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Death to mass or to force?

by atyy
Tags: death, force, mass
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PeterDonis
#19
Dec6-11, 11:33 AM
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Quote Quote by pervect View Post
It seems pretty clear that inertial forces don't/ can't transform as tensors, but the usual practice seems to be to try to exclude inertial forces from being "actual" forces for this very reason. This doesn't seem compatible with the principle of equivalence, though, which suggests that one should consider inertial forces to be just as "real" as any other forces.
You may be implicitly switching between two views of "inertial forces" here. Strictly speaking, there is a key physical difference between "inertial forces" and "real forces": real forces are actually felt as acceleration; inertial forces are not. This is modeled in differential geometry as the covariant derivative of a worldline: it's zero for a body moving solely due to "inertial forces", but nonzero for a body subject to "real forces".

But often when we talk about "inertial forces", we forget that the actual "force" we feel is not due to the inertial force itself; it's due to the real force that is pushing us out of the geodesic path that the inertial force would have us follow. I feel a force sitting here on the surface of the Earth, and speaking loosely I might say this is the "force of gravity": but actually it's not, it's the force of the Earth pushing on me. A rock falling past me is moving due to the "force of gravity", but it feels no force. The principle of equivalence does not require me to say that I and the rock are equivalent; so IMO it doesn't require me to say that inertial forces and "real" forces are equivalent either.
atyy
#20
Dec6-11, 11:40 AM
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OK, let me clarify my terminology. I'm essentially considering the geodesic equation a "force equation". In full GR, the geodesic equation is not fundamental. It acts on "test particles" which are again not fundamental. So Newton-Cartan as I understand it usually has a geodesic equation and test particles. Is there a Newton-Cartan or Newtonian gravity in which the geodesic equation is not fundamental, ie. something like GR where we write the full action as Einstein-Hilbert plus minimally coupled matter actions and the fundamental degrees of freedom (with respect to which we vary the action) are all fields?
PeterDonis
#21
Dec6-11, 11:43 AM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
Especially problematic for me is the claim of force being tensorial only considering inertial frames. 4-force is a vector in GR under general diffeomorphism.
I think what pervect was referring to is that the "acceleration due to gravity", or "force of gravity", is modeled by the Christoffel symbols, which don't transform as tensors; you can make them all vanish locally at a given event by transforming to a local inertial frame at that event.

But the actual 4-acceleration of a worldline, i.e., the covariant derivative of its tangent vector, does transform as a 4-vector, i.e., a (1, 0) tensor. The 4-acceleration requires contracting the Christoffel symbols with the 4-velocity, which is how it can transform as a tensor even though the Christoffel symbols by themselves don't. (In a local inertial frame, all the Christoffel symbols vanish, but the 4-acceleration still has another term which is the actual partial derivative of the 4-velocity with respect to proper time, and in the local inertial frame that is nonzero for a non-geodesic worldline. In a non-inertial frame, for example a "static" frame using Schwarzschild coordinates around a massive body, the partial derivative vanishes but there the Christoffel symbols don't, and their contraction with the 4-velocity gives the 4-acceleration.)
PeterDonis
#22
Dec6-11, 11:47 AM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
Is there a Newton-Cartan or Newtonian gravity in which the geodesic equation is not fundamental, ie. something like GR where we write the full action as Einstein-Hilbert plus minimally coupled matter actions and the fundamental degrees of freedom (with respect to which we vary the action) are all fields?
Ah, I see. I don't know if Newton-Cartan gravity has been given such a formulation. Obviously you can formulate Newtonian gravity using the Lagrangian formalism, but I don't know if anyone has ever checked to see if such a formulation will lead to the Newton-Cartan formalism by the same route as you can use to get GR from the Einstein-Hilbert action.
atyy
#23
Dec6-11, 12:36 PM
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Quote Quote by PeterDonis View Post
Ah, I see. I don't know if Newton-Cartan gravity has been given such a formulation. Obviously you can formulate Newtonian gravity using the Lagrangian formalism, but I don't know if anyone has ever checked to see if such a formulation will lead to the Newton-Cartan formalism by the same route as you can use to get GR from the Einstein-Hilbert action.
A quick google turns up Goenner, A variational principle for Newton-Cartan theory, whose abstract seems to indicate the answer is "not completely". Unfortunately, this paper is probably not freely available.
PeterDonis
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Dec6-11, 12:53 PM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
Unfortunately, this paper is probably not freely available.
It isn't. But the abstract does, as you say, imply that the Newtonian case works differently than the GR case.
atyy
#25
Dec6-11, 01:10 PM
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As PAllen pointed out, the point particle concpet is not related to forces. One can always use the 3-force density in Newtonian physics, eg. the Navier-Stokes equations. So in the following "force" always means "force density".

