Gravitational Energy in Newtonian Gravity: A Response to Dewar and Weatherall

Foundations of Physics 49 (10):1086-1110 (2019)
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Abstract

The paper investigates the status of gravitational energy in Newtonian Gravity, developing upon recent work by Dewar and Weatherall. The latter suggest that gravitational energy is a gauge quantity. This is potentially misleading: its gauge status crucially depends on the spacetime setting one adopts. In line with Møller-Nielsen’s plea for a motivational approach to symmetries, we supplement Dewar and Weatherall’s work by discussing gravitational energy–stress in Newtonian spacetime, Galilean spacetime, Maxwell-Huygens spacetime, and Newton–Cartan Theory. Although we ultimately concur with Dewar and Weatherall that the notion of gravitational energy is problematic in NCT, our analysis goes beyond their work. The absence of an explicit definition of gravitational energy–stress in NCT somewhat detracts from the force of Dewar and Weatherall’s argument. We fill this gap by examining the supposed gauge status of prima facie plausible candidates—NCT analogues of gravitational energy–stress pseudotensors, the Komar mass, and the Bel-Robinson tensor. Our paper further strengthens Dewar and Weatherall’s results. In addition, it sheds more light upon the subtle link between sufficiently rich inertial structure and the definability of gravitational energy in NG.

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James Read
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Energy in Newtonian Gravity.Tobias Eklund & Ingemar Bengtsson - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 53 (1):1–14.

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References found in this work

Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time.Tim Maudlin - 2012 - Princeton University Press.
Physical relativity from a functionalist perspective.Eleanor Knox - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 67:118-124.

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