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Singularities and Horizons in the Collisions of Gravitational Waves


Yurtsever, Ulvi Hamit (1989) Singularities and Horizons in the Collisions of Gravitational Waves. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/zm5n-g882.


This thesis presents a study of the dynamical, nonlinear interaction of colliding gravitational waves, as described by classical general relativity. It is focused mainly on two fundamental questions: First, what is the general structure of the singularities and Killing-Cauchy horizons produced in the collisions of exactly plane-symmetric gravitational waves? Second, under what conditions will the collisions of almost-plane gravitational waves (waves with large but finite transverse sizes) produce singularities?

In the work on the collisions of exactly-plane waves, it is shown that Killing horizons in any plane-symmetric spacetime are unstable against small plane-symmetric perturbations. It is thus concluded that the Killing-Cauchy horizons produced by the collisions of some exactly plane gravitational waves are nongeneric, and that generic initial data for the colliding plane waves always produce "pure" spacetime singularities without such horizons. This conclusion is later proved rigorously (using the full nonlinear theory rather than perturbation theory), in connection with an analysis of the asymptotic singularity structure of a general colliding plane-wave spacetime. This analysis also proves that asymptotically the singularities created by colliding plane waves are of inhomogeneous-Kasner type; the asymptotic Kasner axes and exponents of these singularities in general depend on the spatial coordinate that runs tangentially to the singularity in the non-plane-symmetric direction.

In the work on collisions of almost-plane gravitational waves, first some general properties of single almost-plane gravitational-wave spacetimes are explored. It is shown that, by contrast with an exact plane wave, an almost-plane gravitational wave cannot have a propagation direction that is Killing; i.e., it must diffract and disperse as it propagates. It is also shown that an almost-plane wave cannot be precisely sandwiched between two null wavefronts; i.e., it must leave behind tails in the spacetime region through which it passes. Next, the occurrence of spacetime singularities in the collisions of almost-plane waves is investigated. It is proved that if two colliding, almost-plane gravitational waves are initially exactly plane-symmetric across a central region of sufficiently large but finite transverse dimensions, then their collision produces a spacetime singularity with the same local structure as in the exact-plane-wave collision. Finally, it is shown that a singularity still forms when the central regions are only approximately plane-symmetric initially. Stated more precisely, it is proved that if the colliding almost-plane waves are initially sufficiently close to being exactly plane-symmetric across a bounded central region of sufficiently large transverse dimensions, then their collision necessarily produces spacetime singularities. In this case, nothing is now known about the local and global structures of the singularities.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Physics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Thorne, Kip S.
Group:TAPIR, Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Thorne, Kip S. (chair)
  • Phinney, E. Sterl
  • Schmidt, Maarten
  • Preskill, John P.
Defense Date:29 September 1988
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10242013-145903390
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 2. adapted for Chapter 3. adapted for Chapter 4. adapted for Chapter 5. adapted for Chapter 6. adapted for Chapter 7.
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8009
Deposited On:24 Oct 2013 23:02
Last Modified:11 Jan 2022 23:44

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