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Time dependent gravity and cosmology!

In our universe we have a gravitational constant – i.e gravity is not dependent on time.  If gravity changed with respect to time then the gravitational force exerted by the Sun on Earth would lessen (or increase) over time with all other factors remaining the same.

Interestingly time-dependent gravity was first explored by Dirac and some physicists have tried to incorporate time dependent gravity into cosmological models.  As yet we have no proof that gravity is not constant, but let’s imagine a university where it is dependent on time.

Inversely time dependent gravity

The standard models for cosmology use G, where G is the gravitational constant.  This fixes the gravitational force as a constant.  However if gravity is inversely proportional to time we could have a relationship such as:

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Where a is a constant.  Let’s look at a very simple model, where we have a piecewise function as below:

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This would create the graph at the top of the page.  This is one (very simplistic) way of explaining the Big Bang.  In the first few moments after t = 0, gravity would be negative and thus repulsive [and close to infinitely strong], which could explain the initial incredible universal expansion before “regular” attractive gravity kicked in (after t = 1).  The Gravitational constant has only been measured to 4 significant figures:

G = 6.674 x 10-11m3kg-1s-2.

Therefore if there is a very small variation over time it is possible that we simply haven’t the accuracy to test this yet.

Universal acceleration with a time dependent gravitational force

Warning: This section is going to touch on some seriously complicated maths – not for the faint hearted!  We’re going to explore whether having a gravitational force which decreases over time still allows us to have an accelerating expansion of the universe.

We can start with the following equation:

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To work through an example:

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This would show that when t = 1 the universe had an expansion scale factor of 2.  Now, based on current data measured by astronomers we have evidence that the universe is both expanding and accelerating in its expansion.  If the universal scale factor is accelerating in expansion that requires that we have:

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Modelling our universe

We’re going to need 4 equations to model what happens when gravity is time dependent rather than just a constant.

Equation 1

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This equation models a relationship between pressure and density in our model universe.  We assume that our universe is homogenous (i.e the same) throughout.

Equation 2

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This is one of the Friedmann equations for governing the expansion of space.  We will take c =1 [i.e we will choose units such that we are in 1 light year etc]

Equation 3

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This is another one of the Friedmann equations for governing the expansion of space.  The original equation has P/(c squared) – but we we simplify again by taking c = 1.

Equation 4

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This is our time dependent version of gravity.

Finding alpha

We can separate variables to solve equation (3).

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Substitution

We can use this result, along with the equations (1) and (4) to substitute into equation (2).

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Our result

Now, remember that if the second differential of r is positive then the universal expansion rate is accelerating.  If Lamba is negative then we will have the second differential of r positive.  However, all our constants G_0, a, B, t, r are greater than 0.  Therefore in order for lamda to be negative we need:

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What this shows is that even in a universe where gravity is time dependent (and decreasing), we would still be able to have an accelerating universe like we see today.  the only factor that determines whether the universal expansion is accelerating is the value of gamma, not our gravity function.

This means that a time dependent gravity function can still gives us a result consistent with our experimental measurements of the universe.

A specific case

Solving the equation for the second differential of r is extremely difficult, so let’s look at a very simple case where we choose some constants to make life as easy as possible:

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Substituting these into our equation (2) gives us:

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We can then solve this to give:

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So, finally we have arrived at our final equation.  This would give us the universal expansion scale factor at time t, for a universe in which gravity follows the the equation G(t) = 1/t.

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For this universe we can then see that when t = 5 for example, we would have a universal expansion scale factor of 28.5.

So, there we go – very complicated maths, way beyond IB level, so don’t worry if you didn’t follow that.  And that’s just a simplified introduction to some of the maths in cosmology!  You can read more about time dependent gravity here (also not for the faint hearted!)