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Testing the gravitational sector with black hole perturbations

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Scott Melville.

Gravitational wave observations allow us to probe directly the nature of black holes. This provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to test the gravitational sector. I will argue that effective field theory (EFT) techniques provide a natural framework to constrain possible departures from General Relativity (GR) in a model independent way.

To illustrate this point, in this talk I will focus on a particularly striking departure from the black hole solutions of GR, namely the existence of scalar hair (i.e. one or more scalar fields with a non-trivial radial profile). I will introduce an EFT for perturbations around spherically symmetric spacetimes with a scalar hair, and then discuss a couple of applications in different regimes.

First, I will apply this formalism to study quasi-normal modes (QNM) of static black holes with a scalar hair. Assuming that the deviation of the background from Schwarzschild is small, I will use a WKB approximation to introduce the notion of “light ring expansion”—an approximation analogous to the slow-roll expansion used for inflation—and provide a model independent parametrization of the QNM spectrum. Second, if time allows it, I will use this EFT to calculate the power emitted by an extreme mass-ratio binary inspiral in the post-Newtonian limit.

This talk is part of the Theoretical Physics Colloquium series.

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