We decided to make a selection of classic/well written/interesting papers for our weekly group meetings this coming Spring. The goal is to read papers that can be used as examples of good scientific writing, or that made a mark in their field.
I spent some time thinking about papers I really enjoyed reading, and/or papers that I consider important, and this is the result: a gravitational theory equivalent of High fidelity best-of lists!
Kip Thorne’s 1987 notes on technical writing may be outdated on the computing aspects, but they are still fantastic otherwise.
Papers on gravity and general relativity
- Arnowitt-Deser-Misner, The dynamics of general relativity
The ADM paper. From the editorial note by Jorge Pullin: “it is unusual to find a paper that is still playing such a direct and influential role in such a broad range of modern research topics close to fifty years after its publication.”
- Hartle-Thorne, Slowly Rotating Relativistic Stars series (in 8 parts!)
- Wheeler, Geons
The famous “mass without mass” paper. Geons turned out to be unstable, but it’s a fascinating read.
- Brill-Wheeler, Interaction of Neutrinos and Gravitational Fields
A classic paper on the Dirac equation in curved spacetime.
- Ruffini-Bonazzola, Systems of Self-Gravitating Particles in General Relativity and the Concept of an Equation of State
Another classic Wheeler-school paper introducing boson stars. Can we have self-gravitating boson systems in GR? Could be complemented with Colpi-Shapiro-Wasserman.
Introduces the idea of primordial black holes. Short but sweet, and very influential.
- Bekenstein, Black Holes and Entropy
A classic paper and a great read. See also the follow-up.
- Press-Schechter, Formation of Galaxies and Clusters of Galaxies by Self-Similar Gravitational Condensation
Another classic. See also work by Erickcek-Kamionkowski-Benson, Supermassive black hole merger rates: uncertainties from halo merger theory.
- Rhoades-Ruffini, Maximum Mass of a Neutron Star
What is the maximum mass of a neutron star? A simple idea, and the conclusions still hold up very well (see the 1996 Kalogera-Baym “revision”).
One of Wald’s most important papers (1600 citations!)
- Damour-Esposito-Farése, Nonperturbative strong-field effects in tensor-scalar theories of gravitation and Tensor-scalar gravity and binary-pulsar experiments
Two “seminal” papers on spontaneous scalarization, i.e. how to identify theories that are compatible with GR in the weak field, but differ in the strong field.
- Bekenstein, The many faces of superradiance
This goes well beyond black hole physics. It’s a beautiful paper with lots of physics (and history).
- Jacobson, Thermodynamics of Spacetime
A “derivation” of the Einstein equations from thermodynamics.
- Kaplan-Nichols-Thorne, Post-Newtonian Approximation in Maxwell-Like Form
This was motivated by the “superkick” discovery, but it has a very nice intro and can be used for an interesting discussion on gravitoelectromagnetism. See also Maartens-Bassett, Gravito-electromagnetism.
- Lehner-Myers-Poisson-Sorkin, Gravitational action with null boundaries
Progress on the variational principle in GR. “We present a complete discussion of the boundary term in the action functional of general relativity when the boundary includes null segments in addition to the more usual timelike and spacelike segments.” Already 200+ citations!
“An introduction to causal properties of General Relativity. Topics include the Raychaudhuri equation, singularity theorems of Penrose and Hawking, the black hole area theorem, topological censorship, and the Gao-Wald theorem.” May span a whole series of group meetings if we decide to dive into it.
Papers on black holes
- Regge-Wheeler, Stability of a Schwarzschild Singularity
This paper started a whole research field. Allegedly Wheeler wrote the text and Regge filled in the equations.
- Zerilli, Gravitational Field of a Particle Falling in a Schwarzschild Geometry Analyzed in Tensor Harmonics
Completes the Regge-Wheeler analysis. An impressive feat and compulsory reading (beware of typos).
- Teukolsky, Perturbations of a Rotating Black Hole. I. and [Perturbations of a Rotating Black Hole. II..
These papers are the basis for the perturbation theory of Kerr black holes. Seminal and beautifully written.
- Hawking, Particle Creation by Black Holes
Needs no introduction…
Derives an upper limit to the spin of a black hole achievable by accretion.
- Davis-Ruffini-Press-Price, Gravitational Radiation from a Particle Falling Radially into a Schwarzschild Black Hole
The first end-to-end calculation of gravitational waves from a black hole. A classic, lots of deep physics.
The paper that introduced the idea of quasinormal modes (in the WKB approximation).
- Detweiler-Chandrasekhar, The quasi-normal modes of the Schwarzschild black hole
Elegant calculation of quasinormal modes using standard techniques in ODE analysis. Points out why this is difficult.
Beautiful resolution of the difficulties using analytical techniques developed in the early days of quantum theory for the hydrogen ion.
Arguably the best paper ever written about black hole perturbation theory.
