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How does mass cause the curvature of spacetime at a distance?

  1. Feb 8, 2012 #1
    Since it's been observed that mass causes the curvature of the spacetime continuum. I'm wondering how it curves the spacetime continuum at a distance. For example, a planet will curve the spacetime around it millions of miles away, yet all around the planet is the almost perfect vacuum of outer space. So how do objects cause the curvature of the spacetime continuum so far away?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 8, 2012 #2
    If you think of gravity as a particle, I think it's fairly obvious.
  4. Feb 8, 2012 #3
    Not at all. To my understanding, gravity is not a force. Gravitation is caused by the curvature of the spacetime continuum. I'm wondering how does mass curve spacetime at far (infinite) distances.
  5. Feb 8, 2012 #4
    Gravity is a force.
  6. Feb 8, 2012 #5
    By means of Einstein's field equations. They represent our deepest understanding of gravity, so that is the deepest explanation you can get :-)
  7. Feb 8, 2012 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    I second torquil's answer and further mention that the EFE are local equations, so there is no need to think of mass bending spacetime at a distance. It only bends the piece of spacetime where it is located, and then that piece bends the next piece, which bends the next piece, etc.
  8. Feb 8, 2012 #7
    GR doesn't model gravity as a particle but as a field. Einstein's conclusion was that as according to GR "empty space" contains gravitational fields, "empty space" (vacuum) isn't physically empty. Interestingly, QM led to a similar conclusion.
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