"Supercomputer simulations of colliding black holes", department colloquium, January 25, 2012, 10-11am

Geoffrey Lovelace, Cornell

Gravitational waves---ripples of spacetime curvature---are poised to open a new window on the universe: the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (Advanced LIGO), scheduled for completion in 2015, is expected to detect between 1 and 1000 gravitational waveforms per year. Among the most important sources for Advanced LIGO are colliding black holes, which can radiate as gravitational waves more energy than a supernova. Finding these waves in noisy LIGO data requires accurate predictions of the expected waveforms, but because all analytic approximations break down, the gravitational waves emitted by two colliding black holes can only be predicted using numerical simulations. In this talk, I will discuss recent progress and challenges in supercomputer simulations of colliding black holes and the application of these simulations to LIGO data analysis.