Abstract:
The Einstein evolution equations may be written in a variety of equivalent analytical forms, but numerical solutions of these different formulations display a wide range of growth rates for constraint violations. For symmetric hyperbolic formulations of the equations, an exact expression for the growth rate is derived using an energy norm. This expression agrees with the growth rate determined by numerical solution of the equations. An approximate method for estimating the growth rate is also derived. This estimate can be evaluated algebraically from the initial data, and is shown to exhibit qualitatively the same dependence as the numerically-determined rate on the parameters that specify the formulation of the equations. This simple rate estimate therefore provides a useful tool for finding the most well-behaved forms of the evolution equations.

Abstract:
The Einstein evolution equations have been written in a number of symmetric hyperbolic forms when the gauge fields--the densitized lapse and the shift--are taken to be fixed functions of the coordinates. Extended systems of evolution equations are constructed here by adding the gauge degrees of freedom to the set of dynamical fields, thus forming symmetric hyperbolic systems for the combined evolution of the gravitational and the gauge fields. The associated characteristic speeds can be made causal (i.e. less than or equal to the speed of light) by adjusting 14 free parameters in these new systems. And 21 additional free parameters are available, for example to optimize the stability of numerical evolutions. The gauge evolution equations in these systems are generalizations of the ``K-driver'' and ``Gamma-driver'' conditions that have been used with some success in numerical black hole evolutions.

Abstract:
Various methods of treating outer boundaries in numerical relativity are compared using a simple test problem: a Schwarzschild black hole with an outgoing gravitational wave perturbation. Numerical solutions computed using different boundary treatments are compared to a `reference' numerical solution obtained by placing the outer boundary at a very large radius. For each boundary treatment, the full solutions including constraint violations and extracted gravitational waves are compared to those of the reference solution, thereby assessing the reflections caused by the artificial boundary. These tests use a first-order generalized harmonic formulation of the Einstein equations. Constraint-preserving boundary conditions for this system are reviewed, and an improved boundary condition on the gauge degrees of freedom is presented. Alternate boundary conditions evaluated here include freezing the incoming characteristic fields, Sommerfeld boundary conditions, and the constraint-preserving boundary conditions of Kreiss and Winicour. Rather different approaches to boundary treatments, such as sponge layers and spatial compactification, are also tested. Overall the best treatment found here combines boundary conditions that preserve the constraints, freeze the Newman-Penrose scalar Psi_0, and control gauge reflections.

Abstract:
Astrophysically realistic black holes may have spins that are nearly extremal (i.e., close to 1 in dimensionless units). Numerical simulations of binary black holes are important tools both for calibrating analytical templates for gravitational-wave detection and for exploring the nonlinear dynamics of curved spacetime. However, all previous simulations of binary-black-hole inspiral, merger, and ringdown have been limited by an apparently insurmountable barrier: the merging holes' spins could not exceed 0.93, which is still a long way from the maximum possible value in terms of the physical effects of the spin. In this paper, we surpass this limit for the first time, opening the way to explore numerically the behavior of merging, nearly extremal black holes. Specifically, using an improved initial-data method suitable for binary black holes with nearly extremal spins, we simulate the inspiral (through 12.5 orbits), merger and ringdown of two equal-mass black holes with equal spins of magnitude 0.95 antialigned with the orbital angular momentum.

Abstract:
We present a new numerical code that evolves a spherically symmetric configuration of collisionless matter in the Brans-Dicke theory of gravitation. In this theory the spacetime is dynamical even in spherical symmetry, where it can contain gravitational radiation. Our code is capable of accurately tracking collapse to a black hole in a dynamical spacetime arbitrarily far into the future, without encountering either coordinate pathologies or spacetime singularities. This is accomplished by truncating the spacetime at a spherical surface inside the apparent horizon, and subsequently solving the evolution and constraint equations only in the exterior region. We use our code to address a number of long-standing theoretical questions about collapse to black holes in Brans-Dicke theory.

Abstract:
We discuss a number of long-standing theoretical questions about collapse to black holes in the Brans-Dicke theory of gravitation. Using a new numerical code, we show that Oppenheimer-Snyder collapse in this theory produces black holes that are identical to those of general relativity in final equilibrium, but are quite different from those of general relativity during dynamical evolution. We find that there are epochs during which the apparent horizon of such a black hole passes {\it outside\/} the event horizon, and that the surface area of the event horizon {\it decreases\/} with time. This behavior is possible because theorems which prove otherwise assume $R_{ab}l^al^b \ge 0$ for all null vectors $l^a$. We show that dynamical spacetimes in Brans-Dicke theory can violate this inequality, even in vacuum, for any value of $\omega$.

Abstract:
We present a new many-parameter family of hyperbolic representations of Einstein's equations, which we obtain by a straightforward generalization of previously known systems. We solve the resulting evolution equations numerically for a Schwarzschild black hole in three spatial dimensions, and find that the stability of the simulation is strongly dependent on the form of the equations (i.e. the choice of parameters of the hyperbolic system), independent of the numerics. For an appropriate range of parameters we can evolve a single 3D black hole to $t \simeq 600 M$ -- $1300 M$, and are apparently limited by constraint-violating solutions of the evolution equations. We expect that our method should result in comparable times for evolutions of a binary black hole system.

Abstract:
Event horizons are the defining physical features of black hole spacetimes, and are of considerable interest in studying black hole dynamics. Here, we reconsider three techniques to localise event horizons in numerical spacetimes: integrating geodesics, integrating a surface, and integrating a level-set of surfaces over a volume. We implement the first two techniques and find that straightforward integration of geodesics backward in time to be most robust. We find that the exponential rate of approach of a null surface towards the event horizon of a spinning black hole equals the surface gravity of the black hole. In head-on mergers we are able to track quasi-normal ringing of the merged black hole through seven oscillations, covering a dynamic range of about 10^5. Both at late times (when the final black hole has settled down) and at early times (before the merger), the apparent horizon is found to be an excellent approximation of the event horizon. In the head-on binary black hole merger, only {\em some} of the future null generators of the horizon are found to start from past null infinity; the others approach the event horizons of the individual black holes at times far before merger.

Abstract:
The generalized harmonic representation of Einstein's equation is manifestly hyperbolic for a large class of gauge conditions. Unfortunately most of the useful gauges developed over the past several decades by the numerical relativity community are incompatible with the hyperbolicity of the equations in this form. This paper presents a new method of imposing gauge conditions that preserves hyperbolicity for a much wider class of conditions, including as special cases many of the standard ones used in numerical relativity: e.g., K-freezing, Gamma-freezing, Bona-Masso slicing, conformal Gamma-drivers, etc. Analytical and numerical results are presented which test the stability and the effectiveness of this new gauge driver evolution system.

Abstract:
Several improvements in numerical methods and gauge choice are presented that make it possible now to perform simulations of the merger and ringdown phases of "generic" binary black-hole evolutions using the pseudo-spectral evolution code SpEC. These improvements include the use of a new damped-wave gauge condition, a new grid structure with appropriate filtering that improves stability, and better adaptivity in conforming the grid structures to the shapes and sizes of the black holes. Simulations illustrating the success of these new methods are presented for a variety of binary black-hole systems. These include fairly ``generic'' systems with unequal masses (up to 2:1 mass ratios), and spins (with magnitudes up to 0.4 M^2) pointing in various directions.