- Schutz-Will, Black hole normal modes - A semianalytic approach
Lots of physical insight into the problem using WKB and asymptotic matching techniques.
This was “inspired” by a nice toy model.
- Chandrasekhar-Ferrari, On the non-radial oscillations of a star. III - A reconsideration of the axial modes
Most of the literature on “gravitational wave echoes” is based on ideas developed in this (not so well-known) paper.
- Poisson’s series on perturbation theory, in particular Paper I, Paper II and Cutler-Kennefick-Poisson, Gravitational radiation reaction for bound motion around a Schwarzschild black hole.
These papers solve the problem of radiation from particles in eccentric orbits around nonrotating black holes. They are a technical tour de force, full of clever tricks, and beautifully written.
- Mano-Suzuku-Takasugi: the MST papers Analytic Solutions of the Regge-Wheeler Equation and the Post-Minkowskian Expansion and Analytic Solutions of the Teukolsky Equation and Their Low Frequency Expansions
Very technical papers exploiting techniques introduced by Leaver (hypergeometric functions and Coulomb wave functions). They make crucial mathematical progress that has been used countless times afterwards.
- Mino-Sasaki-Shibata-Tagoshi-Tanaka, Black hole perturbation
This is basically the olympic team of gravitational theorists in Japan getting together to write a review on black hole perturbations. All of the physics is here.
This was for many years the one and only simulation of collapse leading to black hole formation and observing quasinormal modes of the remnant black hole. The rumor is that Stark (the main author) apparently left research after this paper and no one could reproduce it for a long time.
- Poisson-Israel, Internal structure of black holes and Inner-horizon instability and mass inflation in black holes
These “mass inflation” papers are crucial to understand black hole interiors. See also Cardoso et al., Quasinormal Modes and Strong Cosmic Censorship for recent developments.
- Bardeen-Press-Teukolsky, Rotating Black Holes: Locally Nonrotating Frames, Energy Extraction, and Scalar Synchrotron Radiation
A classic paper on particle orbits and physics around rotating black holes.
- Press-Teukolsky, Floating Orbits, Superradiant Scattering and the Black-hole Bomb
This Nature paper introduced some key ideas based on superradiance: the “black hole bomb” and “floating orbits”. See also Cardoso et al., The black hole bomb and superradiant instabilities.
- Comins-Schutz, On the Ergoregion Instability
Friedman showed mathematically that any object with an ergoregion and no horizon must be unstable. This is a great paper that takes that idea and runs with it. Lots of physical insight. The effective potential plots are very illuminating.
Another classic paper on superradiance, which shows that bosons form hydrogen-like atomic states around black holes. Dolan’s Instability of the massive Klein-Gordon field on the Kerr spacetime uses Leaver’s techniques and completes the analysis.
- Arvanitaki-Dubovsky, Exploring the string axiverse with precision black hole physics
This paper places all of the previous papers in a modern context and uses them to constrain ultralight bosons. It’s part of a series of very nice papers.
- Baumann-Chia-Porto, Probing ultralight bosons with binary black holes.
Excellent paper improving on parts of the analysis in the Arvanitaki papers and studying effects in binary systems. See also Baumann-Chia-Porto-Stout, Gravitational Collider Physics.
- Thorne-Novikov Astrophysics of black holes
Classic paper on the thin-disk model for accretion. This is only available from the Black Holes: Les Astres Occlus book - or Kip’s webpage, see link above.
- Shakura-Sunyaev, Black holes in binary systems. Observational appearance..
Classic paper on accretion.
- Blandford-Znajek, Electromagnetic extraction of energy from Kerr black holes
This paper is an attempt to explain the Blandford-Znajek process in a more physical way, and eventually developed into the Membrane paradigm book.
- Morris-Thorne, Wormholes in spacetime and their use for interstellar travel: A tool for teaching general relativity
Fun read. It’s written for American Journal of Physics, so it’s very pedagogical and well written. I like also the book by Visser, Lorentzian wormholes.
Damour-Nagar, Relativistic tidal properties of neutron stars
Binnington-Poisson, Relativistic theory of tidal Love numbers
These papers on relativistic tidal Love numbers contain important results on relativistic tidal deformations in binary systems with black holes and/or neutron stars.
Possibly the first important “physics” result to emerge from numerical relativity (discovery of critical phenomena). See also the Living Review by Gundlach and Martin-Garcia.
Papers on gravitational waves
A classic paper by Detweiler illustrating the principle behind PTAs.
Kip’s “physical explanation” of the memory effect discovered by Christodoulou. See also Wiseman-Will, Christodoulou’s nonlinear gravitational-wave memory: Evaluation in the quadrupole approximation.
Also known as “the bible”. Kip’s summary of all possible ways to generalize spherical harmonics to tensors. I can name people who spent years on this paper…
“This paper derives the largest corrections to the geodesic law of motion and Fermi-Walker law of transport. These corrections are due to coupling of the body’s angular momentum and quadrupole moment to the Riemann curvature of the surrounding spacetime.” Not an easy paper to read. See also the Apostolatos+ paper below.
