A public lecture in the Living Reviews in Relativity Anniversary Lectures Series. We are celebrating our 10th year online with a number of colloquia by distinguished authors in the Berlin/Potsdam area.
November 6, 2008 – 17:30
Universität Potsdam, Campus Golm, Institut für Physik und Astronomie (Haus 28), Raum 0.104 (map)
Gravitational waves are a firm prediction of Einstein’s general relativity theory. Ripples of the fabric of space-time propagating with the speed of light, they have already been indirectly verified in astronomy by observing the motion of the binary pulsar PSR 1913+16 around its companion. Detailed analysis show that this system is losing energy at exactly the right amount as predicted for gravitational radiation.
A huge world-wide experimental effort is currently aiming at detecting gravitational waves directly on Earth (ground-based detectors LIGO, VIRGO and GEO, and space-based one LISA). The most powerful waves are expected to be produced by systems of neutron stars or black holes when they collide together and merge. Gravitational waves should also be produced in the early Universe. A wealth of astrophysical information concerning the sources of these waves will be contained in the gravitational wave signals. Even cosmological information on the expansion and constituents of the Universe at large scales could be obtained from observations by all these detectors.
However, to be able to extract all this potential information, theorists must work hard to predict the details of gravitational wave signals with high precision. Approximation methods in general relativity have been developed that go deep inside Einstein’s gravity by including new effects impossible to detect by means other than gravitational waves. Numerical relativity too has succeeded in providing excellent predictions for the signals. Gravitational wave experiments and theory go hand in hand to probe the gravitational Universe and also to test Einstein’s gravity theory.
LRR Lecture Series