GR gravity path confusion

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Ok. I get that objects seem to fall because of curved spacetime, when they're actually just moving in straight paths. I get the example of ants walking in straight lines on the surface of a sphere, thinking that something attracts them to each other. What I don't get is how the "ants" are "attracted" to each other without walking. What that means is, how is a stationary object attracted to another stationary object? I don't get this.
 

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  • #2
Jonathan Scott
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Ok. I get that objects seem to fall because of curved spacetime, when they're actually just moving in straight paths. I get the example of ants walking in straight lines on the surface of a sphere, thinking that something attracts them to each other. What I don't get is how the "ants" are "attracted" to each other without walking. What that means is, how is a stationary object attracted to another stationary object? I don't get this.
You're thinking of curved space only. In curved spacetime, stationary objects are effectively moving along the time axis at speed c, so the curvature of free fall paths as the object moves through time accelerates it even if it isn't moving in space.
 
  • #3
phinds
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Ok. I get that objects seem to fall because of curved spacetime, when they're actually just moving in straight paths. I get the example of ants walking in straight lines on the surface of a sphere, thinking that something attracts them to each other. What I don't get is how the "ants" are "attracted" to each other without walking. What that means is, how is a stationary object attracted to another stationary object? I don't get this.
Start with the first scenario you posited. An object "seems to fall because of curved spacetime". Now expand it to encompass the "falling" object and the object towards which is it falling. Now you have exactly the scenario in your question. Two objects "attract" each other because of the space-time geometry between them. If they are stationary relative to each other, that means that there is a force involved that is keeping them apart. In your first part, you said they are moving towards each other with means no, or small, other force. In the part where you say they are stationary you have (without realizing it) posited another force. A good example of this is you standing on the surface of the Earth. the force keeping you from falling into the Earth towards the center is the electrostatic repulsion of your feet with the ground. If you jumped out of an airplane, there would be no such force so the space-time geometry would cause you to move towards the center of the Earth.
 
  • #4
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You're thinking of curved space only. In curved spacetime, stationary objects are effectively moving along the time axis at speed c, so the curvature of free fall paths as the object moves through time accelerates it even if it isn't moving in space.
Ah ok, I think I get it now. So it moves in time, but it doesn't in space.
 
  • #5
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Start with the first scenario you posited. An object "seems to fall because of curved spacetime". Now expand it to encompass the "falling" object and the object towards which is it falling. Now you have exactly the scenario in your question. Two objects "attract" each other because of the space-time geometry between them. If they are stationary relative to each other, that means that there is a force involved that is keeping them apart. In your first part, you said they are moving towards each other with means no, or small, other force. In the part where you say they are stationary you have (without realizing it) posited another force. A good example of this is you standing on the surface of the Earth. the force keeping you from falling into the Earth towards the center is the electrostatic repulsion of your feet with the ground. If you jumped out of an airplane, there would be no such force so the space-time geometry would cause you to move towards the center of the Earth.
You don't have to be affected by a force in order not to be moving relative to another object... I think you misunderstood what I said.
 
  • #6
phinds
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You don't have to be affected by a force in order not to be moving relative to another object... I think you misunderstood what I said.
Oh? How do you figure that? Give me an example
 
  • #7
A.T.
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Ah ok, I think I get it now. So it moves in time, but it doesn't in space.
Yes, initially. But due to the space-time geometry it deviates from the purely temporal direction, and starts moving in space.

 
  • #8
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Ok. I get that objects seem to fall because of curved spacetime, when they're actually just moving in straight paths. I get the example of ants walking in straight lines on the surface of a sphere, thinking that something attracts them to each other. What I don't get is how the "ants" are "attracted" to each other without walking. What that means is, how is a stationary object attracted to another stationary object? I don't get this.
You are nearly there, you already have it in terms of space. Two ants at the equator will approach each other as they move towards the "North pole". Now think of the latitude as a time axis, and you have rudimentary "gravitation".
 
  • #9
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Oh? How do you figure that? Give me an example
Why would that be the case? Can't two bodies be stationary in space? Since when? I think you're using the conclusion from what I want explained to explain it to me. Anyway, my question was explained.
 
  • #10
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You are nearly there, you already have it in terms of space. Two ants at the equator will approach each other as they move towards the "North pole". Now think of the latitude as a time axis, and you have rudimentary "gravitation".
Oh, I think I get it now, I can picture it now in 2 spatial dimensions, I obviously can't in 3 :)
 
  • #11
phinds
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Why would that be the case? Can't two bodies be stationary in space? Since when? I think you're using the conclusion from what I want explained to explain it to me. Anyway, my question was explained.
No, they cannot. Gravity will pull them together unless they are kept apart by some other force. Any other examples? (hint ... there aren't any).
 