The Nature paper on compact binaries as standard sirens to measure the Hubble constant. Short and very well written.
- Garfinkle-Vachaspati, Cosmic-string traveling waves
An important analytic solution for cosmic strings.
An important follow-up is Finn-Chernoff, Observing binary inspiral in gravitational radiation: One interferometer. These seminal papers are a clear exposition of the basic statistical principles behind gravitational-wave detection.
- Cutler+, The Last Three Minutes: Issues in Gravitational Wave Measurements of Coalescing Compact Binaries
For a long time “the” reference summary on coalescing binaries. Short and dense.
- Cutler-Flanagan, Gravitational Waves from Mergin Compact Binaries: How Accurately Can One Extract the Binary’s Parameters from the Inspiral Waveform?
This is the “bible” on gravitational wave parameter estimation. Not short but very clear. All the basics on gravitational wave observations from compact binaries are here.
- Poisson-Will, Gravitational waves from inspiraling compact binaries: Parameter estimation using second-post-Newtonian waveforms
Again on parameter estimation. IMHO, this is how a paper should be written. Self-contained and super clear.
- Flanagan-Hughes, Measuring gravitational waves from binary black hole coalescences: I. Signal to noise for inspiral, merger, and ringdown
The first systematic study of the relative role of inspiral, merger and ringdown. Eanna and Scott were both students/early career at the time. Lots of back-of-the-envelope estimates, lots of ear whispering from Kip.
- Apostolatos-Cutler-Sussman-Thorne, Spin-induced orbital precession and its modulation of the gravitational waveforms from merging binaries
Painstakingly detailed and insightful description of spin precession in compact binaries. Lots of beautiful drawings by Kip.
The paper explaining how LISA can localize sources in the sky.
- Damour-Iyer-Sathyaprakash, Improved filters for gravitational waves from inspiraling compact binaries
One of the most remarkable (and best written) papers on gravitational wave data analysis, it introduces in a pedagogical way lots of interesting and useful techniques, including Pade’ approximants and analytical maximization over phase and time of arrival.
This paper, together with Transition from inspiral to plunge in binary black hole coalescences, set the foundations for the effective-one-body model.
- Berti-Buonanno-Will, Estimating spinning binary parameters and testing alternative theories of gravity with LISA
Applies techniques from Poisson-Will and Cutler to do what the title says.
- Berti-Cardoso-Will, Gravitational-wave spectroscopy of massive black holes with the space interferometer LISA
Black hole spectroscopy with ringdown (deals with LISA, but really applies also to LIGO/Virgo).
- Pretorius, Evolution of binary black hole spacetimes
The famous first simulation of a binary black hole merger.
- Buonanno-Cook-Pretorius, Inspiral, merger, and ring-down of equal-mass black-hole binaries
Gets lots of physics out of equal-mass simulations by Pretorius.
Similar to the BCP paper above, but for unequal-mass binaries.
Slightly outdated but beautifully written paper on “matching” the post-Newtonian expansion with numerical simulations.
- Buonanno+, Comparison of post-Newtonian templates for compact binary inspiral signals in gravitational-wave detectors
Everything you ever wanted to know about families of post-Newtonian approximants (but did not dare to ask).
- Droz-Knapp-Poisson-Owen, Gravitational waves from inspiraling compact binaries: Validity of the stationary-phase approximation to the Fourier transform
In the analysis of compact binaries one often uses the stationary phase approximation. But is it accurate? This is a technical paper, but it’s quite pedagogic and the technique has applications beyond gravitational wave astronomy.
Some astrophysics papers of interest for gravitational wave astronomy
- Chandrasekhar, Dynamical Friction
A classic series of papers. Important for cluster dynamics, dark matter, etcetera.
A very nice paper using basic Newtonian physics to explain how binaries “get their kicks”.
Here are some papers on massive black hole formation/evolution:
- Begelman-Blandford-Rees, Massive black hole binaries in active galactic nuclei
Short but super-dense paper introducing the “final parsec problem”.
- Begelman-Volonteri-Rees, Formation of Supermassive Black Holes by Direct Collapse in Pregalactic Halos
The “direct collapse” model for black hole seeds.
- Volonteri-Haardt-Madau, The Assembly and Merging History of Supermassive Black Holes in Hierarchical Models of Galaxy Formation
Semianalytic models of massive black hole formation.
- Berti-Volonteri, Cosmological Black Hole Spin Evolution by Mergers and Accretion
Combines semianalytic models and fitting formulas from numerical relativity to establish qualitative relations between spin magnitude and growth by accretion/merger. For more recent/improved models, see e.g. Sesana+, Linking the Spin Evolution of Massive Black Holes to Galaxy Kinematics.