Modified theories of gravity

  • Fulvio Sbisa

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The recent observational data in cosmology seem to indicate that the universe is currently expanding in an accelerated way. This unexpected conclusion can be explained assuming the presence of a non-vanishing yet extremely fine tuned cosmological constant, or invoking the existence of an exotic source of energy, dark energy, which is not observed in laboratory experiments yet seems to dominate the energy budget of the Universe. On the other hand, it may be that these observations are just signalling the fact that Einstein's General Relativity is not the correct description of gravity when we consider distances of the order of the present horizon of the universe.

In order to study if the latter explanation is correct, we have to formulate new theories of the gravitational interaction, and see if they admit cosmological solutions which fit the observational data in a satisfactory way. Quite generally, modifying General Relativity introduces new degrees of freedom, which are responsible for the different large distance behaviour. On one hand, often these new degrees of freedom have negative kinetic energy, which implies that the theory is plagued by ghost instabilities. On the other hand, for a modified gravity theory to be phenomenologically viable it is necessary that the extra degrees of freedom are efficiently screened on terrestrial and astrophysical scales. One of the known mechanisms which can screen the extra degrees of freedom is the Vainshtein mechanism, which involves derivative self-interaction terms for these degrees of freedom.

In this thesis, we consider two different models, the Cascading DGP and the dRGT massive gravity, which are candidates for viable models to modify gravity at very large distances. Regarding the Cascading DGP model, we consider the minimal (6D) set-up and we perform a perturbative analysis at first order of the behaviour of the gravitational field and of the branes position around background solutions where pure tension is localized on the 4D brane. We consider a specific realization of this set-up where the 5D brane can be considered thin with respect to the 4D one.

We show that the thin limit of the 4D brane inside the (already thin) 5D brane is well defined, at least for the configurations that we consider, and confirm that the gravitational field on the 4D brane is finite for a general choice of the energy momentum tensor. We also confirm that there exists a critical tension which separates background configurations which possess a ghost among the perturbation modes, and background configurations which are ghost-free. We find a value for the critical tension which is different from the value which has been obtained in the literature; we comment on the difference between these two results, and perform a numeric calculation in a particular case where the exact solution is known to support the validity of our analysis.

Regarding the dRGT massive gravity, we consider the static and spherically symmetric solutions of these theories, and we investigate the effectiveness of the Vainshtein screening mechanism. We focus on the branch of solutions in which the Vainshtein mechanism can occur, and we truncate the analysis to scales below the gravitational Compton wavelength, and consider the weak field limit for the gravitational potentials, while keeping all non-linearities of the mode which is involved in the screening.

We determine analytically the number and properties of local solutions which exist asymptotically on large scales, and of local (inner) solutions which exist on small scales. Moreover, we analyze in detail in which cases the solutions match in an intermediate region. We show that asymptotically flat solutions connect only to inner configurations displaying the Vainshtein mechanism, while non asymptotically flat solutions can connect both with inner solutions which display the Vainshtein mechanism, or with solutions which display a self-shielding behaviour of the gravitational field. We show furthermore that there are some regions in the parameter space of the theory where global solutions do not exist, and characterize precisely in which regions the Vainshtein mechanism takes place.

Date of AwardDec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorKazuya Koyama (Supervisor) & Marco Bruni (Supervisor)

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