Pulsed Gravitational Waves


Timothy J. Walton occupies some quantum state between a physicist and a mathematician, having obtained his PhD from the physics department at Lancaster University in 2008 but now masquerading as a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Bolton.

by Timothy J. Walton.

Applying techniques from classical electrodynamics to generate new gravitational wave perturbations

I must begin with a confession: I don’t view myself as a gravitational physicist. Despite my PhD at Lancaster University involving a formulation of relativistic elasticity and an awful lot of differential geometry, my research thus far has been within the realm of classical and quantum electrodynamics. But it was precisely within that domain, along one particular avenue of investigation, where the first seeds of an idea were sown. Following my earlier work on a class of exact finite energy, spatially compact solutions to the vacuum source-free Maxwell equations – pulsed electromagnetic waves – describing single cycle pulses of laser light [1], together with Shin Goto at Kyoto University in Japan and my former PhD supervisor Robin Tucker at Lancaster University, a new question arose: “do pulsed gravitational waves exist?’’

As I recall, this question was posed and began to take root during one of the regular meetings I have with Robin. Within my institution, I am fortunate enough Continue reading

Want to crush a singularity? First make it strong and then …

by Parampreet Singh.

Parampreet Singh

Parampreet Singh with a young student who often asks him the most difficult and so far unanswerable questions on the resolution of singularities. Dr Parampreet Singh is Associate Professor at Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University.

Einstein’s theory of classical general relativity breaks down when spacetime curvature
becomes extremely large near the singularities. To answer the fundamental questions
about the origin of our Universe or what happens at the central singularity of the black holes thus lies beyond the validity of Einstein’s theory. Our research deals with discovering the framework which guarantees resolution of singularities.

It has been long expected that quantum gravitational effects tame the classical singularities leading to insights on the above questions. A final theory of quantum gravity is not yet there but the underlying techniques can be used to understand whether quantum gravitational effects resolve cosmological and black hole singularities. Our goal is Continue reading

Propagation in the absence of classical spacetime

Written by Madhavan Varadarajan


The author’s research group busy at work. Madhavan Varadarajan is a Professor at the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India.

At the Planck scale of 10−33cm, where the very notion of classical spacetime ceases to exist due to large quantum fluctuations of spacetime geometry, can meaning be given to the notion of “causality”? We are interested in this question in the context of Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG).

The basic quantum states of LQG are labelled by graphs. Each such state describes discrete one dimensional excitations of spatial geometry along the edges of its graph label. These ‘graphical’ states provide the Continue reading

CQG+ Insight: More Classical Charges for Black Holes

Written by Geoffrey Compère, a Research Associate at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He has contributed to the theory of asymptotic symmetries, the techniques of solution generation in supergravity, the Kerr/CFT correspondence and is generally interested in gravity, black hole physics and string theory.

Why mass and angular momentum might not be enough to characterize a stationary black hole

Geoffrey Compère

Geoffrey Compère having family time in the park Le
Cinquantenaire in Brussels.

“Black hole have no hair.” This famous quote originates from John Wheeler in the sixties. In other words, a stationary black hole in general relativity is only characterized by its mass and angular momentum. This is because multipole moments of the gravitational field are sources for gravitational waves which radiate the multipoles away and only the last two conserved quantities, mass and angular momentum, remain. That’s the standard story.

Now, besides gravitational waves, general relativity contains another physical phenomenon which does not exist in Newtonian theory: the memory effect. It was discovered beyond the Iron Curtain by Zeldovich and Polnarev in the seventies and rediscovered in the western world and further extended by Christodoulou in the nineties. While gravitational waves lead to spacetime oscillations, the memory effect leads to a finite permanent displacement of test observers in spacetime. The effect exists for any value of the cosmological constant but in asymptotically flat spacetimes, it can be understood in terms of an asymptotic diffeomorphism known as a BMS supertranslation.

In order to understand that, let’s go back to the sixties where the radiative properties of sources were explored in general relativity; it was found by Bondi, van der Burg, Mezner and Sachs that there is a fundamental ambiguity in the coordinate frame at null infinity. Most expected that Continue reading

CQG+ Insight: Spacetime near an extreme black hole

Written by James Lucietti, a Lecturer in Mathematical Physics in the School of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh; and Carmen Li, previously a graduate student in the School of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh and now a postdoc in the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Warsaw.

How many extreme black holes are there with a given throat geometry?


James Lucietti, University of Edinburgh

The classification of equilibrium black hole states is a major open problem in higher dimensional general relativity. Besides being of intrinsic interest, it has numerous applications in modern approaches to quantum gravity and high energy physics. Two key questions to be answered are: What are the possible topologies and symmetries of a black hole spacetime? What is the ‘moduli’ space of black hole solutions with a given topology and symmetry? For vacuum gravity in four spacetime dimensions, these questions are answered by the celebrated no-hair theorem which reveals a surprisingly simple answer: the Kerr solution is the only possibility. However, since Emparan and Reall’s discovery of the black ring — an asymptotically flat five dimensional black hole with ‘doughnut’ topology — it has become clear that there is a far richer set of black hole solutions to the higher dimensional Einstein equations.


Carmen Li, University of Warsaw, at the top of Ben Nevis in the UK.

Over the last decade, a number of general results have been derived which Continue reading

CQG+ Insight: Playing with the building blocks of space

Daniele Oriti is a senior researcher and group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, Germany, EU. Born and educated in Italy, got a PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK, and held research position at Cambridge, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canada. He lives and plays with physics, philosophy, and the rest of the universe, in Berlin, with his wife and son.

