Simulating Spacetime

Matthew Choptuik (UBC/CIFAR)
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2016-10-06 14:00 - 15:00
TRIUMF Auditorium

In the 100 plus years since Einstein formulated general relativity, his theory has proven truly remarkable in the scope and breadth of its predictions concerning the gravitational interaction and the degree to which those predictions are borne out by experiment and observation.

At the same time, gravitational theorists have found the analysis of Einstein's field equations extraordinarily challenging. The fundamental nonlinearity and fiendish algebraic complexity of these equations have meant that traditional analytic approaches fail miserably for many of the cases of most physical and astrophysical interest.

However, the general relativistic field equations are ultimately just a set of partial differential equations. Paralleling what has happened in many other areas of science, the evolution of high performance computing, in concert with the development of appropriate numerical techniques, has enabled direct computational assault on many of the most pressing problems in gravitational physics. The discipline dealing with these calculations is called, aptly enough, numerical relativity.

In this talk, following a brief overview of numerical relativity, I will discuss results from simulations of several scenarios in dynamic, strong field gravity. These include critical gravitational collapse, the formation of black holes through high speed collisions of particles, and the inspiral and merger of two black holes. This last class of computation figured highly in the interpretation of the LIGO-detected gravitational wave signal that was announced in February this year (GW150914), and in the detection as well as the interpretation of the second (GW151226),
announced in June.

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