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, 169491 (1963)

F. ROHRLICII

Department of Physics and Astronomy, State University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

and Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois

acceptable because they are either not generally valid or are simply the defini-

tion of an inertial coordinate system. The accepted statement refers, roughly

speaking, to the equivalence of inertial mass with passive and active gravita-

tional mass. The clarification of this problem is greatly eased by a detailed

study of the static homogeneous gravitational field which precedes the discus-

sion of the equivalence principle. The role of electromagnetic phenomena,

and, in particular, the presence of a charge in such a field is analyzed in detail.

elevators.’ They are carried out in reference frames which are not inertial, but

which are supported in a static gravitational field. Nevertheless, it is taken for

granted that the behavior of physical systems studied in this supported frame is-

apart from a simple correction due to the presence of the gravitational field, char-

acterized by the constant g-identical with that in an inertial system.

When pressed on this matter a physicist will refer to the principle of equiv-

alence. However, this principle is by itself a matter of considerable contro-

versy. It is studied experimentally2 while the theorists disagree concerning its

formulation and meaning. Two standard references (3, 4) disagree about the

equivalence of accelerated observers and gravitational fields, while a third (5)

does not seem to believe that there is such a principle at all.

The purpose of this study is a clarification of these matters (Sections VIII

and IX). To this end it will be helpful to have a detailed calculation before us

which deals with the most important gravitational field which is usually referred

to in connection with the principle of equivalence, viz. the static homogeneous

* Supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

I According to general relativity, the special theory of relativity is valid only locally

in freely falling reference frames.

* E8tviis’s classical experiment has recently been repeated by R. H. Dicke (1) and other

tests of this principle are proposed (2).

3 Throughout this paper the abbreviation SHGF will stand for “static homogeneous

gravitational field.”

169

170 ROHRLICH

gravitational field3 (SHGF). That this simplest of all fields is not completely

understood can easily be seen by raising the question of the radiation from a

uniformly accelerated charge. Does it radiate? And if it does, would this not

contradict the principle of equivalence? While the first question was answered

recently in the affirmative (6), the second question seems to be controversial;

it is closely related to a correct statement of the principle of equivalence.

Starting with an introductory section on uniform acceleration in special rela-

tivity, (Section II) which will be significant later on, the SHGF is defined in

Section III, followed by the corresponding description of free fall (Section IV)

and the associated local geodesic coordinate system (Section V) which permits

one to relate uniform acceleration in an inertial system to free fall in a noninertial

system. The relevance of conformal transformations in this respect is studied

in Section VI. The formulation of physical laws in a noninertial system (a frame

supported in an SHGF) is the problem of Section VII. It will yield the answer

to the above question on radiation. The results of this study lead to a clarifica-

tion of the principle of equivalence; its various forms can thus be evaluated

(Section VIII). The results are discussed in the last section (Section IX).

II. UNIFORM ACCELERATION

particle P is described by its position as a function of time r(t). At each instant

t the particle will have a velocity v(t) = dr/dt, an acceleration a(t) = dv/dt, as

well as higher derivatives of position, b(t) = da/d& etc.

At a given instant of time, to , an instantaneous inertial rest frame, II, , can be

defined by the requirement that the velocity v of P, when referred to ItO , should

vanish at t = to . After having chosen a particular to we shall denote It, simply

by I’, and we shall indicate all quantities referred to I’ by a prime.

Uniform acceleration is a special type of motion characterized by the condition

b’(t’) = 0, (2.1)

independent of the choice of to to which I’ refers. If, as is necessarily the case in

practice, uniformly accelerated motion takes place only over a finite time interval

tl < t < t2, then (2.1) is to hold for tl’ < t’ < t2’.

The defining condition (2.1) can be expressed in terms of the quantities re-

ferred to I and the relative velocity v(6) of I’ relative to I at the instant to .

To do this, it is essential to express first r’, t’, and the derivatives dr’/dt’, etc. in

terms of r, t and its derivatives by means of a Lorentz transformation with rela-

tive velocity U, and after this is done, to identify I’ with the instantaneous rest

system by u = v(to) . The condition of uniform acceleration, (2.1)) is then (7)

b + 3r2av-a = 0 (2.2)

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 171

where y = ( 1 - D’)-~“. Uniformly accelerated motion takes place for all times

for which (2.2) holds. Equations (2.1) and (2.2) are equivalent.

The most general motion r(t) in 1 with uniform acceleration is given by the

general solution of (2.2). To find this solution we note first that (2.2) can be

written

$ (-y3a> = 0 (2.2)’

T3a = g (2.3)

where g is a constant vector (independent of t) .

A simple calculation shows that Eq. (2.3) can be put into the form

d(v)

- - y(y2 - 1)v X (v X a>/2 = g.

dt

This equation can be written as an equation of motion, using

P = myv, F, = ,t,zg

(m always denotes the rest mass), provided one introduces the “pseudoforce”

where

o= -(y- l)vXa/v’ (2.5)

is the angular velocity vector associated with the Thomas precession. Thus, the

equation of motion of uniform acceleration is

dp/dt = F, + F, . (2.6)

The force F, is a constant force, independent of time and position. The pseudo-

force F, vanishes whenever v and a are parallel. In particular, for rectilinea?

motion (motion with initial velocity parallel to g) where both v and a are parallel

to g throughout the motion,

d(mrv) /dt = mg (rectilinear case). (2.7)

This particular case is known as hyperbolic motion, since the integral of (2.7) is

a hyperbola in Minkowski space.

