12:00–1:00 pm ERC 401
Testing general relativity with LIGO and Virgo
Maximiliano Isi, MIT
Gravity remains the least understood of the four fundamental forces. To address this, we would like to experimentally study the extreme phenomena in which the full nonlinear and dynamic richness of gravity comes into play. Gravitational waves are a unique tool to do just that: they carry uncorrupted information directly from strong-gravity objects (like black holes, or their mimickers), and reflect in their own basic properties (like polarization or speed) the fundamental structure of space and time. Thus, gravitational waves are an invaluable resource to experimentally test our best theory of gravity, Einstein's general relativity, in yet unexplored regimes. The ever-increasing number of signals detected by LIGO and Virgo has already allowed us to make progress in this direction. This includes precisely probing the strong-field orbital dynamics of compact-binary mergers, testing the nature of the resulting remnant object, limiting the mass of the graviton and constraining the speed and polarization of gravitational waves. In this talk, I will review the results obtained from the 11 existing confident detections (ten binary black holes and one binary neutron star merger) and explain their relevance in our effort to better understand gravity. I will then discuss the potential for these studies in the near future, as existing detectors reach their design sensitivities, and beyond.