Worth the 100-year wait… Supercomputer-based confirmation by Saul Teukolsky of gravitational waves


Lindsay France/Cornell University

It’s the understatement of the year, but the Cornell physicist, Saul Teukolsky, who demonstrated the existence of gravitational waves, as predicted 100 years ago by Einstein, said: “This is something people have been looking for, for a long time.” Teukolsky is the Hans A. Bethe Professor of Physics and Astrophysics. The ground-breaking paper in Physical Review Letters by the LIGO and VIRGO groups who observed the two black holes colliding compared their data to a model created and refined by Teukolsky and a Cornell group, Simulation of eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS). These researchers have been using supercomputers to create models of black holes collisions since 2000, when such tasks became feasible. As quoted in a recent Cornell Chronicle article, http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2016/02/cornell-theorists-affirm-gravitational-wave-detection, Teukolsky writes: “This is something I’ve been working on ever since I came to Cornell. This is probably the most exciting episode in my professional career.” It’s a triumph for the power of supercomputing simulation and modeling. A computer simulation showing the collision of two black holes can be viewed at http://www.cornell.edu/video/simulation-two-black-holes-colliding.

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