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Curiel, Erik ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5812-3033 (March 2019): On Geometric Objects, the Non-Existence of a Gravitational Stress-Energy Tensor, and the Uniqueness of the Einstein Field Equation. In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 66: pp. 90-102

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The question of the existence of gravitational stress-energy in general relativity has exercised investigators in the field since the inception of the theory. Folklore has it that no adequate definition of a localized gravitational stress-energetic quantity can be given. Most arguments to that effect invoke one version or another of the Principle of Equivalence. I argue that not only are such arguments of necessity vague and hand-waving but, worse, are beside the point and do not address the heart of the issue. Based on a novel analysis of what it may mean for one tensor to depend in the proper way on another, which, en passant, provides a precise characterization of the idea of a “geometric object”, I prove that, under certain natural conditions, there can be no tensor whose interpretation could be that it represents gravitational stress-energy in general relativity. It follows that gravitational energy, such as it is in general relativity, is necessarily non-local. Along the way, I prove a result of some interest in own right about the structure of the associated jet bundles of the bundle of Lorentz metrics over spacetime. I conclude by showing that my results also imply that, under a few natural conditions, the Einstein field equation is the unique equation relating gravitational phenomena to spatiotemporal structure, and discuss how this relates to the non-localizability of gravitational stress-energy. The main theorem proven underlying all the arguments is considerably stronger than the standard result in the literature used for the same purposes (Lovelock's theorem of 1972): it holds in all dimensions (not only in four); it does not require an assumption about the differential order of the desired concomitant of the metric; and it has a more natural physical interpretation.

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