When the initial velocity is not parallel to g the motion will no longer be

rectilinear and F, # 0. The instantaneous inertial rest frames It, and Itotiln will

then differ in the direction of their velocities relative to I. Since the composite

of two successive Lorentz transformations without rotation and with relative

172 ROHRLICH

with rotation, a Thomas precession effect necessarily arises. This effect is de-

scribed exactly by F,,, which has the structure (but not the sign) of a Coriolis

force associated with an instantaneous angular velocity o. In the nonrelativistic

limit Eq. (2.4) becomes

F,= -2mvXo. (2.4) NR

There is no term, however, analogous to a centrifugal acceleration.

Since (2.6) and (2.3) are equivalent, it is obvious that in the limit when no

force is acting, F, = 0, the equation of motion (2.6) leads to the expected so-

lution a = 0 uniquely.

The above definition of uniform acceleration can easily be put into the co-

variant language of special relativity. For charged particles the condition (2.1)

is equivalent (8) to the vanishing of the Abraham four-vector of “radiation

reaction,”

I’” = rO(du“/dr - axa%‘) = 0 (2.8)

where vp is the velocity four-vector,4 a” = dv’/dr, and r. is N of the time it takes

a light wave to travel the distance of one “classical electron radius” ( e2/mC2) .

For any other particle the corresponding charge and rest mass is to be used.

The equation

where we use the quasi-Euclidean metric with positive signature, can be re-

garded as the covariant definition of uniform acceleration in special relativity.

From (2.9) and the orthogonality of a’ and v’ follows at once that the in-

variant electromagnetic radiation rate (R is a constant (9),

The equation (2.9) can therefore be integrated with respect to r, yielding (10).

v’ = aLeAr + fire+ (2.11)

the velocity is constant,

(R = 0 t) v” = a’ + p* (2.13)

4 The space components of a four-vector, W, say, are of course not to be identified with

the components of the three-vector v. The latter will never be used, so that no confusion

can arise. In the case of VP: ZP = (y, yv).

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 173

i = yc + A-‘( aPeAr- p”e+). (2.14)

The three constant vectors (Y’, @“,and 7” are restricted by (2.12) and are deter-

mined by the initial conditions

(2.15)

v”(0) = ap+ 6”.

The constant X is the magnitude of the acceleration in the instantaneous rest

system and is determined by the external force according to (2.3). The hyper-

bolic nature of the world line and the noncovariant relations discussed earlier

can easily be seenfrom the explicit solution (2.14).

All the above considerations refer to flat space (Minkowski space) and to the

absence of gravitational fields. We shall now turn to the description of a par-

ticular kind of gravitational field.

Before we proceed with the study of this field it must be emphasized that a

very general class of gravitational fields can exist (with suitable asymptotic

conditions) which have vanishing curvature tensor in a Jinite domain, D, to a

certain approximation. Consequently, there exists a coordinate system in which

this field appears as an SHGF in D in that approximation. A measurement which

does not exceed a certain accuracy will therefore yield results which are in-

distinguishable from those in an SHGF, characterizing the paucity of information

obtained (seefootnote 2). This point should be kept in mind during the following

study of the SHGF.

Intuitively, one expects that uniformly accelerated motion takes place in

free fall in an SHGF. However, this is not generally the case. Uniform accelera-

tion was defined in special relativity and the only reasonable requirement one

can make is that the freely falling observer in an SHGF, i.e., the one for whom

(at least locally) special relativity holds, should see an object in uniform ac-

celeration when this object is supported in the SHGF. In Section V this expecta-

tion will indeed be proven. Conversely, uniform acceleration of a freely falling

object as seen by an observer supported in an SHGF will be found only for a

special choice of the coordinate system.

Definition: A static homogeneous gravitational field (SHGF) is defined by a

timelike line element, using a metric with positive signature,

where A, B, C, and D are functions of z only (the field is parallel to the z-axis)

174 ROHRLICH

R xXpr= 0. (3.2)

It is now a matter of computation to determine the functions A to D from the

differential equation (3.2).

If we denote derivatives with respect to z of the functions A to D by a prime,

the only nonvanishing Christoffel symbols are

D’

I?;, = - r;, = - -A’ r,“, = - -B’ I?;, = -C’

2C’ 2C’ 2C’ 2c

(3.3)

D’ I A’ B’

rao = ri, = 20’

0

r31= ri, = 52’ r32= r;, =

2

-.

2B

Substitution of these expressions into (3.2) yields the following set of differential

equations which exhausts the 20 linearly independent components of the curva-

ture tensor:

A’B’ = 0, B’D’ = 0, D’A’ = 0 (3.4)

(E = A, B, orD). (3.5)

Equations (3.4) state that at least two of the three coefficients A, B, and D

must be constant. In order to make progress at this point we look at the non-

relativistic limit of an SHGF. The gravitational potential 4 for a constant force

in the negative z-direction is

4NR = gz such that FNR = -WLVC$NR = -mgk (3.6)

where k is the unit vector in the z-direction and g is a constant. If the gravita-

tional field is weak, so that the gPydiffer from the Minkowski values ~]r~ (signa-

ture +2) only by small terms (4 << 1)) and if (d~/dt)~ << 1, etc., (3.1) must

reduce to

-dT2 = dx2 + dy2 + dx2 - (1 + @NR) dt2. (3.7)

This shows that D(z) cannot be a constant. We are thus lead to the result that

A and B are constants, by (3.4)) and that, therefore

A=B=I (3.8)

by (3.7). Thus, a time-orthogonal metric tensor in flat space which depends

on only one Cartesian space-coordinate describes necessarily a plane-symmetric

field.5

6 One can prove that a static gravitational field with plane symmetry necessarily implies

flat space (11).

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 175

This can be written

20”

--- D’ C’

(3.9)

D’ D=1;

since D’ # 0. This equation can easily be integrated:

C(z)= (+$dq.

