Principle of Equivalence and Mach’s, Covariance, Geodesic Principle

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The Principle of Equivalence

Albert Einstein proposed the principle of equivalency in 1915, and it is a key idea in the general theory of relativity. It states that the effects of gravity are indistinguishable from the effects of acceleration. In other words, an observer in a gravitational field cannot distinguish between being at rest in that field and being in an accelerating reference frame in the absence of gravity.

This principle is based on the idea that gravity is not a force in the traditional sense but rather a curvature of spacetime caused by mass and energy. According to general relativity, objects in a gravitational field follow curved paths, or geodesics, in spacetime.

Mach’s Principle

Mach’s principle, named after the physicist Ernst Mach, is a philosophical concept that suggests that the inertia of an object is determined by the distribution of matter in the universe. In other words, the mass and motion of an object are influenced by the mass and motion of all other objects in the universe.

Mach’s principle was not incorporated directly into Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but it influenced his thinking about the nature of gravity. Einstein believed that the distribution of matter in the universe should affect the curvature of spacetime and the motion of objects within it.


Covariance is the idea that the laws of physics ought to be the same across all reference frames in the context of general relativity. This means that the equations describing the behavior of physical systems should be written in a way that is independent of the choice of coordinates or reference frame.

Under generic coordinate transformations, Einstein’s field equations, which characterize spacetime’s curvature in the presence of matter and energy, remain covariant. This means that the equations remain valid regardless of the choice of coordinates used to describe the system.

Geodesic Principle

The geodesic principle is a fundamental concept in the theory of general relativity. It states that objects in free fall, or the absence of any external forces, follow the shortest possible paths, called geodesics, in curved spacetime.

A ball rolling on a curved surface can be used as an analogy to understand this concept. The ball will naturally follow the curvature of the surface, taking the path of least resistance. Similarly, objects in a gravitational field follow the curvature of spacetime, taking the path of least resistance, which is a geodesic.

In order to comprehend how planets, stars, and other celestial bodies move when subjected to gravity, one must grasp the geodesic principle. It allows us to calculate the trajectories of these objects and make predictions about their behavior.


The principle of equivalence, Mach’s principle, covariance, and the geodesic principle are all important concepts in the theory of general relativity. They provide a deeper understanding of the nature of gravity and the behavior of objects in gravitational fields.

By recognizing the equivalence of gravity and acceleration, understanding the influence of the distribution of matter in the universe, ensuring the laws of physics are independent of reference frames, and recognizing the geodesic paths followed by objects in free fall, we can better comprehend the intricate workings of the universe as described by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

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