Critical Phenomena in Gravitational Collapse

Carsten Gundlach  
School of Mathematics
University of Southampton
Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK

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José M. Martín-García  
Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris CNRS & Université Pierre et Marie Curie,
98 bis boulevard Arago, 75014 Paris, France
Laboratoire Univers et Théories CNRS & Université Paris Diderot,
5 place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France

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This article has been revised on 23 February 2010 (see changes in detail).


As first discovered by Choptuik, the black hole threshold in the space of initial data for general relativity shows both surprising structure and surprising simplicity. Universality, power-law scaling of the black hole mass, and scale echoing have given rise to the term “critical phenomena”. They are explained by the existence of exact solutions which are attractors within the black hole threshold, that is, attractors of codimension one in phase space, and which are typically self-similar. Critical phenomena give a natural route from smooth initial data to arbitrarily large curvatures visible from infinity, and are therefore likely to be relevant for cosmic censorship, quantum gravity, astrophysics, and our general understanding of the dynamics of general relativity.

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