However, general relativity predicts and experiments confirm that gravitational waves do exist: the relevant observations were awarded by the 1993 physics Nobel prize, too. The waves are vibrations of the space itself. It means that the metric tensor remembers the information about the geometry – and curvature at each point, even in the empty space, something that Mach’s principle specifically wanted to prohibit.
Einstein had thought that Mach’s Principle was the way to go because it (also) made the universality encoded in the equivalence principle manifest. The equivalence principle says that all objects will be influenced equally – the same acceleration – by the whatever agent is causing gravity. Mach’s principle satisfies the criterion “totally” – it removes any field-like agent. Well, it’s going “too far” in this sense. Of course that Einstein was struggling for years to make Mach’s Principle compatible with the speed limit c – and GR is what eventually came out of it.
– Lubos Motl
2014.06.29 Sunday ACHK