OK, is the following the correct hierachy of concepts?

Newtonian mechanics and gravity - Galilean inertial frames, 3-force, inertial mass

Classical special relativity - 3-force and inertial mass no longer fundamental, instead we have 4-force and invariant mass (which is not the same as inertial mass). The inertial mass is defined via the 3-force and is now velocity dependent. Neither the 3-force nor inertial mass are fundamental, just as E and B fields are not fundamental (I would especially like commentary on this in the light of Bell's "Lorentzian pedagogy" where we say everything can be done in one Lorentz inertial frame).

Quantum special relativity - no concept of force at all. The dynamics are entirely given by Hamiltonian or Lagrangian formalisms.

General relativity - neither 3-force nor 4-force are fundamental, the dynamics is given by the Einstein field equations and equations of state such as Maxwell's equations. 4-force and the geodesic equation are derived concepts.

Quantum general relativity - no concept of force at all, same formalism as quantum special relativity, with gravity being a spin-2 field.
PAllen
#26
Dec6-11, 01:13 PM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
As PAllen pointed out, the point particle concpet is not related to forces. One can always use the 3-force density in Newtonian physics, eg. the Navier-Stokes equations. So in the following "force" always means "force density".

OK, is the following the correct hierachy of concepts?

Newtonian mechanics and gravity - Galilean inertial frames, 3-force, inertial mass

Classical special relativity - 3-force and inertial mass no longer fundamental, instead we have 4-force and invariant mass (which is not the same as inertial mass). The inertial mass is defined via the 3-force and is now velocity dependent. Neither the 3-force nor inertial mass are fundamental, just as E and B fields are not fundamental (I would especially like commentary on this in the light of Bell's "Lorentzian pedagogy" where we say everything can be done in one Lorentz inertial frame).

Quantum special relativity - no concept of force at all. The dynamics are entirely given by Hamiltonian or Lagrangian formalisms.

General relativity - neither 3-force nor 4-force are fundamental, the dynamics is given by the Einstein field equations and equations of state such as Maxwell's equations. 4-force and the geodesic equation are derived concepts.

Quantum general relativity - no concept of force at all, same formalism as quantum special relativity, with gravity being a spin-2 field.
I'd go along with this. It is certainly a very reasonable point of view, IMO.
PeterDonis
#27
Dec6-11, 01:36 PM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
Newtonian mechanics and gravity - Galilean inertial frames, 3-force, inertial mass

Classical special relativity - 3-force and inertial mass no longer fundamental, instead we have 4-force and invariant mass (which is not the same as inertial mass). The inertial mass is defined via the 3-force and is now velocity dependent. Neither the 3-force nor inertial mass are fundamental, just as E and B fields are not fundamental.

Quantum special relativity - no concept of force at all. The dynamics are entirely given by Hamiltonian or Lagrangian formalisms.

General relativity - neither 3-force nor 4-force are fundamental, the dynamics is given by the Einstein field equations and equations of state such as Maxwell's equations. 4-force and the geodesic equation are derived concepts.

Quantum general relativity - no concept of force at all, same formalism as quantum special relativity, with gravity being a spin-2 field.
These all look OK to me.

