The Relevance of Irrelevance: Absolute Objects and the Jones-Geroch Dust Velocity Counterexample, with a Note on Spinors

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Pitts, J. Brian
preprint description
James L. Anderson analyzed the conceptual novelty of Einstein's theory of gravity as its lack of ``absolute objects.'' Michael Friedman's related concept of absolute objects has been criticized by Roger Jones and Robert Geroch for implausibly admitting as absolute the timelike 4-velocity field of dust in cosmological models in Einstein's theory. Using Nathan Rosen's action principle, I complete Anna Maidens's argument that the Jones-Geroch problem is not solved by requiring that absolute objects not be varied. Recalling Anderson's proscription of (globally) ``irrelevant'' variables that do no work (anywhere in any model), I generalize that proscription to locally irrelevant variables that do no work in some places in some models. This move vindicates Friedman's intuitions and removes the Jones-Geroch counterexample: some regions of some models of gravity with dust are dust-free, and there is no good reason to have a timelike dust 4-velocity vector there. Eliminating the irrelevant timelike vctors keeps the dust 4-velocity from counting as absolute by spoiling its neighborhood-by-neighborhood diffeomorphic equivalence to (1,0,0,0). A more fundamental Gerochian timelike vector field presents itself in gravity with spinors in the standard orthonormal tetrad formalism, though eliminating irrelevant fields might solve this problem as well.