The Unreasonable Effectiveness of the Post-Newtonian Approximation

author: Clifford M. Will, Department of Physics, Washington University in St. Louis
introducer: Abhay V. Ashtekar, Institute for Gravitational Physics and Geometry, Pennsylvania State University
published: April 8, 2011,   recorded: October 2010,   views: 3478

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The post-Newtonian approximation is a method for solving Einstein's field equations for physical systems in which motions are slow compared to the speed of light and where gravitational fields are weak. Yet it has proven to be remarkably effective in describing certain strong-field, fast-motion systems, including binary pulsars containing dense neutron stars and binary black hole systems inspiraling toward a final merger. The reasons for this effectiveness are largely unknown. When carried to high orders in the post-Newtonian sequence, predictions for the gravitational-wave signal from inspiraling compact binaries will play a key role in gravitational-wave detection by laser-interferometric observatories.

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