The integration constant is determined by (3.6) and (3.7). The line element

(3.1) can therefore be written

dT* = D(x) dt* - (dB’/g) * dz* - dy* - dx*. (3.11)

We conclude that our dejkition of a static homogeneous gravitational field is

satisjied by the injinity of the line elements (S.il) where D(z) is an arbitrary real

,function, restricted only by requirements of continuity and the nonrelativistic

limit

DiqR(z) = 1 + 292. (3.12)

Among this infinity of line elements there are three which are of special in

terest. If we assume C’ = cons& i.e., C = 1 by (3.7), the line element becomes

-dT2 = dx2 + dy2 + dz” - (1 + gz)’ dt’. (3.13)

This metric is used by Moller (1.8). It means that a linear variation of clock

rate with height is sufficient to simulate a SHGF. This is known for weak fields

where the SHGF reduces to the usual nonrelativistic field but is here proven for

fields of arbitrary strength.

Another case of interest is obtained by assuming:

C proportional to D. (3.14)

This yields

-dr2 = dx* + dy’ + e2”(dz2 - dt*) . (3.15)

r” E g”l+:@ = 0.

element

1 + 292

176 ROHRLICH

exact.

IV. FREE FALL

We now turn to the motion of a test particle in the gravitational field defined

by (3.11) and (3.12). Using

u(z) = d&4, UNR = 1 + $72 (4.1)

the corresponding linear connection has as only nonvanishing components

0 U’ 3 U"

I?30 = I$, = u' r33 = -J' r:, = g2 $

(4.3)

which yields

(4.4a)

(4.4b)

(4.4c)

vanish and g = 0, it follows that (Y = 1. This choice describes particles which

are at rest (have zero velocity) at the instant at which they pass through x = 0.

By means of (4.5) the equations of motion (4.4) become

(4.6a)

(4.6b)

6 For three-dimensional motion (dx/dt and dy/dt not both vanishing initially) the form

(2.3) can never be satisfied for the equations of motion in SHGF coordinates.

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 177

(4.7)

and a simple calculation verifies that this is a first integral of (4.6b). With t

as the only independent variable, (4.7) can be written

which yields

1

- = cash g(t - to). (4.9)

u

The integration constant was so chosen that u = 1 at t = to. This equation

determines x(t) for one-dimensional motion (free fall) when u(x) is given.

In the nonrelativistic limit with gz << 1, gt << 1, it gives

2 = -$g(t - to)? (4.10)

We can choose u(x) in such a way that a freely falling test particle undergoes

hyperbolic motion.7 According to (2.3) we must then have

312

d2.z

-=

dt2

-g

[ 1

1-g

g(z - 20) = 1 - 2/l + g2(t - to)*, (4.11)

where to is the time at which the particle velocity 21= 0. Therefore, with (4.9)

we must have

u(z)

Here we have chosen zo = 0 in order to comply with the previously chosen initial

condition (3.12). The nonrelativistic limit of (4.12) is (4.10).

Thus, we conclude that for a given nonrelativistic limit (corresponding to our

choice (3.12) and corresponding initial conditions) the SHGF is uniquely de-

fined by the line element (3.11) and the requirement that free fall should be

hyperbolic motion; it yields (4.12). None of the line elements (3.13)) (3.15),

and (3.16) give hyperbolic motion. The difference appears in order g2; with

to = 0 we have

x = -+gt2(1 - a(gt)2 + . . .) (4.13)

7 This means that z(t) satisfies the same second order differential equation of motion

as in special relativity.

178 ROHRLICH

Various line elements differ in the value of Q: which is ss; N, and x far the

three cases mentioned, while (4.12) yields (Y = x.

While we have computed the motion of free fall as seen by an observer at

rest in a static homogeneousgravitational field, we now ask how this observer

is seenwhen viewed from the freely falling test particle.

The principle of equivalence implies that the freely falling test particle de-

fines locally an inertial system. Thus, we carry out a transformation to a local

geodesic coordinate system S’ = I’ defined by

The corresponding coordinate transformations for free fall are found by an easy

calculation :

2’ = 2, Yl = Y

g(z’ - a,‘) = u(z) cash g(t - to) - 1 (5.2)

For the choice u(z) = 1 + gz used by Moller (Id), corresponding to the line

element (3.13)) the transformation (5.2) reduces to his well-known acceleration

transformation.

Equations (5.2) imply

= (t&>/g>“. (5.3)

This equation is valid everywhere in space and not only locally, becausewe are

dealing with a homogeneousfield satisfying Eq. (3.2). The physical meaning of

this result can be expressed as follows: An observer S’ freely falling (and there-

for inertial, S’ = I’) in an SHGF will seean object which is at rest in S (i.e.,

supported in the SHGF) as moving with uniform acceleration (hyperbolic

motion). This result is independent*of the choice of u(z). It provides the eventual

justification for our definition of an SHGF: a plane x = constant, at rest in the

SHGF, will be seen by an inertial observer to move parallel to itself, rigidly,

and with’constant acceleration (hyperbolic motion).

A comparison is important of the conclusions just reached and the result of

the preceding section : an observer supported in an SHGF will seea freely falling

8 The choice of u(z) determines the magnitude of the acceleration (g/u), but does not

influence the fact that the motion is hyperbolic. The reader is reminded that “acceleration”

here means “acceleration in the instantaneous rest system”; it is a constant according to

(2.1).

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 179

dispelling the often expressed belief that in general relativity acceleration is

relative and therefore reciprocal in the sense that the motion of A relative to B

is identical (apart from a sense of direction) with the motion of B relative to A.

