Classical gravitational waves would leave a memory of its propagation to the metric of space-time affecting distances between mass points. The computations are done by treating Einstein's theory as a field theory in the background defined by the energy momentum tensor of matter and calculations are carried out only in the lowest non-trivial order.
There are two kinds of effects: the linear memory effect occurs for instance when a planet moves along non-closed hyperbolic orbit around a star and involves only the energy momentum tensor of the system. The non-linear memory effect also involves the energy momentum tensor of gravitational radiation as a source added to the energy momentum tensor of matter.
The effect is accumulative and involves integration over the history of the matter source over the entire past. The reason why the memory effect is non-vanishing is basically that the source of the gravitational radiation is quadratic in metric. In Maxwellian electrodynamics the source does not have this property.
I have never thought of the memory effect. The formula used to estimate the effect is however highly interesting.
- In the formula for the non-linear memory effect, that is for the action of d'Alembert operator acting on the radiation contribution to the metric, the source term is obtained by adding to the energy momentum tensor of the matter, the energy momentum tensor of the gravitational radiation.
- This formula can be iterated and if the limit as a fixed point exists, the energy momentum tensor of the gravitational radiation produced by the total energy momentum tensor, including also the radiative contribution, should vanish. This brings in mind fractals and criticality. One of the basic facts about iteration for polynomials is that it need not always converge. Limit cycles typically emerge. In more complex situations also objects known as strange attractors can appear. Does the same problem occur now, when the situation is much much more complex?
- What is interesting is that gravitational wave solutions indeed have vanishing energy momentum tensors. This is problematic if one considers them as radiation in empty space. In the presence of matter, this might be true only for very special background metrics as a sum of matter part and radiation part: just these gravitationally critical fixed point metrics. Could the fixed point property of these metrics (matter plus gravitational radiation) be used to gain information of the total metric as sum of matter and gravitational parts?
- As a matter of fact, all solutions of non-linear field theories are constructed by similar iteration and the radiative contribution in a given order is determined by the contribution in lower orders. Under what conditions can one assume convergence of the perturbation series, that is fixed point property? Are limit cycles and chaotic attractors, and only a specialist knows what, unavoidable? Could this fixed point property have some physical relevance? Could the fixed points correspond in quantum field theory context to fixed points of the renormalization group and lead to quantization of coupling constants?
- In the TGD, framework Einstein's equations are expected only at the QFT limit at which space-time sheets are replaced with a single region of M4 carrying gauge fields and gravitational fields which are sums of the induced fields associated with space-time sheets. What happens at the level of the basic TGD.
What is intriguing, is that quantum criticality is the basic principle of TGD and fixes discrete coupling constant evolution: could the quantum criticality realize itself also as gravitational criticality in the above sense? And even the idea that perturbation series can converge only at critical points and becomes actually trivial?
- What does the classical TGD say? In TGD space-time surfaces obey almost deterministic holography required by general coordinate invariance. Holography follows from the general coordinate invariance and implies that path integral trivializes to sum over the analogs of Bohr orbits of particles represented as 3-D surfaces. This states quantum criticality and fixed point property: radiative contributions vanish. This also implies a number theoretic view of coupling constant evolution based on number theoretic vision about physics.
There is also universality: the Bohr orbits are minimal surfaces which satisfy a 4-D generalization of 2-D holomorphy and are independent of the action principle as long as it is general coordinate invariant and constructible in terms of the induced geometry. The only dependence on coupling constants comes from singularities at which minimal surface property fails. Also classical conserved quantities depend on coupling constants.
- The so called "massless extremals" (MEs) represent radiation with very special properties such as precisely targeted propagation with light velocity, absence of dispersion of wave packed, and restricted linear superposition for massless modes propagating in the direction of ME. They are analogous to laser beams, Bohr orbits for radiation fields. The gauge currents associated with MEs are light-like and Lorentz 4-force vanishes.
- Could the Einstein tensor of ME vanish? The energy momentum tensor expressed in terms of Einstein tensor involves a dimensional parameter and measures the breaking of scale invariance. MEs are conformally invariant objects: does this imply the vanishing of the Einstein tensor? Note however that the energy momentum tensor assignable to the induced gauge fields is non-vanishing: however, its scale covariance is an inherent property of gauge fields so that it need not vanish.
For the lists of articles (most of them published in journals founded by Huping Hu) and books about TGD see this.