# Do gravitational waves have field components like electromagnetic waves?

One way I've been led to understand electromagnetic waves (and I accept that this might be a misconception I have) is that they 'self propagate' through empty space by virtue of the wave consisting of separate field components: the electric and magnetic fields. The way I understand is that the energy propagates away from the generating source by each field 'bootstrapping' one another. And furthermore the wave's polarization can be determined by the relative phase of these fields.

So I'm trying to better understand if there is a similarity in gravitational waves. So far having difficulty piecing it all together from what's published on-line.

Do gravitational waves have component fields that assist the propagation of the waves?

I have read that gravitational waves can have polarity, so then what determines the polarity of the waves

• The "bootstrapping" explanation is a lie-to-children. If you inspect the proper causal formulation of the solution to Maxwell's equations as Jefimenko's equation, both the electric and the magnetic field are jointly generated by the charge-current distributions. Their propagation has to do with the form of the wave equation, but nothing with the (from a relativistic viewpoint arbitrary) split into electric and magnetic fields. – ACuriousMind Feb 20 '16 at 0:06
• There is only one electromagnetic field, we just tend to rip it apart in our non-relativistic view of it. – CuriousOne Feb 20 '16 at 0:09
• @ACuriousMind Thanks - we need a 'misconception' tag! – docscience Feb 20 '16 at 0:39