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Shape Dynamics and General Relativity

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Shape Dynamics first arose as a theory of particle interactions formulated without any of Newton's absolute structures. Its fundamental arena is shape space, which is obtained by quotienting Newton's kinematic framework with respect to translations, rotations and dilatations. This leads to a universe defined purely intrinsically in relational terms. It is then postulated that a dynamical history is determined by the specification in shape space of an initial shape and an associated rate of change of shape. There is a very natural way to create a theory that meets such a requirement. It fully implements Mach's principle and shows how time and local inertial frames are determined by the universe as whole. If the same principles are applied to a spatially closed universe in which geometry is dynamical, they lead rather surprisingly to a theory that, modulo some caveats, is dynamically equivalent to general relativity but dual to it in that refoliation invariance is traded for three-dimensional conformal invariance. This shows that there is a hidden three-dimensional conformal symmetry within general relativity. It is in fact what underlies York's crucial method of solution of the initial-value problem in general relativity. It is also remarkable that, as in York's work, shape dynamics inescapably introduces a mathematically distinguished notion of absolute simultaneity, the desirability of which has been found in two currently popular approaches to quantum gravity: causal dynamical triangulations and Horava gravity. I aim to express the key ideas and techniques of shape dynamics as simply as possible.