New Study Suggests Gravity Can Exist Without Mass

By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 10, 2024 08:00
New Study Suggests Gravity Can Exist Without Mass

Recent research has introduced a groundbreaking perspective on the nature of gravity and dark matter. Traditionally, dark matter has been proposed to explain gravitational effects that cannot be accounted for by visible matter alone.

However, a new study by Dr. Richard Lieu from The University of Alabama in Huntsville suggests that gravity can exist without mass, potentially negating the need for dark matter.

This innovative theory, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, proposes that the gravitational forces observed in galaxies and clusters can be explained by massless topological defects created during the early universe.

The Dilemma of Dark Matter

For nearly a century, dark matter has remained one of the most perplexing concepts in modern physics. Initially suggested by Dutch astronomer Jan Oort in 1932, dark matter was introduced to account for the "missing mass" necessary for galaxies and clusters to remain bound together.

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Despite extensive research, direct evidence for dark matter remains elusive. It does not emit, absorb, or reflect light, making it invisible to current detection methods. The presence of dark matter is inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, such as the rotational speeds of galaxies and the motions of galaxies within clusters.

Gravity Without Mass: A New Perspective

Dr. Lieu's study challenges the traditional view by demonstrating how gravity can exist without mass. His research is inspired by the search for alternative solutions to the gravitational field equations of general relativity. Lieu's proposed solution involves the Poisson equation, which allows for a finite gravitational force in the absence of detectable mass. This equation is particularly relevant to the conditions observed in galaxies and galaxy clusters.

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Lieu suggests that the "excess" gravity required to hold these large structures together could result from concentric sets of shell-like topological defects. These defects likely formed during a cosmological phase transition in the early universe, where the overall state of matter changed simultaneously across the cosmos.

According to Lieu, these topological defects, or massless shells, consist of an inner layer of positive mass and an outer layer of negative mass. The total mass of these layers is zero, but they still produce significant gravitational effects.

Implications of Massless Shells

The concept of massless shells provides an intriguing explanation for the gravitational effects attributed to dark matter. When a star lies on one of these shells, it experiences a strong gravitational pull towards the center. This effect arises from the bending of space-time, which allows all objects, whether they have mass or not, to interact gravitationally. For example, light, which is massless, is deflected by gravitational forces as it passes through these shells. This bending of light, known as gravitational lensing, mimics the presence of dark matter and aligns with observations of stellar orbits within galaxies.

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Lieu's paper contends that these massless shells could explain the gravitational binding of galaxies and clusters without invoking dark matter. "Gravitational bending of light by a set of concentric singular shells comprising a galaxy or cluster is due to a ray of light being deflected slightly inwards," Lieu notes. As light passes through multiple shells, the cumulative effect results in a measurable deflection, similar to the gravitational influence attributed to dark matter.

The Road Ahead for Research

While Lieu's theory offers a compelling alternative to dark matter, it also raises numerous questions. Future research will need to explore how galaxies and clusters form through the alignment of these shells and how these structures evolve over time.

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Additionally, dedicated observations are necessary to confirm or refute the existence of the proposed shells. Lieu acknowledges that his research does not address the broader issue of structure formation in the universe and that the theory remains a highly suggestive yet unproven alternative to the dark matter hypothesis.

Lieu concludes, "Of course, the availability of a second solution, even if it is highly suggestive, is not by itself sufficient to discredit

the dark matter hypothesis — it could be an interesting mathematical exercise at best. But it is the first proof that gravity can exist without mass."

Exploring the Broader Implications

The implications of Lieu's theory extend beyond the realm of astrophysics, potentially influencing our understanding of fundamental physics. The idea that gravity can exist without mass challenges the traditional frameworks of general relativity and quantum mechanics, opening new avenues for theoretical research.

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If future studies confirm the existence of massless shells, this could lead to a paradigm shift in how we perceive gravity and the formation of cosmic structures.

One critical area of investigation will be the precise nature of the cosmological phase transitions that could give rise to topological defects like the proposed shells. Understanding these transitions will require advancements in both observational astronomy and theoretical physics. Researchers will need to identify specific conditions under which these transitions occurred and how they influenced the distribution of matter and energy in the early universe.


An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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