A team of University researchers will get their hands on some of Europe’s fastest supercomputers in a bid to crack Einstein’s theory of relativity and help describe what happens when two black holes collide. Experts in gravitational waves from the School of Physics and Astronomy have secured almost 16.7 million hours worth of supercomputer time to simulate and map the most violent events in the universe since the big bang – namely, collisions of black holes. The team will use more than 1,900 computer processors over the next year to try and solve the equations of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The ultimate goal of the simulations is the direct observation of black-hole collisions through the gravitational waves they emit.
“Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time – predicted by Einstein almost 100 years ago,” according to Mark Hannam, School of Physics and Astronomy, who will lead the Cardiff research team. “However, despite Einstein’s predictions – they have not yet been directly detected. Gravitational waves are generated by accelerating masses, such as orbiting black holes, similar to the way accelerating electrical charges emit electromagnetic waves, like light, infra-red and radio waves – with the important difference that gravitational waves are far weaker. “For this reason it is electromagnetic waves that have told us everything we have learnt about the cosmos since ancient times. If we could also detect gravitational waves, that would push open a new window on the universe, and tell us about its `dark side’,” he added.