In fact, strangely to say, this reciprocity of acceleration is true only in non-

relativistic physics (first order in G and small velocities) where acceleration is

absolute. In general, relativity acceleration is not an intrinsic quantity (d2x”/d7’

is not a vector) and therefore has meaning only relative to a given reference

frame. Obviously, the local geodesic ones are singled out, since only in them

does d2xP/dT2 = 62x”/6~2. The latter quantity is a vector, viz. the covariant

second derivative of a vector with respect to a scalar (cf. Eq.(8.3) ) .

to the lo-parameter Lorents group (which is a subgroup of it), also the dilatation

transformation x” = Xx’ and the 4-parameter acceleration transformation

(6.1)

1 - 2axxX + upu%T5”

The scalar products here refer to Minkowski space: x,?‘ = q,,x’x”. All elements

of the group satisfy the relation characterizing the general conformal group

dx,‘dx” = u(x) dx, dx’. (6.2)

The special 15-parameter group results from suitable restrictions on u(x) (13).

This conformal group is very closely linked to motion with uniform accelera-

tion: These motions are characterized by (2.2) and this conformal group is the

largest group of transformations which leaves (2.2) invariant (7). In particular,

the acceleration transformation (6.1) transforms from rest to uniform accelera-

tion. It can also be made to satisfy the nonrelativistic limit (4.10).

It is now essential, however, that there exist transformations which are not

conformal transformations (i.e., do not satisfy (6.2)), but which nevertheless

transform a particle from rest into hyperbolic motion. A case in point are the

transformations (5.2) from rest in an SHGF to hyperbolic motion in I’. Since

these are the most general transformations satisfying (5.1), it follows that

the (conjormal) acceleration transformations (6.1) do not transform from an SHGF

to an inertial system.

Physically, this result follows from the fact that the conformal transformation

(6.1) does not leave invariant the coordinate orthogonal to the acceleration, as

would be expected for the relationship between an SHGF and an inertial system,

and as is the case in (5.2). Furthermore, the covariant nature of (6.2) ties the

transformation of the spatial coordinates to the time in such a way that the

transformed line element cannot describe a static situation.

180 ROHRLICH

these objections no longer hold, as long as one regards the acceleration transfor-

mation (6.1) as connecting an inertial system with one in which there exists a

nonstatic apparent gravitational field. The weak field limit is then correctly

given by (4.10) and is not distinguishable from the static case. For larger g

the consequences of the acceleration transformation are studied elsewhere (14).

From these considerations follows that the set of all frames which are char-

acterized by a time-orthogonal line element and the property that a point at

rest in them should appear uniformly accelerated in a given direction (z-direction,

say), is a very large set indeed. It contains all the SHGF frames (3.11) as well

as all the (nonstatic) conformal frames following from (6.2). However, the

transformations T from an inertial system to this set do not form a group. The

largest subset of T which does form a group is the set of special conformal trans-

formations, CO , in the notation of ref. is.

In using conformal transformations one forces a Minkowski space onto a

noninertial observer. The subsequent distortion of clocks and yardsticks which

is necessary to accommodate that space results in the change of distances or-

thogonal to the field.

A consistent theory of conformal invariance based on (6.2) requires that masses

and the gravitational coupling constant G are not universal constants, but de-

pend on the coordinate system (i.e., on U(X)). While this and the concomitant

conformal invariance of Gm/R (where R is a length) permit a formulation of

Mach’s principle, conformal physics meets with difficulties unless it is restricted

to flat or conformally flat space. As we shall see, the principle of equivalence is a

much stronger statement when applied to curved space, SO that we shall not

pursue conformal physics further in the present paper (13).

VII. ELECTRODYNAMICS IN AN SHGF

In a Riemann space Maxwell’s equations in the absence of matter (Maxwell-

Lorentz equations) can be expressed in terms of the four-vector potential A’ by

g?,VBA” = -4uj’ (7.1)

V,A’ = 0. (7.2)

The covariant derivatives V, are defined in terms of the Christoffel symbols

I”,, which are given by (4.2) for an SHGF. The fields are then

Substituting the I’“,, , one finds for the Lorentz condition (7.2)

a,# +

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 181

while the four equations (7.1) become coupled linear second order differential

equations which are somewhat complex and need not be given here. While it

would be rather difficult to solve these equations, the solutions can be obtained

much easier by solving the corresponding problem in the freely falling (inertial)

system I’, and then transforming the result to the SHGF (frame X) by means

of the transformation (5.2).

To illustrate this procedure we consider the simplest possible case: a charge

e at rest at x = y = z = 0 in the SHGF. In I’ this charge undergoes hyperbolic

motion (cf. Section V) with acceleration g. If we assume that at t = 0 we have

to’ = 0, zO’ = l/g and x0’ = yO’ = 0, we have from (5.3)

12

x - tr2 = l/g2 (7.5)

for the motion of the charge. The fields produced by it were computed previously

(8). In our notation and using cylindrical coordinates p’, ‘p’, z’, they are

Eil = ( 8e/g2) p’z’/f3

E:J = - (4e/g2) ( l/g2 + t” + p12 - 2”) /&‘”

EL, = H;, = Hi, = 0 (7.6)

Hk I = (8e/g”) p’t’/03

(’ = [( l/g2 + t’2 - PI2 - 2’“) 2 + (2p’/g) 2]1’2.

The fields FNy(zr) in the SHGF are now easily obtained from FLY( r’) given by

(7.6). One only needs the transformation

FC(“( x) = u,“u~Fh,( 2’) (7.7)

1 =

Uki = 0 i # k, a1 a22 r 0

a3” = (l/g)u’ sinh gt uo” = u cash gt.

