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I Curved Spacetime for E&M

  1. Nov 26, 2017 #1
    So General Relativity explains the force of gravity as mass/energy induced curvature of spacetime. This correctly predicts gravitational time distortion, nonlinear geodesics and gravitational lensing, the anomolous precession of planetary orbits, the schwarzchild metric, and so on.

    Could the other forces be thought of in a similar way? For example the electromagnetic force. What if it acted by curving some effective spacetime for charges objects? I’m not talking about E&M on a curved gravitational background, but E&M itself as a kind of curvature somehow.

    Is this already a thing? Is there some obvious reason that this couldn’t ever work? Any recommended reading material?

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2017 #2


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    After he published the theory of General Relativity, Einstein worked on a UFT (Unified Field Theory) that tried to unify gravity, EM and the other fundamental forces. You might start here:


    You may get a more comprehensive answer from someone else as I don't know much about this subject.
  4. Nov 27, 2017 #3


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    The various fields (EM field, gravitational, strong and weak nuclear field, fermionic fields) cannot be unified in the sense that they all are different aspects of the same underlying field.

    They can be unified only in the way our brain processes them via mathematics and physics, that is for all fields an action functional can be defined (which is different for each and every field) and the equations of motion (the equation that describe the dynamics of the field, which are also different for every field) of the field can be derived by considering stationary points of the action functional.

    But even so, gravity possesses a special place among fields, according to general relativity and relativistic quantum physics, gravity is the only field that changes the curvature of spacetime.
  5. Nov 27, 2017 #4


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    Google Kaluza-Klein theory!
  6. Nov 27, 2017 #5

    George Jones

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    Yes, the other the field strength interactions are curvatures of "internal spaces", not curvature of spacetime. But these ideas are not Beyond the Standard Model, as they part of the standard model of the physics of elementary particles.

    At what level? Mathenatical? Non-mathematical?

    A nice introduction to these ideas for the example of electromagnetism is the elementary but still very technical book "Electricity and Magnetism for Mathematicians: A Guided Path from Maxwell's Equations to Yang-Mills" by Thomas A. Garrity, which is intended for undergrad math students,


    Use Look Inside to see the table of contents. The explanation starts with Chapter 16, which begins with "The goal for the rest of this book is to understand the idea that Force = Curvature"
  7. Nov 27, 2017 #6

    Urs Schreiber

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    As Mr. Demystifier says, what you are after is called Kaluza-Klein theory, one of the tantalizing subjects of 20th century physics.

    The Kaluza-Klein mechanism, named after Theodor Kaluza and Oskar Klein, is the observation that pure gravity on a product spacetime ##X \times F## with fixed metric ##g_F## on ##F## looks on ##X##, as an effective field theory, like gravity coupled to Yang-Mills theory – Einstein-Yang-Mills theory – for gauge group ##G## the Lie group of isometries of ##(F,g_F)##. In particular for ##F = S^1## the circle, it yields electromagnetism coupled to gravity (and a dilaton) – Einstein-Maxwell theory.

    Since in general relativity also the size and shape of the fiber ##F## is dynamical, generically effective field theories arising from KK-compactification contain spurious fields parameterizing the geometry of ##F##. In the simplest case this is just the dilaton, encoding the total volume of ##F##, more generally these fields are often called the moduli fields. Since these moduli fields are not observed in experiment, naive KK-models are generically phenomenologically unviable. However, in variants of gravity such as higher dimensional supergravity there are possibilities for the moduli to obtain masses and hence for the KK-models to become viable after all. This is the problem of moduli stabilization.

    For more see also the PF Insights article Spectral Standard Model and String Compactifications.
  8. Nov 29, 2017 #7
    Wow everyone, thanks for the awesome responses.

    I'm going to go grab this one from the library right now. It sounds perfect since I have a math theory degree with coursework in algebraic topology and have missed doing math lately. (I'm a physics PHD now, but not theoretical, I like building things too much).

    You know, this is actually ringing a bell from high school- I'm pretty sure someone told me or I read in a book about E&M arising from a single additional looped dimension. At the time I didn't rightly know what E&M was or any abstract algebra, so its nice to re-encounter this with a more solid backing.

    Thanks again,
  9. Nov 29, 2017 #8


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    Zee's Einstein Gravity in a nutshell is also a nice reference.

    I believe Pauli was working on obtaining Yang-Mills theory from KK-compactification when he attended Yang's talk at Princeton. That's how he knew the difficulties concerning the mass of the gauge fields.
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