Are gravitational waves relativistic or Newtonian phenomenon?

  1. Today, all of the scientific world (including /r/physics) buzzes about BICEP2's discovery of gravitational waves dating from Big Bang as an undispute confirmation of the general relativity. Now I wonder is it really GR? Can't it be explained by simple Newton's mechanics?
    I mean if you can explain electromagnetic waves as as a consequence of accelerating charge then sure you can expalain gravitational waves as a consequence of the accelerating mass.
  2. jcsd
  3. D H

    Staff: Mentor

    Surely not. Gravitation is instantaneous in Newtonian mechanics. There is nothing in the Newtonian description of gravity that allows for gravitational waves.

    Another way to look at it: Gravitational waves represent energy lost to the universe by orbiting bodies. This doesn't happen in Newtonian mechanics, where gravitationally orbiting bodies conserve energy and angular momentum.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  4. Is there any intuitive analogy to the EM fields in gravity? I mean, in EM you have two fields, magnetic and electric where one's change produces other's. Is it something similar in GE?
  5. D H

    Staff: Mentor

  6. I believe I shouldn't be asking a question under another question but.... since the discovery of g waves was brought up...I didn't see the point in opening another thread. My question is this: Why is the discovery of gravitational waves being considered irrefutable proof for the theory of inflation? Are other theory's that include g waves now considered validated? (fecetious) tia
  7. WannabeNewton

    WannabeNewton 5,859
    Science Advisor

    EM is a relativistic theory, not a Newtonian theory. The field theory needs to predict wave equations for the fields to satisfy (e.g. in vacuum) in order for wave-like solutions to exist for the theory. EM does this but Newtonian gravity does not.
  8. I don't think the primary source claims anything about proving inflation, so anything to that extent is probably added by bloggers.
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