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Precise formuation of perturbations in GR

  1. Apr 19, 2013 #1
    Hi all,

    I have recently completed two courses in general relativity and am well versed in things like the ray chaudhuri equation, tetrads, etc. I had to give a 2hr talk on gravitational radiation to my class and so understand GWs at some relatively respectable level. What I am inquiring about is the formulation of the perturbation metric in a precise sense. What literature normally says is, $$g_{ab} = \eta_{ab} + h_{ab},$$ where $$h_{ab}\ll \eta_{ab}$$ for non-zero elements. What I want to know is whether there is a more precise definition of "small". More to the point is there a more fundamental point of view for using perturbation theory and when it is valid in differential geometry or math in general. Feel free to use big words ;)

    J. Albert
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2013 #2


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    Actually this is not entirely true. We usually express the perturbation from a known scenario (metric in GR, fundamental states in QM) in terms of a parameter which contains the <smallness>. So the h ab is small but the radiation field can be <normal>.

    [tex] g_{\mu_\nu} = \eta_{\mu\nu} + \lambda h_{\mu\nu} [/tex].

    so that [itex] |\lambda| <<1 [/itex] and the components of h have the same order of magnitude as the components of h.
  4. Apr 20, 2013 #3
    I have seen that form too in quantum perturbation theory and Gr lit. Thanks for your input, I'm just curious if there are any other constraints on the perturbation. Of course it must live in the same space as the background metric and can only be specified after choosing a coord map. But certainly there must be other constraints on when it may be used or else there wouldn't exist things like second order perturbation theories. It arises from a Taylor approximation to be sure.
  5. Apr 20, 2013 #4
    What the smallness of the metric perturbation means physically is somewhat application-dependent. If you're doing a post-Newtonian expansion, that's an expansion in orders of [itex]v[/itex], the typical velocities in your gravitational system. If you're dealing with gravitational radiation far away from any source, you can do a post-Minkowskian expansion, which means you expand in [itex]G[/itex], the gravitational constant. When calculating actual waveforms from e.g. inspiraling compact binaries, what is done is taking these two expansions, further expanding them into multipoles and then matching the two (the post-Newtonian expansion only works near the source and the post-Minkowskian one only far away, but there is some overlap where you can match them.)
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