Causal Isomorphism as a Diffeomorphism. Some further Rumination on Philosophy of Science. Thought of the Day 82.0

Let (M, gab) and (M′, g′ab) be (temporally oriented) relativistic spacetimes that are both future- and past-distinguishing, and let φ : M → M′ be a ≪-causal isomorphism. Then φ is a diffeomorphism and preserves gab up to a conformal factor; i.e. φ⋆(g′ab) is conformally equivalent to gab.

Under the stated assumptions, φ must be a homeomorphism. If a spacetime (M, gab) is not just past and future distinguishing, but strongly causal, then one can explicitly characterize its (manifold) topology in terms of the relation ≪. In this case, a subset O ⊆ M is open iff, ∀ points p in O, ∃ points q and r in O such that q ≪ p ≪ r and I+(q) ∩ I(r) ⊆ O (Hawking and Ellis). So a ≪-causal isomorphism between two strongly causal spacetimes must certainly be a homeomorphism. Then one invokes a result of Hawking, King, and McCarthy that asserts, in effect, that any continuous ≪-causal isomorphism must be smooth and must preserve the metric up to a conformal factor.


The following example shows that the proposition fails if the initial restriction on causal structure is weakened to past distinguishability or to future distinguishability alone. We give the example in a two-dimensional version to simplify matters. Start with the manifold R2 together with the Lorentzian metric

gab = (d(at)(db)x) − (sinh2t)(dax)(dbx)

where t, x are global projection coordinates on R2. Next, form a vertical cylinder by identifying the point with coordinates (t, x) with the one having coordinates (t, x + 2). Finally, excise two closed half lines – the sets with respective coordinates {(t, x): x = 0 and t ≥ 0} and {(t, x): x = 1 and t ≥ 0}. Figure shows, roughly, what the null cones look like at every point. (The future direction at each point is taken to be the “upward one.”) The exact form of the metric is not important here. All that is important is the indicated qualitative behavior of the null cones. Along the (punctured) circle C where t = 0, the vector fields (∂/∂t)a and (∂/∂x)a both qualify as null. But as one moves upward or downward from there, the cones close. There are no closed timelike (or null) curves in this spacetime. Indeed, it is future distinguishing because of the excisions. But it fails to be past distinguishing because I(p) = I(q) for all points p and q on C. For all points p there, I(p) is the entire region below C. Now let φ be the bijection of the spacetime onto itself that leaves the “lower open half” fixed but reverses the position of the two upper slabs. Though φ is discontinuous along C, it is a ≪-causal isomorphism. This is the case because every point below C has all points in both upper slabs in its ≪-future.

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