what is principle of equivalence?

Asked by gnikhilvarma | 31st Mar, 2009, 08:56: PM

Expert Answer:

Three forms of the equivalence principle are in current use: weak, Einsteinian, and strong.

 

The weak equivalence principle, also known as the universality of free fall:

The trajectory of a falling test particle depends only on its initial position and velocity, and is independent of its composition.

or

All test particles at the alike spacetime point in a given gravitational field will undergo the same acceleration, independent of their properties, including their rest mass.

The principle does not apply to large bodies, which might experience tidal forces, or heavy bodies, whose presence will substantially change the gravitational field around them. This form of the equivalence principle is closest to Einstein's original statement: in fact, his statements imply this one.

Since Einstein developed general relativity, there was a need to develop a framework to test the theory against other possible theories of gravity compatible with special relativity. This was developed by Robert Dicke as part of his program to test general relativity. Two new principles were suggested, the so-called Einstein equivalence principle and the strong equivalence principle, each of which assumes the weak equivalence principle as a starting point. They only differ in whether or not they apply to gravitational experiments.

The Einstein equivalence principle states that the result of a local non-gravitational experiment in an inertial frame of reference is independent of the velocity or location in the universe of the experiment. This is a kind of Copernican extension of Einstein's original formulation, which requires that suitable frames of reference all over the universe behave identically. It is an extension of the postulates of special relativity in that it requires that dimensionless physical values such as the fine-structure constant and electron-to-proton mass ratio be constant. Many physicists believe that any Lorentz invariant theory that satisfies the weak equivalence principle also satisfies the Einstein equivalence principle.

The strong equivalence principle states that the results of any local experiment, gravitational or not, in an inertial frame of reference are independent of where and when in the universe it is conducted. This is the only form of the equivalence principle that applies to self-gravitating objects (such as stars), which have substantial internal gravitational interactions. It requires that the gravitational constant be the same everywhere in the universe and is incompatible with a fifth force. It is much more restrictive than the Einstein equivalence principle. General relativity is the only known theory of gravity compatible with this form of the equivalence principle.

Answered by  | 31st Mar, 2009, 11:24: PM

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