I think I understand the hard science of gravitational waves fairly well (I'm what you would definitely call an "armchair physicist", but it's not my profession). However, this question is about logical comprehension, perhaps a thought experiment, rather than formal derivation of truth using higher mathematics, etc.
First, two pillars of physics that are background for this question:
- Thanks to Einstein, et al, we have some understanding of Mass-Energy Equivalence, including E=mc^2 and relativistic effects of mass/energy versus "rest mass", etc.
- Thanks to lots of people, we have some consensus on the different Forms of Energy, including Kinetic, Mechanical, Gravitational, Nuclear, etc.
It seems that the sum total of mass/energy is the same idea as "everything that physically affects or makes up the universe". As in, "That's All, Folks!" for describing the "stuff" that "is" the universe. (Please kindly correct me if I'm way off.)
So, this mass/energy "stuff" falls into 1 of 2 categories:
- All of the energy of any kind other than gravitational energy, including electromagnetic radiation, and other types of energy, several of which require mass to exist in some condition to exist, either by definition or implication.
- Then we have Gravitational Energy. As I understand it, it is not completely wrong to define Gravitational Energy as the purest, most fundamental, and truly inherent energy of mass (meaning "rest mass"). In other words, where there is mass, there IS gravity, gravitational radiation, and (in special cases), even Gravitational Waves (which the LIGO discovery last year helped verify). Moreover, where there is "rest mass", the required gravity MIGHT just be "made of" gravitons, the mysterious hypothetical massless spin-2 boson that is so popular even in more mainstream literature (like PopSci) these days.
So, the question: is thinking of gravitational energy (and all it implies) in this way accurate enough for laymen's terms, or would different thinkers phrase that differently (with something to back them up of course)?
In other words, can gravity/gravitons be thought of as the inextricable "native" energy of "rest mass"? I mean, I know gravity is a field and gravitons are particles, but it seems kinda like the wave/particle duality of light (electromagnetic radiation), but in this case it's mass. Ignoring anti-gravity just for the moment, is this close?
Does this idea of gravity as an "intrinsic" property of mass make it more interesting to science, or has that been the expectation for a while now, and we're just now getting observational evidence?
Thanks in advance for any "light" you can shine into my world!