Field theoretical approach to gravitational waves

M. de Cesare, R. Oliveri*, J. W. van Holten

*Corresponding author for this work

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The aim of these notes is to give an accessible and self-contained introduction to the theory of gravitational waves as the theory of a relativistic symmetric tensor field in a Minkowski background spacetime. This is the approach of a particle physicist: the graviton is identified with a particular irreducible representation of the Poincaré group, corresponding to vanishing mass and spin two. It is shown how to construct an action functional giving the linear dynamics of gravitons, and how General Relativity can be obtained from it. The Hamiltonian formulation of the linear theory is examined in detail. We study the emission of gravitational waves and apply the results to the simplest case of a binary Newtonian system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1700012
JournalFortschritte der Physik
Issue number5
Early online date11 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • field theory
  • gravitational waves
  • linearised general relativity
  • Poincaré group


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