The result of this easy calculation is

E, = H, = H, = H, = 0 (7.9)

E, = g(z’E;r - t’H& E, = (l/g)uu’E:f . (7.10)

a charge at rest in any SHGF does not radiate.g However, in the inertial system

9 The specific form of the condition which assures that these fields are retarded in S

is irrelevant as far as H = 0 is concerned.

182 ROHRLICH

I’ the charge does radiate, since it is accelerated (by being supported in the

gravitational field). The derivation of (7.9) makes it obvious that these two

statements are consistent with each other. They should not come as a surprise

to anyone.

The electric field strength has no azimuthal component. It can be expressed

in terms of p, z, and t by means of

P. =P

gt’ = u(n) sinh gt

and yields, after combining it into Er2 = (EP2 + g33Ez2)(go’> 2,

4eg2

E, = (7.12)

t1 - bPj2 - u”l” + (%P)2’

For u2 = 1 + 2gx one finds the weak field result E, = e/r”. The first correction

to it is given for u2 = 1 + 2gz + a(gx)2 by

The potential A, follows from ref. 6 in the same way and yields for the “Cou-

lomb” potential

1 + (gp)2 + u”

4 = -Ao = eg r<l - (gp)2 - u2)2 + (&g)2p/2

(7.14)

For small g this becomes 4 = e/r. If one chooses the Kottler-Whittaker metric

(3.16)) corresponding to u2 = 1 + 2gz, the potential (7.14) reduces to the

expression found by Whittaker (15) .I0

The method employed above for the computation of the field of a charge

supported in an SHGF, can equally well be used to compute the field of a charge

freely falling in an SHGF. One transforms the Coulomb field in the inertial

frame I’ in which such a charge is at rest, to the fields seen by S, using the

transformation (7.8). The result is that H, = H, = E, = 0 while the other

components do not vanish. The results need not be repeated here, since they

agree with those computed by Rosen (16) for the case of the M@ller SHGF.

The charge is again found to emit radiation, provided one makes sure that the

fields are retarded. The Coulomb’ field is well-known to be ambiguous in this

respect.”

10 Note that for that metric the Lorentz condition (7.4) reduces to &,A# = 0.

11 In this connection Rosen’s work (16) must be discussed, since he concludes from the

Bame fields that the charge would not radiate. His computation refers to a charge at rest

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 183

almost obvious but conceptually essential point must be made: Any theory of

gravitation must contain in a suitable limit the formalism (though not the

philosophy) of Newton’s theory of gravitation. Similarly, if the theory is to be

valid without restriction on the particle velocities, it must contain in a suitable

limit the laws of physics as stated by the special theory of relativity. The general

theory of relativity is well known to satisfy these conditions.

Whatever the statement of the principle of equivalence (and there have been

many) its validity must extend beyond the framework of Newtonian gravitation

or special relativity. Otherwise, it would hardly be justified to be called a prin-

ciple. On the other hand, if this principle is almost trivially contained in t,he

theory of relativity, this would be no reason to ignore it once that theory is

accepted, or to bury it with appropriate honors. Thus, the principle of electric

charge conservation is fully and almost trivially contained in Maxwell’s equa-

tions, but its burial is obviously not indicated.

For Newton’s theory of gravitation the following two statements are valid:

(A) The equation of motion of a test particle in a gravitational field, i.e. of

a particle whose own gravitational field is negligible, is independent of its mass

and composition. (In Newtonian terms: the same quantity plays the role of

inertial mass and of passive gravitational mass.)

(B) Matter is acted on by gravitational fields and is itself the source of a

gravitational field. (In Newtonian terms: the same quantity plays the role of

active and passive gravitational mass.)

In Newtonian physics (A) is valid by implicit assumption, while (B) is a conse-

quence of Newton’s third law and the law of gravitation.

Either of these two statements may be elevated to a principle provided they

are postulated to hold generally, i.e., not only within Newtonian gravitation

theory. Thus, when combined with special relativity they say that the (inertial)

in I’ as seen by an observer supported in Mgller’s SHGF (3.13), since his use of a Schwarz-

schild-Nordstr8m line element is irrelevant in the limiting case of interest. As was shown

above, this system is not the one discussed by Fulton and Rohrlich (6) in which a charge

is uniformly accelerated, i.e., it is at rest in S and seen by I’. The use of the principle of

equivalence in this connection will be discussed in Section VIII. In any case, however, the

charge radiates provided the fields are retarded. The retardation condition is not auto-

matically contained in the fields which were derived from the Coulomb field. It must be

imposed explicitly and has the form z + t > 0 in Rosen’s notation or z + t > 0 in ours

(cf. p. 503 of ref.6). The time-symmetry argument whether applied on the fields or on the

energy-momentum tensor is therefore misleading; it yields no radiation in either references

(6) or (16). If the retardation condition is not imposed one has a mixture of half retarded

and half advanced fields (expressed by the identical formulas for the fields), corresponding,

however, to two charges, one being the time reverse mirror image of the other in a Minkowski

diagram. In that case there is indeed no radiation, as was explained in ref. 6.

184 ROHRLICH

mass equivalent of any form of energyI is also both active and passive gravi-

tational mass. In general relativity (A) is satisfied by the geodesic postulate

“all test particles move along geodesics.” It is also valid for a cloud of test

particles (5). In this sense it is not a local statement. (B) is satisfied by the

dual role played by the energy-momentum tensor in the gravitational field

equations. While Tpy plays the role of a field source (active gravitational mass)

in

R,ua - 3gpvR = KT~~,

it plays the role of passive matter whose motion is determined by the gravita-

tional field (passive gravitational mass) in

Both statements, (A) and (B), are valid for true gravitational fields, i.e.,

irrespective of the value of the curvature tensor (including zero), independent

of the strength of the field.

Statement (A) is the basis for a geometrization of gravitational interaction.

