Quantum Gravity LABORATORY

superradiance detection
superradiance detection

vortex illuminated by new sensor
vortex illuminated by new sensor

hydrodynamic rotating black hole
hydrodynamic rotating black hole

superradiance detection
superradiance detection


recent developments

Rotational superradiant scattering in a vortex flow

25 April 2017

We report on the world's first detection of superradiance due to rotation, and our results are published in Nature Physics: When an incident wave scatters off of an obstacle, it is partially reflected and partially transmitted. In theory, if the obstacle is rotating, waves can be amplified in the process, extracting energy from the scatterer. Here we describe in detail the first laboratory detection of this phenomenon, known as superradiance. We observed that waves propagating on the surface of water can be amplified after being scattered by a draining vortex. The maximum amplification measured was 14% ± 8%, obtained for 3.70 Hz waves, in a 6.25-cm-deep fluid, consistent with the superradiant scattering caused by rapid rotation. We expect our experimental findings to be relevant to black-hole physics, since shallow water waves scattering on a draining fluid constitute an analogue of a black hole, as well as to hydrodynamics, due to the close relation to over-reflection instabilities.

Fluids and gravity: superradiance and analogue black holes

Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th of April 2017

Fluids and gravity: interdisciplinary workshop on fluid dynamics and rotating black hole physics at the University of Nottingham. A joint event between the School of Mathematical Sciences and the Centre for the Mathematics and Theoretical Physics of Quantum Non-Equilibrium Systems (CQNE).

Research Associate/Fellow (2 posts)

21 Feb 2017

Applications are invited for the above two posts to work with Dr Silke Weinfurtner, members of the Quantum Gravity Laboratory group and external collaborators (e.g. Vitor Cardoso, Stefano Liberati, Joerg Schmiedmayer, Mauricio Richartz  and Bill Unruh).

The Quantum Gravity Laboratory group is part of the Quantum Gravity group headed by John Barrett, and includes Kirill Krasnov, Jorma Louko, Thomas Sotiriou, Alexander Schenkel and Silke Weinfurtner http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mathematics/research/mathematical-physics/quantum-gravity.aspx.

The successful applicants will have strong knowledge of Classical and Quantum Field Theory in curved spacetimes and/or Analogue Gravity Systems. However, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the project objectives, a background in Ultra-cold atoms, Fluid Dynamics, Quantum Information, and AdS/CFT correspondence applied to condensed matter field theories will be considered.

Candidates must hold or be near completion of a PhD, or equivalent, in a relevant branch of theoretical/experimental physics. Candidates should be confident, organised, have good communication skills and enjoy working as part of a team as well as independently. The successful candidates will be expected to contribute to the publication of scientific papers, and to their dissemination at relevant workshops and conferences. They should have evidence that the quality and quantity of their previous research outputs is commensurate with their level of experience.

In recognition of its commitment to promoting women in science, The University of Nottingham is one of a small number of universities to hold a Silver Athena SWAN Award.

These two full-time positions are available from 1 April 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter.

For information about the School of Mathematical Sciences, which has strong and active research groups see: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mathematics/index.aspx.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr Silke Weinfurtner, tel: +44(0)115 9567903 email: silke.weinfurtner@nottingham.ac.uk. Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted.

The University of Nottingham is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.

Location: Nottingham
Salary: £26,052 to £32,004 per annum, depending on skills and experience (minimum £29,301 with relevant PhD)
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Permanent 
Placed on: 14th February 2017
Closes: 15th March 2017
Job Ref: SCI022917

PhD position in Analogue Gravity

3 Feb 2017

We are currently carrying out an experiment to study the effects occurring around effective horizons in an analogue gravity system. In particular, the scientific goals are to explore superradiant scattering and the black hole evaporation process. To address this issue experimentally, we utilize the analogy between waves on the surface of a stationary draining fluid/superfluid flows and the behaviour of classical and quantum field excitations in the vicinity of rotating black. We are looking for a PhD student to get involved in the theoretical and/or experimental aspects of this projects. More information about the project can be found here: http://www.gravitylaboratory.com/ 

The students will be based at the University of Nottingham at the School of Mathematical Sciences. The external collaborators are Prof. Josef Niemela (ICTP, Italy), Prof. Vitor Cardoso (Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal), and Prof. Stefano Liberati (SISSA, Italy). The external consultant for the experiment is Prof. Bill Unruh (University of British Columbia, Canada), who will be a regular visitor. 

This studentship is linked to the EPSRC project " Black Hole Superradiance in Rotating Fluids (SURF)". 

Dissertation projects at qgLab

3 Feb 2017

We offer two dissertation projects this year:

1) Slow cooperative relaxation and non-equilibrium at macroscopic 
, a joint project with Juan Garrahan.

2) Mimicking astrophysical superradiance in fluid laboratories

First experimental results from the new setup

20 December 2016

In an amazing team effort qgLab (Theo Torres, Sam Patrick, Antonin Coutant and Silke Weinfurtner) and two external collaborators (Mauricio Richartz and Edmund W. Tedford) have completed the first experimental study entitled 'Observation of superradiance in a vortex flow' as part of the EPSRC program 'Black Hole Superradiance in Rotating Fluids' before the Christmas break. Well done everyone!

