As a consequence of the Lorentz transformations, time and space transform into each other when changing reference frame. This calls for a unified description: Minkowski spacetime.

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If you view the Earth from far enough away can you observe its past?

From my understanding of light, you are always looking into the past based on how much time it takes the light to reach you from what you are observing. For example when you see a star burn out, if ...
61
votes
4answers
10k views

Why would spacetime curvature cause gravity?

It is fine to say that for an object flying past a massive object, the spacetime is curved by the massive object, and so the object flying past follows the curved path of the geodesic, so it "appears" ...
52
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6answers
3k views

What is known about the topological structure of spacetime?

General relativity says that spacetime is a Lorentzian 4-manifold $M$ whose metric satisfies Einstein's field equations. I have two questions: What topological restrictions do Einstein's equations ...
42
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5answers
3k views

Does Coulomb's Law, with Gauss's Law, imply the existence of only three spatial dimensions?

Coulomb's Law states that the fall-off of the strength of the electrostatic force is inversely proportional to the distance squared of the charges. Gauss's law implies that a the total flux through a ...
37
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7answers
2k views

Is 3+1 spacetime as privileged as is claimed?

I've often heard the argument that having 3 spatial dimensions is very special. Such arguments are invariably based on certain assumptions that do not appear to be justifiable at all, at least to me. ...
29
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2answers
3k views

Does the Planck scale imply that spacetime is discrete?

On a quantum scale the smallest unit is the Planck scale, which is a discrete measure. There several question that come to mind: Does that mean that particles can only live in a discrete grid-like ...
27
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4answers
1k views

Does the universe have a center?

If the big bang was the birth of everything, and the big bang was an event in the sense that it had a location and a time (time 0), wouldn't that mean that our universe has a center? Where was the ...
27
votes
8answers
13k views

How exactly does curved space-time describe the force of gravity?

I understand that people explain (in layman's terms at least) that the presence of mass "warps" space-time geometry, and this causes gravity. I have also of course heard the analogy of a blanket or ...
25
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5answers
3k views

Einstein's postulates $\leftrightarrow$ Minkowski space for a Layman

What's the cleanest/quickest way to go between Einstein's postulates [1] of Relativity: Physical laws are the same in all inertial reference frames. Constant speed of light: "... light is always ...
24
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3answers
2k views

Why is spacetime curved by mass but not charge?

It is written everywhere that gravity is curvature of spacetime caused by the mass of the objects or something to the same effect. This raises a question with me: why isn't spacetime curved due to ...
24
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1answer
1k views

How does classical GR concept of space-time emerge from string theory?

First, I'll state some background that lead me to the question. I was thinking about quantization of space-time on and off for a long time but I never really looked into it any deeper (mainly because ...
22
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2answers
571 views

Does a charged or rotating black hole change the genus of spacetime?

For a Reissner–Nordström or Kerr black hole there is an analytic continuation through the event horizon and back out. Assuming this is physically meaningful (various site members hereabouts think ...
20
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4answers
2k views

Is space “real”, or is it some sort of accepted postulate?

sorry for this very naive (layman) question. What is space? It seems to be every where in the equations of physics (as some sort of postulate or hidden hypothesis). We also have a direct experience ...
19
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7answers
2k views

What grounds the difference between space and time?

We experience space and time very differently. From the point of view of physics, what fundamentally grounds this difference? Dimensionality (the fact that there are three spatial dimensions but only ...
18
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3answers
964 views

Can light exists in $2+1$ or $1+1$ spacetime dimensions?

Spacetime of special relativity is frequently illustrated with its spatial part reduced to one or two spatial dimension (with light sector or cone, respectively). Taken literally, is it possible for ...
17
votes
5answers
4k views

Why is gravitation force always attractive?

Why is the gravitational force always attractive? Is there another way to explain this without the curvature of space time? PS: If the simple answer to this question is that mass makes space-time ...
17
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3answers
736 views

Has the concept of non-integer $(n+m)$-dimensional spacetime ever been investigated by theoretical physicists?

The following image serves to aid the reader in understanding the "privileged character" of $3+1$-spacetime. The wikipedia article on spacetime, and the sub-article "The priveleged character of ...
16
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7answers
2k views

Does Quantum Mechanics assume space and time are continuous?

I was confused when I was listening to a Quantum Mechanics lecture online. Are space and time assumed to be continuous or discrete in Quantum Mechanics? I can see the question is vague, but this is ...
16
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3answers
1k views

What is the length of 1 second in meters

If time is treated as a fourth dimension of spacetime, what is relation between length and time units? Or in other words, how can I convert time units to length units, for instance seconds to meters? ...
16
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2answers
1k views

Inflation and the Meaning of Time

I'm not quite sure how to ask this so that it can be answered in layman's terms, but I have lately seen, in several places, that with cosmological inflation, there was a point where the universe ...
15
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9answers
3k views

Is the flow of time regular?

Is the flow of time regular? How would we come to know if the our galaxy along with everything in it stops for a while(may be a century) w.r.t to the galaxies far beyond our reach. Is there a way to ...
15
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7answers
2k views

How can space and time arise from nothing?

Lawrence Krauss said this on an Australian Q&A programme. "...when you apply quantum mechanics to gravity, space itself can arise from nothing as can time..." Can you elaborate on this please? ...
15
votes
6answers
908 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 ...
15
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1answer
1k views

Is String Theory formulated in flat or curved spacetime?

String Theory is formulated in 10 or 11 (or 26?) dimensions where it is assumed that all of the space dimensions except for 3 (large) space dimensions and 1 time dimension are a compact manifold with ...
14
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3answers
285 views

What is meant when it is said that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic?

