Foundations of Science

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 399–403 | Cite as

Gravitational Waves and Spacetime

  • Mario Bunge


The recent detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO team has rightly been hailed as “the crowning achievemen of classical physics” (Holst et al. in Bull Am Math Soc 53:513–554, 2016). This detection, which came at the end of a decade-long quest, involved 950 investigators, and cost around one billion US dollars, was the scientific star of the year 2015. What, if any, is the philosophical impact of this scientific breakthrough, which Albert Einstein had anticipated one century earlier? To answer this question we start by examining the central equations of Einstein’s theory of gravitation, also known as general relativity. Subsequently we analyze the special case of a hollow sphere, in an attempt to answer the question of the reality and even materiality of space or, rather, spacetime. As well, the view that gravitation is a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime is discussed, and the reality of gravitational waves is regarded as the coup de grâce to that view.


Gravity Wave Matter Spacetime Reality Materialism 



I thank Hector Vucetich and Pablo Sisterna for their comments, and particularly Gustavo E. Romero for his constructive criticisms.


  1. Abbott, B. P., et al. (2016). Observation of gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger. Physical Review Letters, 116, 061102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barrow, J. D., Davies, P. C. W., & Harper, C. L., Jr. (2004). Science and ultimate reality. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bunge, M. (1980). Scientific materialism. Dordrecht, NL: Reidel.Google Scholar
  4. Bunge, M., & García-Maynez, A. (1977). A relational theory of physical space. International Journal of Theoretical Physics, 15, 961–972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Holst, M., Sarbach, O., Tiglio, M., & Vallisneri, M. (2016). The emergence of gravitational wave science. Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 53, 513–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Misner, C. W., Thorne, K. S., & Wheeler, J. A. (1973). Gravitation. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  7. Romero, G. E. (2016). On the ontology of spacetime: Substantivalism, relationism, eternalism, and emergence. Foundations of Science. doi: 10.1007/s10699-015-9476-1.Google Scholar
  8. Wheeler, J. A. (1962). Geometrodynamics. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations