Building bridges: CGWA inaugural meeting in Brownsville

Mario Diaz, UT Brownsville
Building Bridges, as it was called the inaugural meeting of the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Texas at Brownsville was held in Brownsville at the school main campus on December 14 and December 15 of last year.

The title was a suggestive metaphor to indicate the main goal of the CGWA, which is to give a common ground to the efforts of data analysts, source modelers and astrophysicists in support of gravitational wave astronomy and in particular of LISA science. The CGWA was created with NASA support under the agency's university research centers program. The program of the conference consisted of several invited talks and a contributed poster session.

The first day Bernard Schutz (AEI) and Tom Prince (Caltech-JPL) talked about the science promise of LISA and the LISA challenges for the scientific community, respectively. Schutz described in detail several aspects of the LISA mission, its challenges and its promises. He pointed out how different other presentations through the meeting were resonating with the major themes for LISA, i.e.: Supper Massive Black Holes (SMBH), how have they accompanied galaxy formation and their merger history, LISA noise confusion problems and the data analysis needs for the mission. He also described the future beyond LISA and other missions that are in the design stages like the Big Bang Observer. Prince framed LISA's mission in the context of NASA's structure and evolution of the universe roadmap. He referred to the significance within this context of the agency's Beyond Einstein program, which concentrates on understanding what powered the big bang, what happens at the edge of a black hole and what is dark energy.

Then Doug Richstone (U. of Michigan) completed the morning session with his talk about ``Things invisible to see: Supermassive black holes in ordinary galaxies". Richstone concentrated on discussing what has triggered the interest on them, the current demographic picture and emerging developments in the field. He particularly discussed the possibility of gravitational wave observations of black hole mergers.

In the afternoon David Merritt (Rutgers) and Simon Portegeis Zwart (U. of Amsterdam) discussed the astrophysics of black holes, while Neil Cornish (Montana State) and Lior Barack (CGWA-UTB) referred to different aspects of LISA science. Merritt talked about the Astrophysics of Binary Supermassive Black holes. His presentation highlighted some of the outstanding questions in the field, like the resolution of the final parsec problem, and other different aspects of the dynamical evolution of black holes (are there un-coalesced binary black holes? how are black holes ejected from galaxies? Zwart discussed in detail the technique of n-body simulations in regards to the formation of intermediate mass black holes in young dense star clusters. Cornish discussed with some extension LISA challenges in the area of data analysis. He presented some approaches to the solution of some of these challenges with the utilization of an array of techniques that have been developed by his group. Barack started with a quick overview of capture sources and data analysis problems associated. He then introduced a class of approximate analytic waveforms and showed how can be utilized to estimate LISA's parameter extraction accuracy and to estimate SNR thresholds for detection. He revisited detection rates in light of this model as well.

A banquet followed in the evening with the normal occasion for socialization. Bernard Schutz talked about the significance of the creation of the CGWA and Richard Price referred in a jovial tone to the accomplishments and future endeavors of gravitational wave physicists in Brownsville.

In the morning of the following day Beverly Berger (NSF) started with a presentation about NSF role in support of gravitational wave science in particular and gravitation and general relativity at large. Soumya Mohanty (CGWA-UTB) presented ``Beyond the Gaussian, stationary assumption: data analysis techniques for real interferometric data". The following talks concentrated on issues and challenges in the area of numerical source simulation: Carlos Lousto (CGWA-UTB) spoke on ``What can be learned about binary clack hole evolution due to gravitational radiation". Bernd Bruegmann (PSU) discussed several issues related to black hole simulations in numerical relativity. Richard Price (U. of Utah) spoke on the ``Periodic Standing Wave" method, an alternative to full numerical relativity for binary black hole inspiral. This method uses an exact numerical solution for rigidly rotating (``helically symmetric'') sources and fields to give an approximation for the intermediate epoch of inspiral in which the holes have strong gravitational interaction, but are not yet in their final plunge. Luis Lehner (LSU) made an effort at predicting the next steps in the simulations of Einstein's equations, while John Baker (GSFC) talked about the Lazarus approach. Yasushi Mino (CGWA-UTB) gave the last lecture of the conference on the past, present and future of the self-force problem. The slides for the talks can be viewed at the CGWA web site:

The contributed poster session was also well attended and consisted in a good number of posters covering a wide range of topics within the meetings theme. A very positive aspect to remark from this meeting is the large number of students that attended from different places in the country and also from abroad.

Jorge Pullin 2004-03-12