, Volume 44, Issue 12, pp 3103-3109
Date: 08 Sep 2012

Linking covariant and canonical general relativity via local observers

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Hamiltonian gravity, relying on arbitrary choices of ‘space,’ can obscure spacetime symmetries. We present an alternative, manifestly spacetime covariant formulation that nonetheless distinguishes between ‘spatial’ and ‘temporal’ variables. The key is viewing dynamical fields from the perspective of a field of observers—a unit timelike vector field that also transforms under local Lorentz transformations. On one hand, all fields are spacetime fields, covariant under spacetime symmeties. On the other, when the observer field is normal to a spatial foliation, the fields automatically fall into Hamiltonian form, recovering the Ashtekar formulation. We argue this provides a bridge between Ashtekar variables and covariant phase space methods. We also outline a framework where the ‘space of observers’ is fundamental, and spacetime geometry itself may be observer-dependent.

Essay written for the Gravity Research Foundation 2012 Awards for Essays on Gravitation.