A Caltech Library Service

Numerical Relativity Beyond General Relativity


Okounkova, Maria (2019) Numerical Relativity Beyond General Relativity. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/WPAT-PS25.


Einstein’s theory of general relativity has passed all precision tests to date. At some length scale, however, general relativity (GR) must break down and be reconciled with quantum mechanics in a quantum theory of gravity (a beyond-GR theory). Binary black hole mergers probe the non-linear, highly dynamical regime of gravity, and gravitational waves from these systems may contain signatures of such a theory. In this thesis, we seek to make gravitational wave predictions for binary black hole mergers in a beyond-GR theory. These predictions can then be used to perform model-dependent tests of GR with gravitational wave detections.

We make predictions using numerical relativity, the practice of precisely numerically solving the equations governing spacetime. This allows us to probe the behavior of a binary black hole system through full inspiral, merger, and ringdown. We choose to work in dynamical Chern-Simons gravity (dCS), a higher-curvature beyond-GR effective field theory that couples spacetime curvature to a scalar field, and has motivations in string theory and loop quantum gravity. In order to obtain a well-posed initial value formalism, we perturb this theory around GR. We compute the leading-order behavior of the dCS scalar field in a binary black hole merger, as well as the leading-order dCS correction to the spacetime metric and hence gravitational radiation. We produce the first numerical relativity beyond-GR waveforms in a higher-curvature theory of gravity.

This thesis contains additional results, all of which harness the power of numerical relativity to test GR. We compute black hole shadows in dCS gravity, numerically prove the leading-order stability of rotating black holes in dCS gravity, and lay out a formalism for determining the start time of binary black hole ringdown using information from the strong-field region of a binary black hole simulation.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:General relativity, numerical relativity, gravitational waves
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Awards:John Stager Stemple Memorial Prize in Physics, 2018.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Teukolsky, Saul A.
Group:TAPIR, Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Chen, Yanbei (chair)
  • Scheel, Mark
  • Weinstein, Alan Jay
  • Adhikari, Rana
  • Gukov, Sergei
  • Teukolsky, Saul A.
Defense Date:1 May 2019
Non-Caltech Author Email:m.okounkova (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05102019-160621419
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 2. adapted for Chapter 3. adapted for Chapter 4. adapted for Chapter 7.
Okounkova, Maria0000-0001-7869-5496
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11507
Deposited By: Maria Okounkova
Deposited On:14 May 2019 21:54
Last Modified:26 Oct 2021 18:05

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page