Statement (B) is far from trivial as soon as Newton’s third law is abandoned

as is the case in a theory containing finite propagation velocities of interaction.

We shall later adopt (A) and (B) as the full statement of the principle of equiv-

alence. It is a generalization of the assertion of the equivalence of inertial and

gravitational mass.

An equation of motion of a test particle is an equation involving the second

(and no higher) time derivative of position of that particle: although this is

not essential we shall here assume that one can solve this equation for the second

derivative, yielding

d2X”

-=

dr2

p x,: . (8.1)

f( -> 7

If we have a set of particles of various masses and compositions, all with the

same initial conditions, it follows from (A) that f” is independent of these masses

and compositions. Therefore, over a region over which the field is sufficiently

uniform, an observer moving (“falling”) with these particles will see no effect

of the gravitational field. The field can be transformed away locally. The exist-

ence of such a comoving observer is physically obvious.

Mathematically, this means that there must exist a coordinate transformation

S + S’ such that in the new coordinate system (8.1) reads

d2x’” o

(8.2)

d72= *

12 This is the precise meaning of the vague word “matter” in (B) when this statement is

made as a local statement.

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 185

The freely falling observer, characterized by the coordinate system S’, sees

no “gravitational field strength,” j” = 0. Since by assumption no other forces

are present, S’ is an inertial observer.

In this way it follows that a theory of gravitation which contains both New-

tonian gravitation theory and special relativity in suitable limits and which is

consistent with (A) must involve the following specafiation of an inertial system:

(C,) A system whose origin is freely falling and which is nonrotating in a

gravitational field is locally an inertial system and all the laws of special rela-

tivity are locally valid in it.

This statement can also be expressed in the form.

(C,) There is no physical experiment by which an observer can distinguish

locally between his own free, nonrotating fall in a gravitational field and field

free space.

A third form of the same statement is obtained by considering the inverse

transformation, i.e., the transformation leading from (8.2) to (8.1)) and using

(A). The above statements (C) then can be phrased as

(C,) An acceleration field is locally equivalent to a gravitational field.13

All three statements (C) depend on the existence of the transformation

S * S’. In general relativity this is assured by the assumption that the under-

lying space has a symmetric linear connection. Thus, in this respect a space

much more general than a Riemann space (assumed in general relativity) would

do as well. In such a space there always exists a transformation which makes

the connection I’“,, = 0 locally. It is then only necessary to make I’“,, a factor

in j“ of (8.1) to obtain the desired equation of motion. In this case it is the

geodesic

- equation

(8.3)

postulate follows uniquely from (A)14 and the existence of S c--) S’.

General relativity also permits a precise definition of “locally” in (C) . It

means “over a space-time domain D of order (6~)~ in which the curvature

tensor vanishes everywhere in the sense that R,,,$ix”6x8 - 0,” i.e., “to the

extent that there is no true gravitational field.” For apparent gravitational

fields (R,A,, = 0) “local” means “everywhere.”

I3 This statement means that two noninertial systems are locally identical. “An inertial

frame in which there is a gravitational field present” is meaningless and a self-contradiction.

Fock (4) identifies (Ca) with the principle of equivalence. His argument that ((23) is

valid only for nonrelativistic physics to first order in G is incorrect. “Local” does not mean

“to the approximation that the field is a Meller SHGF,” but refers only to the approximate

vanishing of the curvature tensor. Even if the field approximates an SHGF it need not, have

the Mprller metric, as was shown in Section III.

I4 For a spinning particle, (A) need not be valid and neither is (8.3).

186 ROHRLICH

,It is now clear that all statements (C) are simply recipes for constructing

inertial systems in a world of gravitation. They define an inertial system and

thus give meaning to the special theory of relativity. The definition with respect

to fixed stars which is so often given is logically unsatisfactory and, being a

nonlocal definition, has no place in a theory which does not fully incorporate

Mach’s principle and which is based on differential equations.

One or the other of the forms of the statement (C) have been preposed as

statements of the principle of equivalence. According to the present point of

view this is not acceptable for two reasons:

(a) The statement (C) does not state an equivalence but is a definition (opera-

tional, in a certain sense) of an inertial system and can thus not be a principle.

This definition is used to deduce the laws of special relativity from experiments

in noninertial laboratories. The only question that could be asked is: What

assures that two differently moving inertial observers (one freely falling radially

and one circling the earth, say) would both see locally the same laws of special

relativity? This is assured by the principle of covariance (which can thereby be

tested) and has nothing to do with the principle of equivalence or the definition

of inertial systems.

(b) The statement (C) is by its nature meaningful only “to the approximation

that there is no true gravitational field (RKx,l = 0)” and therefore physically

not acceptable as principle about gravitational interactions.

On the other hand, we must keep in mind that none of the definitions (C)

would be possible without the validity of the principle of equivalence (part A)

at least for flat space. Thus, an experimental test of (C) confirms that in JEat

space the equation of motion of a test particle in a gravitational field is independ-

ent of mass. Only an experiment in which those features of the mtric enter which

assure a non-vanishing curvature, can provide a test of the full principle of equi-

valence.

In summary, then, we have two basic, fundamental, and independent as-

sertions, (A) and (B), which are to be regarded as “the principle of equivalence.”

They refer, respectively, to the equivalence of passive gravitational mass

with inertial and with active gravitational mass. They are valid for true gravi-

tational fields and are not restricted to the flat space approximation. The var-

ious statements (C) are each a definition of an inertial system and they cannot

meaningfully be regarded as principles. It must be understood, however, that no

such local definitions were possible without the principle of equivalence (state-

ment (A)) being valid at least for flat space.

