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Ok, crazy idea time. Context: https://www.livescience.com/65441-gravitational-wave-memory.html

Quick lay summary: Apparently gravitational waves alter the structure of the space they pass through.

So here's the crazy idea: Inside a galaxy, lots of stuff is moving all the time, and gravitational waves are going to be coming from all sorts of local places. However, between galaxies, where matter is not there, matter is not passing through space at the planck scale often. What if the gravitational waves passing through the structure of space stretch it, but matter moving through the area and for lack of a better way of saying it, realigns it.

What if this mechanism is the underlying cause of inflation

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closed as off-topic by StephenG, G. Smith, John Rennie, Kyle Kanos, GiorgioP May 10 at 19:52

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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a lot of unrelated ideas strung together without any logical connection. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell May 9 at 19:18
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So here's the crazy idea: Inside a galaxy, lots of stuff is moving all the time, and gravitational waves are going to be coming from all sorts of local places

Very very weak ones, yes.

where matter is not there

Well I've seen numbers all over the place, but you have to recall that a galaxy is really a collection of objects that are really spread apart, and in that respect, the intergalactic spaces aren't that much different. I've seen estimates of one atom per cm^3 for both.

What if the gravitational waves passing through the structure of space stretch it,

At this level, I think it's useful to simply think of this as similar to a wave on a rubber sheet. If you just think about the wave moving down the sheet, compared to objects on it (or even just chalk marks for instance), as the wave passes the distance between the objects will change. But once the wave passes, they return to normal.

In contrast, inflation is just that, the entire rubber sheet is getting bigger. Waves simply don't do that.

It's also important to note that gravity waves are freakishly weak, which is why it took so long to detect them (they've been trying for decades). In contrast, inflation caused the entire universe to grow about 10^78 times in about 10^-35 seconds. Whatever it was, it was freakishly powerful and gravity waves definitely can't explain it.

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  • $\begingroup$ If all the mass of the universe were concentrated into a very small volume, it seems that gravity waves might have been "freakishly" strong near the time of the big bang. $\endgroup$ – S. McGrew May 10 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ The source of the question came from the ideas posed in the paper "Persistent gravitational wave observables: General framework"(journals.aps.org/prd/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevD.99.084044), which if I understand it suggests that the rubber sheet might not return entirely to normal. Where my question was going, is if the rubber sheet doesn't return to normal, what if there are regions of space where the not returning to normal is additive. If those regions are large, and lots of waves are passing through, I was thinking that the very weak effects could add up to a large macro effect. $\endgroup$ – Devon Jones May 10 at 19:26

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