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 ...
97
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3answers
16k views

How come some people are claiming that the Big Bang never happened?

A news story is going viral on social media networks claiming that two physicists have found a way to eliminate the Big Bang singularity, or in layman's terms (as claimed by many sensationalist news ...
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5answers
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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" ...
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6answers
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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 ...
61
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8answers
5k views

Turbulent spacetime from Einstein equation?

It is well known that the fluid equations (Euler equation, Navier-Stokes, ...), being non-linear, may have highly turbulent solutions. Of course, these solutions are non-analytical. The laminar flow ...
61
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2answers
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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 ...
53
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4answers
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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 ...
48
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5answers
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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 ...
45
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10answers
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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 ...
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7answers
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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. ...
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Why should the Planck constant be a constant throughout all space?

Our value for the Planck constant $h$ can be found on experiments on Earth, but how do we know that the Planck constant doesn't change throughout space, for instance it depends weakly upon the ...
39
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3answers
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Is the Planck length the smallest length that exists in the universe or is it the smallest length that can be observed?

I have heard both that Planck length is the smallest length that there is in the universe (whatever this means) and that it is the smallest thing that can be observed because if we wanted to observe ...
35
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4answers
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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 ...
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3answers
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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 ...
27
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4answers
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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 ...
26
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5answers
6k views

If particles are points, then aren't atoms empty space?

Zero dimensional points do not take up space, so then wouldn't everything in the universe be literally empty? Or is there something that I'm missing?
26
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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 ...
26
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4answers
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Is space “real”, or is it some sort of accepted postulate?

What is space? It seems to be everywhere in the equations of physics, as some sort of postulate or hidden hypothesis. We also have a direct experience of it, but is it "real"? The fact that we ...
26
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6answers
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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 ...
26
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1answer
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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 ...
25
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1answer
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Why haven't we seen the big bang?

The Andromeda galaxy is 2,538,000 light years away, so if we view Andromeda from a telescope, we see Andromeda how it was 2,538,000 years ago. Now the diameter of the visible universe is 92 billion ...
24
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1answer
2k 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 ...
22
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2answers
704 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 not!)...
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Does curved spacetime change the volume of the space?

Mass (which can here be considered equivalent to energy) curves spacetime, so a body with mass makes the spacetime around it curved. But we live in 3 spatial dimensions, so this curving could only be ...
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3answers
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Can light exist 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 $...
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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 ...
20
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5answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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7answers
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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 ...
19
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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
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1answer
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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 ...
19
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2answers
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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 ...
19
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1answer
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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 ...
19
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3answers
953 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 $3+...
19
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Does the existence of instantons imply non-trivial cohomology of spacetime?

Gauge theories are considered to live on $G$-principal bundles $P$ over the spacetime $\Sigma$. For convenience, the usual text often either compactify $\Sigma$ or assume it is already compact. An ...
18
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2answers
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Why isn't the center of the galaxy “younger” than the outer parts?

I understand that time is relative for all but as I understand it, time flows at a slower rate for objects that are either moving faster or objects that are near larger masses than for those that are ...
18
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2answers
2k views

Can a black hole be formed by radiation?

I'm trying to find out if black holes could be created by focusing enough light into a small enough volume. So far I have found (any or all may be incorrect): Maxwell's equations are linear, ...
17
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7answers
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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 ...
17
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7answers
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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 ...
17
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3answers
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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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6answers
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Is it possible to watch the same distant star's supernova event twice?

Usually relativistic time dilation effects require something traveling near the speed of light. But the high speed requirement can be replaced with a high distance requirement instead. Traveling away ...
16
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9answers
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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 ...
16
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3answers
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Can quaternion math be used to model spacetime?

Quaternions are commonly used to model 4 dimensional systems where the quaternion consists of a real 3 dimensional vector and an imaginary scalar. So on the surface Quaternions seem well suited to ...
16
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2answers
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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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7answers
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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
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3answers
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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 ...
15
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4answers
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Could the black hole in the center of the galaxy be a white hole?

In the center of the galaxy there is a strong radio source which we call Sagittarius A*. Based on the high speed and orbit of nearby stars we have calculated that something with the mass of more than ...
15
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3answers
973 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 ...
15
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4answers
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Can spacetime be non-orientable?

This question asks what constraints there are on the global topology of spacetime from the Einstein equations. It seems to me the quotient of any global solution can in turn be a global solution. In ...
15
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How to prove that a spacetime is maximally symmetric?

In Carroll's book on general relativity ("Spacetime and Geometry"), I found the following remark: In two dimensions, finding that $R$ is a constant suffices to prove that the space is maximally ...