Abstract:
The two-body problem in general relativity is reviewed, focusing on the final stages of the coalescence of the black holes as uncovered by recent successes in numerical solution of the field equations.

Abstract:
We describe early success in the evolution of binary black hole spacetimes with a numerical code based on a generalization of harmonic coordinates. Indications are that with sufficient resolution this scheme is capable of evolving binary systems for enough time to extract information about the orbit, merger and gravitational waves emitted during the event. As an example we show results from the evolution of a binary composed of two equal mass, non-spinning black holes, through a single plunge-orbit, merger and ring down. The resultant black hole is estimated to be a Kerr black hole with angular momentum parameter a~0.70. At present, lack of resolution far from the binary prevents an accurate estimate of the energy emitted, though a rough calculation suggests on the order of 5% of the initial rest mass of the system is radiated as gravitational waves during the final orbit and ringdown.

Abstract:
A numerical solution scheme for the Einstein field equations based on generalized harmonic coordinates is described, focusing on details not provided before in the literature and that are of particular relevance to the binary black hole problem. This includes demonstrations of the effectiveness of constraint damping, and how the time slicing can be controlled through the use of a source function evolution equation. In addition, some results from an ongoing study of binary black hole coalescence, where the black holes are formed via scalar field collapse, are shown. Scalar fields offer a convenient route to exploring certain aspects of black hole interactions, and one interesting, though tentative suggestion from this early study is that behavior reminiscent of "zoom-whirl" orbits in particle trajectories is also present in the merger of equal mass, non-spinning binaries, with appropriately fine-tuned initial conditions.

Abstract:
A new numerical scheme to solve the Einstein field equations based upon the generalized harmonic decomposition of the Ricci tensor is introduced. The source functions driving the wave equations that define generalized harmonic coordinates are treated as independent functions, and encode the coordinate freedom of solutions. Techniques are discussed to impose particular gauge conditions through a specification of the source functions. A 3D, free evolution, finite difference code implementing this system of equations with a scalar field matter source is described. The second-order-in-space-and-time partial differential equations are discretized directly without the use first order auxiliary terms, limiting the number of independent functions to fifteen--ten metric quantities, four source functions and the scalar field. This also limits the number of constraint equations, which can only be enforced to within truncation error in a numerical free evolution, to four. The coordinate system is compactified to spatial infinity in order to impose physically motivated, constraint-preserving outer boundary conditions. A variant of the Cartoon method for efficiently simulating axisymmetric spacetimes with a Cartesian code is described that does not use interpolation, and is easier to incorporate into existing adaptive mesh refinement packages. Preliminary test simulations of vacuum black hole evolution and black hole formation via scalar field collapse are described, suggesting that this method may be useful for studying many spacetimes of interest.

Abstract:
The quantum interest conjecture of Ford and Roman states that any negative energy flux in a free quantum field must be preceded or followed by a positive flux of greater magnitude, and the surplus of positive energy grows the further the positive and negative fluxes are apart. In addition, the maximum possible separation between the positive and negative energy decreases the larger the amount of negative energy. We prove that the quantum interest conjecture holds for arbitrary fluxes of non-interacting scalar fields in 4D Minkowski spacetime, and discuss the consequences in attempting to violate the second law of thermodynamics using negative energy. We speculate that quantum interest may also hold for the Electromagnetic and Dirac fields, and might be applied to certain curved spacetimes.

Abstract:
We describe recent numerical simulations of the merger of a class of equal mass, non-spinning, eccentric binary black hole systems in general relativity. We show that with appropriate fine-tuning of the initial conditions to a region of parameter space we denote the threshold of immediate merger, the binary enters a phase of close interaction in a near-circular orbit, stays there for an amount of time proportional to logarithmic distance from the threshold in parameter space, then either separates or merges to form a single Kerr black hole. To gain a better understanding of this phenomena we study an analogous problem in the evolution of equatorial geodesics about a central Kerr black hole. A similar threshold of capture exists for appropriate classes of initial conditions, and tuning to threshold the geodesics approach one of the unstable circular geodesics of the Kerr spacetime. Remarkably, with a natural mapping of the parameters of the geodesic to that of the equal mass system, the scaling exponent describing the whirl phase of each system turns out to be quite similar. Armed with this lone piece of evidence that an approximate correspondence might exist between near-threshold evolution of geodesics and generic binary mergers, we illustrate how this information can be used to estimate the cross section and energy emitted in the ultra relativistic black hole scattering problem. This could eventually be of use in providing estimates for the related problem of parton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider in extra dimension scenarios where black holes are produced.

