Physics at Virginia

"Studying matter and spacetime with gravitational waves"

Professor David Nichols , University of Virginia - Department of Physics
[Host: Professor Despina Louca]

Gravitational waves have been detected from the mergers of nearly ninety binary black holes during the first three observing runs of the Advanced LIGO and Virgo detectors. In this talk, I will discuss these detections and their implications for understanding fundamental properties of matter and spacetime in two contexts. First, I will review a nonlinear effect in general relativity called the gravitational-wave memory. The effect is characterized by a lasting change in the gravitational-wave strain produced by the energy radiated in gravitational waves. I will describe how this effect is related to the infrared properties of gravity, how the memory effect can be measured with LIGO and Virgo, and how new types of memory effects have been recently predicted. Second, I will discuss how dense distributions of dark matter around a black hole can influence the inspiral of a second compact object and thus the gravitational waves emitted from such a binary. With the planned space-based gravitational-wave detector LISA, the distribution of dark matter on these small scales could be mapped precisely. This would provide a new method to study dark matter: with gravitational waves.

Friday, January 21, 2022
3:30 PM
Physics Building, Room 204
Note special room.

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