In this Insight, the fundamental building blocks of quantum spacetime are described by peculiar quantum field theories, then assembled to form continuum geometries, to explain the dynamics of the early universe and black holes from first principles.

Daniele Oriti

Daniele Oriti is a senior researcher and group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, Germany.

What is space made of? What are its fundamental building blocks? Can we play with them? And what can we make out of them?

If these sound like a bunch of childish questions, it is because theoretical physicists manage to remain the children they once were for some time longer; and to make a living by asking childish questions and playing with the mathematical toys that accompany them.

The serious, only-for-adults part of the story is that we have learned from General Relativity that space and time are physical entities, so it is actually reasonable to ask if they have a microstructure. Moreover, we have several hints (e.g from black hole physics and cosmological singularities) that the continuum geometric description of spacetime on which General Relativity is based should give way to one in terms of discrete, non-geometric degrees of freedom. This is the goal of quantum gravity: a quantum theory of the microstructure of space and time, to understand their discrete non-geometric building blocks and how the usual continuum description arises in some approximation.

Modern approaches to quantum gravity are achieving just that. Loop quantum gravity, for example, identifies spin networks as the structures underlying space (and their interaction processes, spin foams, as underlying spacetime): purely combinatorial objects, graphs, labeled by algebraic data, i.e. group representations. The continuum world populated by Continue reading

A Study of Time Delay from Different Time Zones

Netta Engelhardt (University of California, Santa Barbara) and Sebastian Fischetti (Imperial College) gave us an insight into their communication methods whilst collaborating for their research paper recently published in CQG.


On a dark London evening and a sunny California day — January 19, 2016, to be precise — Netta sent Sebastian a Skype message:


So began a new project for this dynamic duo, published recently in CQG. Unlike our previous project, this one presented a new challenge (with which researchers are all too familiar): we were separated by an eight-hour time difference. Thus began a three-way collaboration: Netta, Sebastian, and Skype (with the third member being the least cooperative).

The process began Continue reading

Why is our universe about to decay?

Dr Kin-ya Oda (left, Osaka university) and Dr Masatoshi Yamada (right, Kyoto university).

Dr Kin-ya Oda (left, Osaka university) and Dr Masatoshi Yamada (right, Kyoto university).

It has been revealed that we are living on the edge of vacuum instability by the discovery of Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider since 2012. The determination of Higgs mass finally provides the last-missed parameter, the Higgs self coupling, to be 0.12 in the Standard Model of particle physics after nearly half century of its foundation. This value completes the initial conditions for a set of differential equations, called renormalization group (RG) equations, which govern how particles interact at very high energy scales. It turns out that the self coupling can vanish or even become negative at the Planck scale, where the quantum gravity effects become significant. We note for later reference that the Yukawa coupling between the Higgs and top quark plays a crucial role to reduce the Higgs self coupling in its RG evolution. The Higgs potential is about to become Continue reading

Wormholes can fix black holes

Diego Rubiera-Garcia and Gonzalo Olmo

Diego Rubiera-Garcia (left, Lisbon University) and Gonzalo J. Olmo (right, University of Valencia – CSIC) after crossing a wormhole that connects Europe with the beaches of the Brazilian Northeast.

According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity (GR), black holes are ferocious beasts able to swallow and destroy everything within their reach. Their strong gravitational pull deforms the space-time causal structure in such a way that nothing can get out of them once their event horizon is crossed. The fate of those incautious observers curious enough to cross this border is to suffer a painful spaghettification process due to the strong tidal forces before being destroyed at the center of the black hole.

Antonio Sanchez-Puente

Antonio Sanchez-Puente (University of Valencia – CSIC) enjoying a sunny day in Valencia after submitting yet another postdoc application.

For a theoretical physicist, the suffering of observers is admissible (one might even consider it part of an experimentalist’s job) but their total destruction is not. The destruction of observers (and light signals) is determined by the fact that the affine parameter of their word-line (its geodesic) stops at the center of the black hole. Their clocks no longer tick and, therefore, there is no way for them to exchange or acquire new information. This implies the breakdown of the predictability of the laws of physics because physical measurements are no longer possible at that point. For this reason, when a space-time has incomplete geodesics — word-lines whose affine parameter does not cover the whole real line — we say that it is singular.

In order to overcome the conceptual problems raised by singularities, a careful analysis of what causes the destruction of observers is necessary. Our intuition may get satisfied by blaming the enormous tidal forces near the center, but the problem is much subtler. This is precisely what we explore in our paper. Continue reading

Book Review: The Springer Handbook of Spacetime

David Garfinkle

David Garfinkle is Professor of Physics at Oakland University. His research is in numerical relativity: the use of computer simulations to study the properties of strong gravitational fields.

Review of “The Springer Handbook of Spacetime” edited by Abhay Ashtekar and Vesselin Petkov

The word “Handbook” in the title is something of a misnomer: it is perhaps better to think of this book as a collection of mini review articles on various topics in relativity.  The best way to use the book is to think of a topic in relativity about which you would say “I wish I knew and understood more about X, but I don’t have the time to read a review article about X, nor the expertise to understand a typical review article on the subject.”  Then look in the book to see if there is a chapter on X, and if so, read it.  (Then repeat the process for each X).  Each mini review article comprises a chapter and the chapters are organized in sections that reflect a particular aspect of relativity.

The first two sections, Introduction to Spacetime Structure and Foundational Issues concentrate mostly on the basic properties of spacetime and on philosophical issues connected with special and general relativity.  I found these sections Continue reading