Judy likes coffee. Right now he is standing in the middle of the urban park sipping it.

Unbeknownst to him a local phenomena occurs somewhat near: space itself bends where a lovely group of lilies grow.

As space itself I - as a layman - am speaking about that abstract thing that is, according to relativity, influenced by mass.

It's just a fluctuation, but on a macroscopic scale, limited to a sphere of a radius of 100 cm.

  • It that a real thing? Or is space itself just a concept?
  • If yes, what would be the effect on a common (but lovely) group of lilies? Or on the soil around it?
  • If still yes, what would it look like from the external observer, i.e. what would the lilies look like to handsome Judy?
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    $\begingroup$ That "fluctuation" is caused by a really powerful mass passing through. Judy doesn't care about the lilies. Judy is too worried (briefly) about Judy's body being shredded into little bits as this massive gravity wave rips everything. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Mar 3 '17 at 3:49

Space Time is a real thing. We just detected gravity waves to put that debate to bed.

The effect depends on how strong the fluctuation is. Think of a pond and dropping different sized rocks in. The ripples will be the same diameter as they travel outward but the peaks of the waves will be higher.

  • So if the fluctuation is small, there likely won't be any observable effect. Some atoms will get moved slightly but the movement will be within their normal travel range.
  • If it is larger, it might cause some internal damage by pulling molecules farther apart. That would have no immediate visible effect on the lilies but the amount of internal damage would depend on just how strong the flux was.
  • If it wasn't too strong, then the lilies would heal the damage with no visible damage. As the flux gets stonger, after a few days the lilies would look damaged (like getting stepped on) but survive. If the flux was at the high end of this range, the lilies will likely die as more damage has been done than it can heal.
  • If higher still you get the first immediately visible damage to the lilies. They will look ripped apart as the fluctuation pulls it apart farther than the "springiness" of the plant can handle. This will go all the way up to the area looking like it went through a blender.
  • The next step has molecules themselves being pulled apart. The effects really depend on the chemicals involved.
  • Next you might get enough movement to initiate some fusion. The effects could range from some sparkles that are too faint to see to BOOM.
  • When you start ripping the atoms themselves apart, you are much more likely to get fusion and you get to, briefly, see a low temperature plasma.
  • Lastly, if it is super strong it can rip protons apart and you get to discover what it would be like to stand inside the Large Haldron Collider when it is running.

From the outside there may be other visible effects from lensing. Like gravitational lensing, you would see things behind the fluctuation move as if a lens had appeared between you and it. The amount of movement would range from unnoticeable to giving you a headache to look at.


Assuming Judy isn't within those 100 cm, Judy is going to see the lilies crushed by something invisible, which forms a divot in the soil. As he ponders as to the meaning of this, the shockwave of the displaced air hits and he gets knocked over, his ears start ringing and he feels nauseous. He falls unconscious and is no longer interested in unusual phenomena.

A simple way to consider space-time warping is to think of the rubber surface of an expanded balloon. A mass would be like a grain of sand on the surface; depending on its size (for want of a better word), it will cause a localised depression. This is its gravity well or, as you described it, bent space-time. When two such masses are close enough that their wells can intersect, the lighter one slips towards the heavier one, rolls downhill, as it were, unless they are far enough apart that the depth of the heavier one's well at the location of the lighter one is less than the depth of the lighter one's well.

The question now is, what is causing your local warp and how big is it?


To visualize it, do it in Flatland. Standard graph paper is your normal map. Draw curved lines to have bent space. Distort a rubber sheet or silly putty picture (if you remember those; newspaper ink is different now and it no longer works).

Now the hard part: what it looks like from the inside will have light follow the grid without being aware of the distortion.

If you post a Flatland version of your particular bend, we can help you figure that out.


In essence you are asking what would happen when a very small black hole passed between a viewer and an object. The short answer is spacetime will be distorted into an "Einstein Ring" around such a small gravitational point source, and the visual image will be "bent" around the black hole.

Your viewer will have a difficult time interpreting what is being seen (and this is before taking into account the devastation that is being caused but the intense gravitational field). A very nice visualization of an Einstein ring moving across a field of view is here:

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Einstein ring moving across your field of view


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