It is sometimes said that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic. What is meant by each of these descriptions? Are they mutually exclusive, or does one require the other? And what implications rise ...
14
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3answers
878 views

A Sphere of Black Holes

Imagine a sphere of black holes surrounding a piece of space. Will this piece be separated from the rest of normal spacetime (at least for some time, till these black holes finally attracted ...
14
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4answers
5k views

Is spacetime discrete or continuous?

Is the spacetime continuous or discrete? Or better, is the 4-dimensional spacetime of general-relativity discrete or continuous? What if we consider additional dimensions like string theory ...
13
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5answers
787 views

Proof that Our Planet is 1D

I have took a discrete mathematics course this summer and there we talked about power of groups and functions,and yesterday I though and realize that if we can map all the 3D coordinates with a one on ...
13
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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
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9answers
573 views

How to explain (pedagogically) why there is 4 spacetime dimensions while we see only the 3 spatial dimesions?

I have been asked this question by a student, but I was able and in the same time incapable to give a good answer for this without equations, so do you have ideas how one can explain this in a simple ...
13
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4answers
2k views

Does the curvature of spacetime theory assume gravity?

Whenever I read about the curvature of spacetime as an explanation for gravity, I see pictures of a sheet (spacetime) with various masses indenting the sheet to form "gravity wells." Objects which are ...
13
votes
3answers
847 views

Space-time in String Theory

I would like to understand how Physicists think of space-time in the context of String Theory. I understand that there are $3$ large space dimensions, a time dimension, and $6$ or $7$ (or $22$) extra ...
13
votes
3answers
761 views

Swimming in Spacetime - apparent conserved quantity violation

My question is about the article Swimming in Spacetime. My gut reaction on first reading it was "this violates conservation of momentum, doesn't it?". I now realize, however, that this doesn't allow ...
13
votes
3answers
250 views

What makes now special?

I recently came across the paper Relation between the psychological and thermodynamic arrows of time (arXiv). Their argument makes sense to me, however their concept doesn't seem to address what ...
12
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3answers
2k views

If the universe were compressed into a super massive black hole, how big would it be?

I understand only a little of general relativity, but that's why I'm here! :) Consider the hypothetical situation of some extra-terrestrial intelligence pushing all the mass in the universe, every ...
12
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5answers
975 views

The definition of an inertial reference frame in Einstein's relativity

I'm reading Sean Carroll's book on general relativity, and I have a question about the definition of an inertial reference frame. In the first chapter that's dedicated to special relativity, the ...
12
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0answers
691 views

Is the “Doctor Who” spacetime affected by Hawking's chronology protection mechanism?

Recently, there has been a paper1 (and an accompanying layman-ized white paper2) on "Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domains In Spacetime", TARDIS for short. It proposes a spacetime geometry that ...
11
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7answers
3k views

Experimental evidence of a fourth spatial dimension?

As human beings, we observe the world in which we live in three dimensions. However, it is certainly theoretically possible that more dimensions exist. Is there any direct or indirect evidence ...
11
votes
1answer
755 views

Intuition for multiple temporal dimensions

It’s easy, relatively speaking, to develop an intuition for higher spatial dimensions, usually by induction on familiar lower-dimensional spaces. But I’m having difficulty envisioning a universe with ...
11
votes
2answers
624 views

Is spacetime simply connected?

As I've stated in a prior question of mine, I am a mathematician with very little knowledge of Physics, and I ask here things I'm curious about/things that will help me learn. This falls into the ...
11
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1answer
469 views

How to prove that a spacetime is maximally symmetric?

In Carroll's book on general relativity, I found the following remark: In two dimensions, finding that $R$ is a constant suffices to prove that the space is maximally symmetric [...] In higher ...
11
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4answers
4k views

Why does Venus rotate the opposite direction as other planets?

Given: Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum. Reverse spinning with dense atmosphere (92 times > Earth & CO2 dominant sulphur based). Surface same degree of aging all over. Hypothetical large ...
11
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4answers
605 views

Can physics get rid of the continuum?

Almost every physical equation I can think of (even though I don't actually feel comfortable beyond the scope of classical mechanics and macroscopic thermodynamics, as that's enough for dealing with ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

Hubble's law and conservation of energy

If all distances are constantly increasing, as Hubble's law say, then lots of potential energies of form ~$\frac{1}{r}$ changes, so how is the total energy of the Universe conserved with Hubble's ...
10
votes
2answers
771 views

Can a non-euclidean space be descripted through an euclidean of higher dimension? so why use non-euclidean?

If you draw a big triangle in earth 2D surface you will have an aproximated spherical triangle, this will be a non euclidean geometry. but from a 3D perspective, for example the same triangle from ...
10
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1answer
625 views

Is spacetime flat inside a spherical shell?

In a perfectly symmetrical spherical hollow shell, there is a null net gravitational force according to Newton, since in his theory the force is exactly inversely proportional to the square of the ...
10
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2answers
1k views

Invariant spacetime - distance - Circular Motion

I understand that the closer something travels to the speed of light, that time will stretch by a factor, and distance will compress by the same factor. My question is, if something travels in a ...
10
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2answers
553 views

How fast can time flow? A question of time dilation

(I would describe myself as an illiterate physics enthusiast, so I hope you'll forgive me if my ignorance is borderline offensive.) If I've understood anything of the concept of time dilation, your ...
10
votes
5answers
660 views

Is it possible for one black hole to pull an object out of another black hole?

Suppose we have a spacecraft just inside the event horizon of a black hole, struggling to escape, but slowly receding into it. Another (bigger) black hole expands until its event horizon includes the ...
10
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4answers
1k views

Can spacetime exist in the absence of matter and energy?

I'm pretty sure Ernst Mach would have said that spacetime cannot exist without matter in it. But I'm also pretty sure that a black hole can be described as a self-sustaining gravitational field, ...