This is a thought I had a while ago, and I was wondering if it was satisfactory as a physicist's proof of the positive mass theorem.
The positive mass theorem was proven by Schoen and Yau using complicated methods that don't work in 8 dimensions or more, and by Witten using other complicated methods that don't work for non-spin manifolds. Recently Choquet-Bruhat published a proof for all dimensions, which I did not read in detail.
To see that you can't get zero mass or negative mass, view the space-time in the ADM rest frame, and consider viewing the spacetime from a slowly accelerated frame going to the right. This introduces a Rindler horizon somewhere far to the left. As you continue accelerating, the whole thing falls into your horizon. If you like, you can imagine that the horizon is an enormous black hole far, far away from everything else.
The horizon starts out flat and far away before the thing falls in, and ends up flat and far away after. If the total mass is negative, it is easy to see that the total geodesic flow on the outer boundary brings area in, meaning that the horizon scrunched up a little bit. This is even easier to see if you have a black hole far away, it just gets smaller because it absorbed the negative mass. But this contradicts the area theorem.
There is an argument for the positive mass theorem in a recent paper by Penrose which is similar.
- Does this argument prove positive mass?
- Does this mean that the positive mass theorem holds assuming only the weak energy condition?