Quote Quote by atyy View Post
(I would especially like commentary on this in the light of Bell's "Lorentzian pedagogy" where we say everything can be done in one Lorentz inertial frame)
You can do everything in one inertial frame, but which one you pick will depend on your own state of motion. And we don't fully control our state of motion. For example, the Earth orbits the Sun, meaning that, from the point of view of, say, an inertial frame in which the Sun is at rest, we are constantly changing our state of motion. (Also, of course, we sitting on the surface of the Earth are not really in an inertial frame to begin with, since we feel acceleration.) So from a fundamental physics point of view, we can't privilege any specific inertial frame.
atyy
#28
Dec6-11, 02:56 PM
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Quote Quote by PeterDonis View Post
You can do everything in one inertial frame, but which one you pick will depend on your own state of motion. And we don't fully control our state of motion. For example, the Earth orbits the Sun, meaning that, from the point of view of, say, an inertial frame in which the Sun is at rest, we are constantly changing our state of motion. (Also, of course, we sitting on the surface of the Earth are not really in an inertial frame to begin with, since we feel acceleration.) So from a fundamental physics point of view, we can't privilege any specific inertial frame.
Ok, but is there anything I can't do if I use 3-force, inertial mass and E and B fields in any particular inertial frame? In other words, is the only thing I lose manifest Lorentz covariance, or do I actually lose any physics (including the ability to predict what the physics is like in any other frame, inertial or not)?
juanrga
#29
Dec6-11, 02:58 PM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
OK, if anyone is so inclined, let's continue the discussion here, since I think we are distracting from the main issues in http://www.physicsforums.com/showthr...01#post3652601

Anyway, may I suggest that the real thing we want to get rid of is not relativistic mass. Rather it is the concept of force and point particle. If we take Maxwell's equations as the reason for special relativity, then we can't really make the Lorentz force law and point particles work, can we? Without those, we don't need relativistic mass. OTOH, since force and point particles are useful in some regime, we keep relativistic mass around as a moral link between the new theories which deal primarily in fields, and the old theories in which point particles and forces were ok. This link is more moral than quantitative, since it has to be generalized to a form applicable to fields, but it is the historical route that indicated what sits on the right-hand side of the Einstein field equation.
The outdated concept of relativistic mass was abandoned because was a source of many confusion. The mass of an electron is me, which is independent of its velocity.

The problems with point particles in Maxwell theory are not solved by introducing extended distributions of charge (Poincaré stresses). The problem is not in the existence of a force but in the self-interaction associated to the field interaction. Wheeler-Feynman theory (an action-at-a-distance theory) uses forces but solves the difficulties because abandon the interaction through fields.

What you say about field theory is just the inverse. Field theory is the old theory and the modern theories under development agree on that the concept of field is approximated only. Sometimes we use the term «effective theory» to emphasize that field theory is not fundamental.
juanrga
#30
Dec6-11, 03:01 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
However, I see the likely future of gravitation theory going towards a reversion to the force point of view, to get unification with QM.
This is already the present in research.

All modern and satisfactory theories of gravity consider gravity a real force and consider that the geometrical description given by GR is only valid as a first approximation.
PeterDonis
#31
Dec6-11, 04:06 PM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
Ok, but is there anything I can't do if I use 3-force, inertial mass and E and B fields in any particular inertial frame?
I don't think so, but you were talking about what different theories consider "fundamental". Standard SR does not consider anything that is frame-dependent to be "fundamental"; only frame-invariant objects are "fundamental". So, for example, the electromagnetic field tensor [itex]F_{ab}[/itex] would be fundamental, but any particular decomposition into E and B fields would not be, since that is frame-dependent.

