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Peter Fisher 11/26/08 8.

033

We talked about massive objects “warping” or “curving” space-time. We also have been
talking about the curvature k in the FRW metric. Here is a little writeup on the first topic.
Start by thinking about measuring the radius R=1/C (C=curvature) of the Earth by
measuring distances on the surface. Suppose we are on the surface of a sphere, but can
  
use GPS and measure 3D coordinates x1 , x2 and x3 . We find the distance between points
 
1 and 2 given by d = x1 − x2 differs from the distance
measured along the surface for the sphere between 1
and 2. We can use point 3 to find s, which tells us how
much the surface curves:
2
R 2 = ( R − s) + L2 4
R 2 = R 2 − 2Rs + s 2 + L2 4
L2
⇒R≈
8s
Now think of a metric that describes a constant gravitational field close to the surface of
the Earth: dτ 2 = (1 − gz ) dt 2 − dx 2 − dy 2 − dz 2 . Suppose we have two points in space-time,
X1=(0,0,0,0) and X2=(xo,0,0,to). The geodesic connecting these two points will be a
parabola with z (t ) = vozt − gt 2 / 2 and x (t ) = vox t . Solving, we find vox = ro t o ,
voz = gt o 2 and h = z (t o 2 ) = vozt o 2 − gt o2 8 = gt o2 8 . We can approximate the parabola
as an arc of a circle and find the radius of the circle in space-time. By analogy to finding
the radius of the sphere in the 3D example, we take h as the deviation of the straight-line
path from 1 to 2 of the geodesic. The interval between 1 and 2 is
2
cτ = c 2 t o2 − xo2 = ct o 1 − ( xo cto ) so the
“radius” is
2 2
(
c 2τ 2 c t o 1 − ( xo cto )
2
)=c 2

8h
=
gt o2 g
(1 − ( x o cto )
2
)
So, if the motion is non-relativistic, the radius is
c2
just = 9 ×1015 m=1ly . Notice that xo and to do
g
not appear for non-relativistic motion: the radius
is the same everywhere.
As a side note: think about all the possible paths
through space-time from event 1 to 2. Only
along the geodesic would you feel no force
acting upon you at any time.
(Adapted from MTW, Chapter 1)