IX. DISCUSSION

While the bulk of this paper is concerned with the study of a static homo-

geneous gravitational field (SHGF), the results derived from it are only auxiliary

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 187

to the problem, of the precise formulation and meaning of the principle of equiv-

alence. Although an SHGF is in general a poor approximation for actual physical

systems (a region immediately above the center of a large disk-shaped galaxy

might be the best approximation realized in nature), this study greatly clarifies

the situation since an SHGF is the most important gravitational field involved

in the common statements of the principle of equivalence.

Specific calculations confirm that free fall of an object as seen by an observer

supported in an SHGF is not the same as support of this object in an SHGF

as seen by a freely falling observer. Acceleration is not reciprocal in general

relativity.

Since electromagnetic phenomena are usually not, included in discussions of

the principle of equivalence, it is important to clarify their role. As long as we

do not have a unified field theory which might well predict interference phe-

nomena between gravitational and electromagnetic interactions that are so

far not included in general relativity, the principle of equivalence is postulated

to hold also for charged test particles. l5 The electrodynamics of special relativity

is consequently valid in the local inertial frames of the statements (C). These

statements therefore imply, in particular, that an observer falling freely in an

SHGF will (a) see a similarly falling charge as purely electrostatic and non-

radiating, and (b) see a charge supported in an SHGF radiate according to the

laws of special relativity when applied to hyperbolic motion. Since these two

situations are not related by a Lorentz transformation (under which the radi-

ation rate is invariant), (a) and (b) do not contradict each other. The question

is much more subtle for the observer supported in an SHGF. Since he is non-

inertial his Maxwell equations are only formally identical with those of special

relativity. That they predict radiation from a freely falling charge and no radi-

ation from a supported charge is not obvious. That this is actually the case is

proven explicitly in Section VII. If one argues on the basis of (C,) that this

situation involves an accelerated charge which should always radiate, the

argument is erroneous, because the fact that a charge is accelerated does not

necessarily imply that it radiates, unless the acceleration takes place relative

to an inertial observer. A noninertial observer uses different clocks and yard-

sticks. Thus, even though the charge is accelerated, it follows that, because the

observer is also accelerated, the co-accelerated observer sees no radiation. Since

radiation is not a generally covariant concept the question whether the charge

really radiates is meaningless unless it is referred to a particular coordinate

system. Finally, since the Schwarzschild metric, locally, for small G, and non-

I5 By definition of “test particle” one must ignore here the effect of the particles own

field on its motion (electromagnetic as well as gravitational). But the electromagnetic

self-energy is included as part of its mass which is not supposed to enter its equation of

motion.

188 ROHRLICH

relativistically, is identical with the SHGF metric, the above conclusion also

holds for a charge at rest as seen by an observer in a Schwarzschild field. A

“local” definition of radiation (9) is here essential.

These considerations are important in that they confirm the validity of the

principle of equivalence also for charged test particles. Experimental tests which

confirm the validity of special relativity in various freely falling situations also

confirm the principle of covariance and the definition of inertial systems (C,,

say). They confirm the principle of equivalence only weakly, viz. for flat space.

Strong tests must show that part (A) of that principle also holds when space is

curved. For example, in a static field the freely falling observer must not only

see an SHGF, i.e., the world lines of objects supported in the static field must be

long enough so that they can be distinguished from a congruence of parallel

straight lines.

The experiments by Eiitvijs and by Dicke (1,Z) can provide such a test, since

the earth is rotating and the sun’s gravitational field is changing during the

experiment. A confirmation of the principle of equivalence is the simultaneous

observation of the orbiting of a nonspinning space capsule (which assures free

fall in a field of nonvanishing curvature) and the observation of force-free space

inside this capsule, irrespective of the mass, chemical composition, temperature,

polarization, etc. of the objects in it. The presence of electromagnetic forces

are to be accounted for by special relativity, to arbitrary accuracy, restricted

only by the flatness of space within the capsule. The latter can be determined

by the observer on earth. The fact that all this holds for all space capsules con-

firms that the laws of nature are independent of space and time (at least within

certain limits), i.e., it confirms the general principle of relativity as expressed

by the principle of covariance.le

Similar tests are provided by changing the bodies used in the Eotvos-Dicke

experiment not only with respect to chemical composition, but also with respect

to types of energy (kinetic energy of heat motion, potential energy of aligned

nuclei, etc.) since the equivalent of every type of energy has to obey the equiv-

alence principle. Such tests were recently proposed by Morgan and Peres

(17). However, their argument concerning the velocity dependence of the forces

in freely falling objects as seen by an observer supported in a Meller SHGF

have nothing to do with these tests. In fact, the arbitrariness of u(z) can be used

to eliminate the velocity dependence. There is no reason to prefer Mprller’s

choice over any other U(Z).

Of course, any test of the geodesic equation as the equation of motion of

freely falling test particles is a direct test of the equivalence principle. However,

such a test involves usually also other features of the theory of relativity.

The principle of equivalence (part (A)) is satisfied when light rays follow null

16 We also emphasize that this typical inertial observer is accelerated with respect to

the fixed stars.

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 189

geodesics. Their bending depends on the curvature of space, i.e., on the par-

ticular type of true gravitational field (despite the fact that within the experi-

mental accuracy to which the equation can be confirmed only the first power of

G enters!) and is not predicted quantitatively (nor excluded qualitatively) by

this principle (18, 19). An analogous situation is the perihel precession of plane-

tary motion (which does measure terms in G2, however). It can also be seen

that no form of the SHGF can ever predict the same light bending as the

Schwarzschild metric, even in first approximation in G, because the SHGF ap-

proximates that metric only nonrelativistically which is insufficient for the world

line of light.

