Skip to main content

Gravity is an attractive force that affects and is affected by all mass and - in general relativity - energy, pressure, and stress. Prefer newtonian-gravity or general-relativity if sensible.

When to Use This Tag

covers the discussion of the attractive force of gravity independently of a specific theory, which could describe or explain this force. Hence, you should use the tag when comparing to or when trying to compare various theories. If you are after particular calculations, prefer or correspondingly.


Gravity is a force that has been observed to affect all bodies with non-zero mass or energy. There are currently two working explanations of gravity (in their respective area of usefulness), but no successful theory has been proposed to explain gravity on a quantum-mechanical level at high energies.

Newtonian Gravity

The original description of gravity is based on the assumption of an overall attractive force $\vec F$ between bodies with mass $m_1$ and $m_2$ at a given distance $\vec r$, given by

$$ \vec F = G \frac{m_1 m_2}{r^3} \vec r \quad.$$

This theory does not take into account the gravitational effect of energy, pressure, and stress and fails at large masses.

General Relativity (GR)

GR models gravity as a variation of space and time itself: Large bodies and energy densities bend the four-dimensional spacetime in such a way that an attractive effect between bodies is created. In the limit of small energy/mass densities, GR reproduces newtonian-gravity.

Quantum Field Theory in Curved Spacetime

QFTCS is a framework that describes how [tab:quantum-field-theory] behaves on top of a curved spacetime. In other words, gravity is treated as classical whereas everything else is treated as quantum.

Examples of major results from QFTCS include , , , etc.

Quantum Gravity

So far, no successful quantization of gravity has been experimentally proven. Similarly to the gauge bosons $\gamma$, $W^\pm$, $Z^0$, and the various gluons, which mediate the electromagnetic, weak, and strong interactions, another boson, dubbed graviton, is assumed to mediate the gravitational attraction. From the various features of gravity (long-range, always attractive), it is inferred that the graviton is a massless spin-2 boson.

Note that the graviton is not to be confused with the Higgs mechanism, which creates the mass of the gauge bosons in the first place (and has nothing to do with gravity).

String Theory

One popular approach to quantum gravity is . has been successful in reproducing in the low-energy, classical limit. String theory aims not only to be a theory of quantum gravity, but also a , which means it also unifies the other forces, and matter, together. String theory reproduces General Relativity in the non-stringy limit by requiring conformal invariance to constrain the beta functions to vanish.

String theory requires extra dimensions for conformal to vanish, and it also requires supersymmetry to have fermions in its spectrum. Neither of these has been observed to a conclusive position, though the 125 GeV Higgs is a piece of strong evidence for supersymmetry (as in, the , which has been shown to take place in certain realistic string vacua by Kumar, Acharya and Kane) and there has been a recent result hinting at third-generation superpartners being observed at the LHC.

Loop Quantum Gravity

is another well-known theory of quantum gravity that quantises by using different variables, the Ashtekhar variables instead of the standard spacetime metric (with its corresponding le-cevita, or Christoffel connection.). Loop Quantum Gravity is formulated as a first-order theory, which means it uses the vielbin (specifically, the vierbin, a vielbin in 4-dimensional spacetime), i.e. the unit vector in curved spacetime. In fact, loop quantum gravity doesn't directly use the vwierbin, but the viewrbin is divided by the "Imirizzi parameter".

It is well-known that Loop Quantum Gravity produces a , or granular, picture of spacetime; This makes it not lorentz-invariant, which is considered a big problem for loop quantum gravity since Lorentz invariance has been very well-tested to the scale of the Planck length. Sen (2013) also showed that Loop Quantum Gravity does not produce a continuous, or smooth picture, of spacetime at large scales. Furthermore, loop quantum gravity does not incorporate the standard model interactions. This means that loop quantum gravity would need serious refinement.

Related theories

Supergravity and Kaluza - Klein theory

One related theory is theory, Kaluza - Klein Theory attempts to show that General Relativity in a 4 + 1 -dimensional reduces to in a 3 + 1 - dimensional spacetime PLUS Maxwell's electromagnetism () in a 3 + 1 - dimensional spacetime.

is an extension to which also covers the ] and the [. To be consistent, it requires , in order to allow fermions too. also arises in the low-energy, classical limit of super - ies.