Perhaps it's also worth noting that, just as you can calculate everything using a single inertial frame, you can calculate things without using a frame at all. Any number that you can actually measure in an experiment can be expressed as a scalar (PAllen made this point in a recent thread on a similar subject), meaning you can express it without ever having to commit yourself to any specific frame, just write the expression in terms of contractions of vectors and tensors (which you can do in abstract index notation, without ever specifying a particular set of components).
PeterDonis
#32
Dec6-11, 04:14 PM
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I'm a little confused by these two statements:

Quote Quote by juanrga View Post
Field theory is the old theory and the modern theories under development agree on that the concept of field is approximated only. Sometimes we use the term «effective theory» to emphasize that field theory is not fundamental.
Quote Quote by juanrga View Post
All modern and satisfactory theories of gravity consider gravity a real force and consider that the geometrical description given by GR is only valid as a first approximation.
But the theory of gravity as a "real force" is a field theory; it's the theory of a massless spin-2 field, or the fancier versions given in string theory (is string theory one of the "modern and satisfactory theories of gravity"?), which are also field theories, just not field theories based on point particles. If the original massless spin-2 field theory is only an "effective" theory, are the string theory versions "effective" too?

Other "modern" theories of gravity (I don't know whether you consider them "satisfactory"), such as loop quantum gravity, don't look to me like theories of gravity as a "real force"; they look more like theories of geometry.
atyy
#33
Dec6-11, 04:55 PM
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Quote Quote by PeterDonis View Post
I don't think so, but you were talking about what different theories consider "fundamental". Standard SR does not consider anything that is frame-dependent to be "fundamental"; only frame-invariant objects are "fundamental". So, for example, the electromagnetic field tensor [itex]F_{ab}[/itex] would be fundamental, but any particular decomposition into E and B fields would not be, since that is frame-dependent.

Perhaps it's also worth noting that, just as you can calculate everything using a single inertial frame, you can calculate things without using a frame at all. Any number that you can actually measure in an experiment can be expressed as a scalar (PAllen made this point in a recent thread on a similar subject), meaning you can express it without ever having to commit yourself to any specific frame, just write the expression in terms of contractions of vectors and tensors (which you can do in abstract index notation, without ever specifying a particular set of components).
Yes. I realise you were addressing the poetic aspects of my question. I just wanted to check that there wasn't an underlying technical issue I was missing.

Now I just need to find a way to make the E field a scalar:)
PAllen
#34
Dec6-11, 05:05 PM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
Yes. I realise you were addressing the poetic aspects of my question. I just wanted to check that there wasn't an underlying technical issue I was missing.

Now I just need to find a way to make the E field a scalar:)
Ah, but if you try to measure the E field there are two things to consider: the EM field and an instrument. The world line of the instrument (e.g. its motion in your chosen frame) interacts with the field, producing a measurement consisting of one or more scalars. The instrument may well measure magnetic field strength due to its motion in your coordinates (in which, say, the E/M field is pure coulomb).
atyy
#35
Dec6-11, 05:22 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
Ah, but if you try to measure the E field there are two things to consider: the EM field and an instrument. The world line of the instrument (e.g. its motion in your chosen frame) interacts with the field, producing a measurement consisting of one or more scalars. The instrument may well measure magnetic field strength due to its motion in your coordinates (in which, say, the E/M field is pure coulomb).
Yes, I think I need at least two vectors to slot into the Faraday tensor to make a scalar.

BTW, now that we established that the E field is as real or as fake as the inertial mass, why is the latter considered so much more pedagogically harmful than the former?
PAllen
#36
Dec6-11, 05:41 PM
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Quote Quote by atyy View Post
Yes, I think I need at least two vectors to slot into the Faraday tensor to make a scalar.

BTW, now that we established that the E field is as real or as fake as the inertial mass, why is the latter considered so much more pedagogically harmful than the former?
We get ever more philosophical. I have never considered relativistic mass to be inertial mass (who ever heard or transverse versus longitudinal inertial mass). To me, the temptation to treat relativistic mass as inertial mass comes from using the 'wrong' formula.

However, I get your main point. E could be obsoleted (and I note that Penrose, in all his discussions of EM in "Road to Reality" uses only F, not E or B). Yet most people (myself included) still find E and B useful.

In sum, I'll grant you:

touche.


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