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Quasilocal Conservation Laws: Why We Need Them

  • McGrath, Paul L.
  • Epp, Richard J.
  • Mann, Robert B.
Publication Date
Jun 27, 2012
Submission Date
Jun 27, 2012
DOI: 10.1088/0264-9381/29/21/215012
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We argue that conservation laws based on the local matter-only stress-energy-momentum tensor (characterized by energy and momentum per unit volume) cannot adequately explain a wide variety of even very simple physical phenomena because they fail to properly account for gravitational effects. We construct a general quasi}local conservation law based on the Brown and York total (matter plus gravity) stress-energy-momentum tensor (characterized by energy and momentum per unit area), and argue that it does properly account for gravitational effects. As a simple example of the explanatory power of this quasilocal approach, consider that, when we accelerate toward a freely-floating massive object, the kinetic energy of that object increases (relative to our frame). But how, exactly, does the object acquire this increasing kinetic energy? Using the energy form of our quasilocal conservation law, we can see precisely the actual mechanism by which the kinetic energy increases: It is due to a bona fide gravitational energy flux that is exactly analogous to the electromagnetic Poynting flux, and involves the general relativistic effect of frame dragging caused by the object's motion relative to us.

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