The gravitational shift of spectral lines is both the weakest and the strongest

of the three Einstein effects. The usual explanation given, which is Einstein’s

original one (20) and which precedes the general theory of relativity, is not an

explanation at all, but is at best a plausibility argument. It says that, if there

were a theory which contained (in suitable limits) Newtonian gravitation

theory, special relativity, and quantum mechanics, then the principle of equiv-

alence (part (A)) will-to first order in g-predict that shift of spectral lines.

All three theories mentioned enter into the argument, but each of these contra-

dicts the other two. Since we do not have a theory which incorporates all three

of them, this effect is strictly speaking unexplained. In this respect the red shift

effect is the strongest of the three Einstein effects.

The red shift was observed in two essentially different ways: by a comparison of

a clock (radiating atom) on a star (sun) with a terrestrial clock, and by a corn-

parison of two clocks at different terrestrial gravitational potentials (21). The

essential difference between these experiments lies in the fact that in the second

experiment (and not in the first) the gravitational field at both clocks can be

eliminated simultaneously by a suitable motion of the observer (coordinate

transformation); it involves an SHGF within the accuracy of the experiment and

is therefore a very weak confirmation of the equivalence principle. In fact, it is

correctly predicted by using the definition (C,) of inertial systems in comparing

any two clocks which are in different gravitational fields (true or apparent)

and which use coordinate systems whose go0to first order in g agree with Min-

kowski space and an SHGF respectively, i.e., which are go0 = -1 and go0=

-(l + Zgz), respectively. Since any theory which incorporates Newtonian

gravitation and special relativity will satisfy these conditions, the red shift,

experiment performed in the laboratory confirms in addition to these theories

little else than the specification of inertial systems according to (C,). It does

prove more than the red shift experiment on a rotating disk (22), since the

latter refers to flat space and an inertial clock,17 but it proves less than the

astronomical red shift observation which involves true gravitational fields.

I7 The experiment is performed in the plane orthogonal to the gravitational field of the

earth with the emitter on the axis of the rotating disk, the observer being on the periphery.

190 ROHRLICH

The comparison of a clock in a satellite and one on the earth would differ

from all the previously performed red-shift experiments in that a noninertial

observer compares a noninertial and an inertial clock in a true gravitational

field.

The principle of equivalence is fully contained in the theory of relativity.

What is not contained in it is the origin of inertia. The theory assures the equality

of inertial and gravitational mass but it does not explain why they are equal.

A possible explanation of the latter would be afforded by Mach’s principle

which is not contained in general relativity. In a theory which contains Mach’s

principle, the principle of equivalence is trivial, since inertia would have a

gravitational origin.

If we accept the equivalence principle in the form proposed above, it is quite

clear that it points to a geometrization of gravitational phenomena, as was

indeed its historic role, while a geometrization of electrodynamics is not indi-

cated; not only is the charge to mass ratio not a universal constant, but the

exact equation of motion of a test charge involves the charge in a nonlinear and

complicated manner Q’S).

Note added in proof: After completion of the above paper an article by T. C.

Bradbury (Ann. Phys. (N. Y.) 19, 323 (1962)) appeared in which the electro-

magnetic field of a charge supported in a Meller SHGF is computed for an

equally supported observer. His results are a special case of our Eqs. (7.9)

to (7.12).

REFERENCES

8. R. H. DICKE, Am. J. Phys. 28, 344 (1960).

8. C. M@LLER, “The Theory of Relativity.” Oxford Univ. Press, London, 1952.

4. V. FOCK, “Theory of Space-Time and Gravitation,” esp. p. 209 ff. Pergamon Press,

London, 1969.

6. J. L. SYNGE, “Relativity: The General Theory,” preface, p. IX. North-Holland Pub-

lishing Company, Amsterdam; Interscience, New York, 1960.

6. T. FULTON AND F. ROHRLICH, Ann. Phys. (N. Y.) 9, 499 (1960).

7. E. L. HILL, Phys. Rev. 72, 143 (1947).

8. F. ROHRLICH, The classical electron. In “Lectures in Theoretical Physics,” Vol. II,

W. E. Brittin and B. W. Downs, eds. Interscience, New York, 1960.

9. F. ROHRLICH, Nuovo Cimento 21, 811 (1961).

10. VACHASPATI AND BALI, Nuovo Cimento 21, 442 (1961).

11. A. LICHNEROWICZ, “Theories Relativistes de la Gravitation et de I’Electromagnetisme.”

Masson, Paris, 1955.

1.9. C. M$LLER, Kgl. Danske Videnskab. Selskab 20, No. 19 (1943).

19. See, for example, T. FULTON, F. ROHRLICH, AND L. WITTEN, Rev. Mod. Phys. 34, 442

(1962).

PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE 191

16. E. T. WHITTAKER, Proc. Roy. Sot. (London) 116, 720 (1927).

16. N. ROSEN, Ann. Phys. (N. Y.) 17, 269 (1962).

IY. T. A. MORGAN AND A. PERES, Phys. Rev. Letters 9, 79 (1962).

18. A. S~HILD, Am. J. Phys. 28, 778 (1960).

19. R. U. SEXL, Z. Physik 167, 265 (1962).

20. A. EINSTEIN, Ann. Physik 36, 898 (1911).

21. T. F. CRANSHAW, S. P. SCHIFFER, AND A, B. WHITEHEAD, Phys. Rev. Letters 4,163 (1960);

R. V. POUND AND G. A. REBKA, Phys. Rev. Letters 4, 337, 397 (1960).

22. H. J. HAY, J. P. SCZHIFFER, T. E. CFUNSHAW, AND P. A. EGELSTAFF, Phys. Rev. Letters

4, 165 (1960).

23. F. ROHRLICH, Ann. Phys. (N. Y.) 13, 93 (1961).

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