Abstract:
The low-energy limit of string theory contains an anomaly-canceling correction to the Einstein-Hilbert action, which defines an effective theory: Chern-Simons (CS) modified gravity. The CS correction consists of the product of a scalar field with the Pontryagin density, where the former can be treated as a background field (non-dynamical formulation) or as an evolving field (dynamical formulation). Many solutions of general relativity persist in the modified theory; a notable exception is the Kerr metric, which has sparked a search for rotating black hole solutions. Here, for the first time, we find a solution describing a rotating black hole within the dynamical framework, and in the small-coupling/slow-rotation limit. The solution is axisymmetric and stationary, constituting a deformation of the Kerr metric with dipole scalar "hair," whose effect on geodesic motion is to weaken the frame-dragging effect and shift the location of the inner-most stable circular orbit outwards (inwards) relative to Kerr for co-rotating (counter-rotating) geodesics. We further show that the correction to the metric scales inversely with the fourth power of the radial distance to the black hole, suggesting it will escape any meaningful bounds from weak-field experiments. For example, using binary pulsar data we can only place an initial bound on the magnitude of the dynamical coupling constant of $\xi^{1/4} \lesssim 10^{4} {\textrm{km}}$. More stringent bounds will require observations of inherently strong-field phenomena.

Abstract:
We describe recent numerical simulations of the merger of a class of equal mass, non-spinning, eccentric binary black hole systems in general relativity. We show that with appropriate fine-tuning of the initial conditions to a region of parameter space we denote the threshold of immediate merger, the binary enters a phase of close interaction in a near-circular orbit, stays there for an amount of time proportional to logarithmic distance from the threshold in parameter space, then either separates or merges to form a single Kerr black hole. To gain a better understanding of this phenomena we study an analogous problem in the evolution of equatorial geodesics about a central Kerr black hole. A similar threshold of capture exists for appropriate classes of initial conditions, and tuning to threshold the geodesics approach one of the unstable circular geodesics of the Kerr spacetime. Remarkably, with a natural mapping of the parameters of the geodesic to that of the equal mass system, the scaling exponent describing the whirl phase of each system turns out to be quite similar. Armed with this lone piece of evidence that an approximate correspondence might exist between near-threshold evolution of geodesics and generic binary mergers, we illustrate how this information can be used to estimate the cross section and energy emitted in the ultra relativistic black hole scattering problem. This could eventually be of use in providing estimates for the related problem of parton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider in extra dimension scenarios where black holes are produced.

Abstract:
The use of adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) techniques is crucial for accurate and efficient simulation of higher dimensional spacetimes. In this work we develop an adaptive algorithm tailored to the integration of finite difference discretizations of wave-like equations using characteristic coordinates. We demonstrate the algorithm by constructing a code implementing the Einstein-Klein-Gordon system of equations in spherical symmetry. We discuss how the algorithm can trivially be generalized to higher dimensional systems, and suggest a method that can be used to parallelize a characteristic code.

Abstract:
We describe the behavior of a perturbed 5-dimensional black string subject to the Gregory-Laflamme instability. We show that the horizon evolves in a self-similar manner, where at any moment in the late-time development of the instability the horizon can be described as a sequence of 3-dimensional spherical black holes of varying size, joined by black string segments of similar radius. As with the initial black string, each local string segment is itself unstable, and this fuels the self-similar cascade to (classically) arbitrarily small scales; in the process the horizon develops a fractal structure. In finite asymptotic time, the remaining string segments shrink to zero-size, yielding a naked singularity. Since no fine-tuning is required to excite the instability, this constitutes a generic violation of cosmic censorship. We further discuss how this behavior is related to satellite formation in low-viscosity fluid streams subject to the Rayleigh-Plateau instability, and estimate the fractal dimension of the horizon prior to formation of the naked singularity.