Science fiction writers often use the term 'rip' in the fabric of spacetime to provide a means of either time travel or instantaneous travel from one corner of the universe to another. But I've also read and heard bonafide physicists use this term as well, so I suspect there is some credence to its meaning in standard physics principles and the mathematics that model them.

I understand that gravity is just the curvature of space time and that immense gravitational fields such as those near a black hole can cause extreme warping , but at what point do we consider spacetime ripping? Is this the point at which some singularity occurs in the field equations? And if so what's happening physically?

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    $\begingroup$ Apart from possibly the big rip I've never heard a physicist talk about spacetime being ripped. It is not a term that exists outside SF. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Oct 12 '16 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie Richard Gott, Max Tegmark, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene just to name of few. Of course all popularized, layman physics, and the meaning never explained in gory detail. $\endgroup$ – docscience Oct 12 '16 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ Can you give us a link so we can see exactly what they said. My guess is that they used the term in a pop sci way and it is effectively meaningless. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Oct 12 '16 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ In his postdoc days Briane Green did some work on topology changes in string theory. That might count as a technical definition of a rip. However GR has no mechanism for topology change. The manifold topology is an input not a prediction. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Oct 12 '16 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie Bryce DeWitt here: washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1985/03/03/… was quoted: "Tiny wormholes, tears and lumps may appear in a statistically fluctuating fabric of space-time at the minute level." $\endgroup$ – docscience Oct 12 '16 at 18:04

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