  • #12
A.T.
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Oh, I think I get it now, I can picture it now in 2 spatial dimensions, I obviously can't in 3 :)
You can visualize a curved 2D space-time, but one of the dimensions needs to be time, so you actually have just 1 spatial dimension (like the straight vertical fall in the video I posted above). Correctly visualizing it for 2 spatial dimestions + time (for example to show orbits as geodesics) is difficult,
 
  • #13
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No, they cannot. Gravity will pull them together unless they are kept apart by some other force. Any other examples? (hint ... there aren't any).
That's what I am saying. You are using the conclusion coming from what I want explained to explain it.
-How can bodies be "pulled together" due to spacetime geometry by gravity in GR if they are stationary?
-They can't be stationary.
-
Why can't they be stationary?
-Because they are pulled together by gravity.

You probably misunderstood my question.
 
  • #14
phinds
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That's what I am saying. You are using the conclusion coming from what I want explained to explain it.
-How can bodies be "pulled together" due to spacetime geometry by gravity in GR if they are stationary?
-They can't be stationary.
-
Why can't they be stationary?
-Because they are pulled together by gravity.

You probably misunderstood my question.
Must have.
 
  • #15
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You can visualize a curved 2D space-time, but one of the dimensions needs to be time, so you actually have just 1 spatial dimension (like the straight vertical fall in the video I posted above). Correctly visualizing it for 2 spatial dimestions + time (for example to show orbits as geodesics) is difficult,
Ah, no, I only visualized the concept of 2 particles on a 2-d surface being attracted to each other, nothing more complicated than that! I imagined something like 2 balls inside a sphere. The height of the sphere is time. Ok, it's not accurate, it's just the concept that I wanted to visualize, thanks!
 
  • #16
A.T.
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Ah, no, I only visualized the concept of 2 particles on a 2-d surface being attracted to each other, nothing more complicated than that!
That's fine. For two bodies pulled together along a straight line one spatial dimension is enough (the one along that line). The 2nd dimension on your sphere is time.

But what you are visualizing here is how particles of negligible mass are pulled together by the gravity gradient of a bigger mass (tidal gravity), not how masses attract each-other with their own mass.
 
  • #17
stevendaryl
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That's what I am saying. You are using the conclusion coming from what I want explained to explain it.
-How can bodies be "pulled together" due to spacetime geometry by gravity in GR if they are stationary?
-They can't be stationary.
-
Why can't they be stationary?
-Because they are pulled together by gravity.

You probably misunderstood my question.
I would say that the idea of gravity as curvature only works when you think that we reside in 4-dimensional spacetime, rather than 3-dimensional space. And furthermore, every object has a nonzero velocity in the time-direction (we are all moving into the future).

If you think of time as a dimension like space, then how gravity works is perhaps easier to understand. When you say that an object is "stationary", that only means that the spatial components of its velocity are zero, but the time component of its velocity is nonzero: It is moving into the future. Now, add gravity, and that path becomes bent--it starts moving purely in the time direction, but bends to start moving in a spatial direction, as well.
 
  • #18
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How can bodies be "pulled together" due to spacetime geometry by gravity in GR if they are stationary?
Because they age into the future; see post #17 for details.
 
  • #19
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That's fine. For two bodies pulled together along a straight line one spatial dimension is enough (the one along that line). The 2nd dimension on your sphere is time.

But what you are visualizing here is how particles of negligible mass are pulled together by the gravity gradient of a bigger mass (tidal gravity), not how masses attract each-other with their own mass.
Sure. I just wanted to realize the concept.
 
  • #20
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I would say that the idea of gravity as curvature only works when you think that we reside in 4-dimensional spacetime, rather than 3-dimensional space. And furthermore, every object has a nonzero velocity in the time-direction (we are all moving into the future).

If you think of time as a dimension like space, then how gravity works is perhaps easier to understand. When you say that an object is "stationary", that only means that the spatial components of its velocity are zero, but the time component of its velocity is nonzero: It is moving into the future. Now, add gravity, and that path becomes bent--it starts moving purely in the time direction, but bends to start moving in a spatial direction, as well.
Yeah, that was explained by Jonathan Scott and A.T.
 
  • #21
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In curved spacetime, stationary objects are effectively moving along the time axis at speed c
There is no such thing as a time axis in spacetime.

Time is the distance traveled on a particular world line, each world line has its unique sense of time.
 
  • #22
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And furthermore, every object has a nonzero velocity in the time-direction (we are all moving into the future).
That is actually a meaningless statement in GR. World lines extend all the same way but world lines could approach from opposite directions in some models. So which direction is the future?
 
  • #23
stevendaryl
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That is actually a meaningless statement in GR. World lines extend all the same way but world lines could approach from opposite directions in some models. So which direction is the future?
I think that there might be exotic solutions of the equations of GR for which there is no consistent way to assign a notion of "future" to timelike paths, but in our universe, there is a unique notion of "the future".
 
  • #24
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.. in our universe, there is a unique notion of "the future".
You don't know that!
 
  • #25
stevendaryl
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There is no such thing as a time axis in spacetime.

Time is the distance traveled on a particular world line, each world line has its unique sense of time.
You're right, that there is no such thing as a time axis, but at every point in spacetime, we can pick 4 independent axes such that one of them is timelike and the others are spacelike. And the point is that the spacetime path of any particle will have a nonzero "velocity" with respect to any timelike axis.
 

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