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Title: Causality and the initial value problem in Modified Gravity
Author: Papallo, Giuseppe
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 7808
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Lovelock and Horndeski theories are natural generalisations of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. They find applications in Astrophysics, Cosmology and String Theory. This dissertation discusses some issues regarding the mathematical consistency of these theories. In the first part of the thesis we study the Shapiro time delay for gravitons in spherically symmetric spacetimes in Einstein–Gauss–Bonnet gravity (a Lovelock theory). In Lovelock theories, gravitons can propagate faster or slower than light. We show that, thanks to this property, it is possible for them to experience a negative time delay. It was recently argued that this feature could be employed to construct closed causal curves, implying that the theory should be discarded as causally pathological. We show that this construction is unphysical, for it cannot be realised as the evolution of sensible initial data. The second part investigates the local well-posedness of the initial value problem for Lovelock and Horndeski theories. For the initial value problem to be well-posed it is necessary that the equations of motion be strongly hyperbolic. It is known that when the background fields are large, even weak hyperbolicity may fail. Hence, we consider the weak field regime, in which these equations can be considered as small perturbations of the Einstein equations. We prove that both Lovelock and Horndeski theories are weakly hyperbolic in a generic weak field background in harmonic and generalised harmonic gauge, respectively. We show that Lovelock theories fail to be strongly hyperbolic in this setting. We also prove that the most general Horndeski theory which is strongly hyperbolic is simply a “k-essence” theory coupled to Einstein gravity and that any more general theory would necessarily fail to be so. Our results imply that the standard methods used to prove the well-posedness of the initial value problem for the Einstein equations cannot be extended to Lovelock or Horndeski theories. This raises the possibility that these theories may not admit a well-posed initial value problem even for weak fields and hence might not constitute a valid alternative to General Relativity.
Supervisor: Reall, Harvey Sponsor: STFC ; Cambridge Philosophical Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: general relativity ; modified gravity ; alternative theories of gravity ; theoretical physics