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Discrete gravitational approaches to cosmology

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Liu, Rex Gerry 


Exact solutions to the Einstein field equations are notoriously difficult to find. Most known solutions describe systems with unrealistically high degrees of symmetry. A notable example is the FLRW metric underlying modern cosmology: the universe is assumed to be perfectly homogeneous and isotropic, but in the late universe, this is only true on average and only at large scales. Where an exact solution is not available, discrete gravitational approaches can approximate the system instead. This thesis investigates several cosmological systems using two distinct discrete approaches. Closed, flat, and open ‘lattice universes’ are first considered where matter is distributed as a regular lattice of identical point masses in constant-time hypersurfaces. Lindquist and Wheeler’s Schwarzschild–cell method is applied where the lattice cell around each mass is approximated by a perfectly spherical cell with Schwarzschild space–time inside. The resulting dynamics and cosmological redshifts closely resemble those of the dust-filled FLRW universes, but with certain differences in redshift behaviour attributable to the lattice universe’s lumpiness. The application of Regge calculus to cosmology is considered next. We focus exclusively on the closed models developed by Collins, Williams, and Brewin. Their approach is first applied to a universe where an exact solution is already well-established, the vacuum Λ-FLRW model. The resulting models are found to closely reproduce the dynamics of the continuum model being approximated, though certain constraints on the applicability of the approach are also uncovered. Then using this knowledge, we next model the closed lattice universe. The resulting evolution closely resembles that of the closed dust-filled FLRW universe. Constraints on the placement of the masses in the Regge skeleton are also uncovered. Finally, a ‘lattice universe’ with one perturbed mass is modelled. The evolution is still stable and similar to that of the unperturbed model. The thesis concludes by discussing possible extensions of our work.





cosmology, general relativity, gravitation, discrete gravity, numerical gravity, Regge calculus


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
The numerical simulations of the Lindquist–Wheeler models in Chapter 2 were performed on the COSMOS Shared Memory system at DAMTP, University of Cambridge, operated on behalf of the STFC DiRAC HPC Facility. This equipment is funded by BIS National E-infrastructure capital grant ST/J005673/1 and STFC grants ST/H008586/1, ST/K00333X/1, and ST/J001341/1. The PhD was financed in part by a bursary from the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. Additionally, the author was twice granted generous Rouse Ball Travelling Studentships by Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as commensurate travel funds by DAMTP to attend academic conferences in Beijing, China, and Jena, Germany.