bodies. My ...
2
votes
2answers
64 views

Does geodesics from solving full field equations are same as path from energy-momentum tensor?

As we know, if we had an energy-momentum tensor in all space-time we could obtain the metric tensor by solving field equations. Also i think if we had an energy-momentum tensor then we have ...
2
votes
1answer
44 views

Is the orbit in Schwarzshild metric a path with maximal proper time?

In curved spacetime particles follow timelike geodesics, which should have maximal proper time (at least locally). I thought this path usually corresponds to a global maximum, and there are only ...
2
votes
1answer
52 views

What happens as the stable orbital velocity approaches the speed of light?

Based on my understanding of the relationship between planetary mass, orbital radius and the velocity for stable orbit, a satellite orbiting a mass equivalent to Earth with an altitude of ~5mm would ...
2
votes
2answers
337 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 ...