Proposing new ways of detecting superradiance in fluid laboratories

November 2016

Rotational superradiance has been predicted theoretically decades ago, and is the chief responsible for a number of important effects and phenomenology in black hole physics. However, rotational superradiance has never been observed experimentally. Here, with the aim of probing superradiance in the lab, we investigate the behaviour of sound and surface waves in fluids resting in a circular basin at the center of which a rotating cylinder is placed. We show that with a suitable choice for the material of the cylinder, surface and sound waves are amplified. Two types of instabilities are studied: one sets in whenever superradiant modes are confined near the rotating cylinder; the other, which does not rely on confinement, corresponds to a local excitation of the cylinder. Our findings are experimentally testable in existing fluid laboratories and hence offer experimental exploration and comparison of dynamical instabilities arising from rapidly rotating boundary layers in astrophysical as well as in fluid dynamical systems.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 271101 2016

Workshop in Paris: Gravity and Experiment

5-9 December 2016


Gravity appears to be one of the ingredients of open problems that span an impressive range of length scales and several research fields - theoretical and mathematical physics, cosmology, astrophysics. Characteristic examples are the quantum nature of spacetime, vacuum energy and the cosmological constant, dark matter and dark energy, black holes physics. One of the key problems in gravity is the limited amount of experimental guidance. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together leading experimentalists and a handful of theorists and discuss how ongoing and future experiments can lead to new insights on the gravitational interaction. We will cover experiments at all scales, from tabletop to space missions, and across all fields, from gravitational waves and relativistic astrophysics to cosmology and analogue gravity.


The hope is to build bridges between different fields and encourage interdisciplinary interactions. To this end, the proposed format is the following: invited overview talks on the latest experiments will be given by experimentalists and they will be followed by topical discussions led by theorists. The program will allow ample time for discussions and round tables.

EPSRC funded!

1 November 2016

The EPSRC funded our project 'Black Hole Superradiance in Rotating Fluids' to continue our experimental studies to explore black hole physics processes in fluid laboratories. 

Zack Fifer top of the class and will join qgLab in January 2017

17 October 2015

Congratulations to MSc student Zack Fifer, who graduated first in his course at The University of Nottingham. Zack spent his dissertation project in the Black Hole Laboratory, and won a Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship for Research Excellence to continue his studies as PhD student in the qgLab group.

The black hole machine

16 August 2016

Our 'Black hole laboratory' is now part of the videos by Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham:

The Black Hole Laboratory at the University of Nottingham uses a special water tank and cameras to simulate and measure some conditions near a black hole. Interview with Dr Silke Weinfurtner.

Bill Unruh visiting qgLab for 3 months

Sep-Dec 2016

Bill Unruh is spending part of his sebatiacl at The University of Nottingham to work with qgLab.

Sam Patrick joins qgLab

July 2016

Sam Patrick joins qgLab to work on 'Hydrodynamic Simulation of Black Holes'.

A solution to a long-standing problem in analogue gravity: Hawking radiation without horizons?

9 Mar 2016

We study the propagation of low frequency shallow water waves on a one dimensional flow of varying depth. When taking into account dispersive effects, the linear propagation of long wavelength modes on uneven bottoms excites new solutions of the dispersion relation which possess a much shorter wavelength. The peculiarity is that one of these new solutions has a negative energy. When the flow becomes supercritical, this mode has been shown to be responsible for the (classical) analog of the Hawking effect. For subcritical flows, the production of this mode has been observed numerically and experimentally, but the precise physics governing the scattering remained unclear. In this work, we provide an analytic treatment of this effect in subcritical flows. We analyze the scattering of low frequency waves using a new perturbative series, derived from a generalization of the Bremmer series. We show that the production of short wavelength modes is governed by a complex value of the position: a complex turning point. Using this method, we investigate various flow profiles, and derive the main characteristics of the induced spectrum.

Theo Torres joins qgLab

March 2016

Theo Torres joined qgLab to work on Hydrodynamic Simulations of Rotating Black Holes. Theo is partially funded by Royal Society. 

Biology application for Ripple Catcher

2 October 2015

Hartman Thomas (Biology, Nottingham University) and Tommy Napier (Physics, Nottingham University) asked us to use the Ripple Catcher to scan a giraffe skull.

PhD position openings

We are looking for two new students

We are currently carrying out various experiments to study the effects occurring around effective horizons in an analogue gravity system. In particular, the scientific goals are to explore superradiant scattering, the black hole evaporation process and dynamical instabilities related to rotating blakc holes and stars. To address this issue experimentally, we utilize the analogy between waves on the surface of a stationary draining fluid/superfluid flows and the behavior of classical and quantum field excitations in the vicinity of rotating black holes and stars. 


This project will be based at the University of Nottingham at the School of Mathematical Sciences. The two external collaborators are Prof. Josef Niemela (ICTP, Italy),  Prof. Stefano Liberati (SISSA, Italy) and Prof. Vitor Cardoso (Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal).


The PhD student(s) will be involved in all aspects of the experiments theoretical as well experimental. We require an enthusiastic graduate with a 1st class degree in Mathematics/Physics/Engineering (in exceptional circumstances a 2(i) class degree  can be considered), preferably of the MMath/MSc level. Candidates would need to be keen to work in an interdisciplinary environment and interested in learning about 

quantum field theory in curved spacetimes, fluid dynamics, analogue gravity, and experimental techniques such as flow visualisation (i.g. Particle Imaging or Laser Doppler Velocimetry) and surface measurements (i.g. profilometry methods). 


The studentship period will depend on the training needs of the successful applicant. 


Early application is strongly encouraged.  


Funding Notes:

The studentship is available for immediate start and provides an annual stipend at the 

standard rate (currently £13,863 per annum) and full payment of Home/EU Tuition 



The Ripple Catcher up and running

22 September 2015

The Ripple Catcher is up and running and mounted into possition. The first results look fantastic! Over the next couple of days we have to optimize the dye concentration and add some more optical components to the setup to reduce errrors due to light scattering. We have already posted some first results on site.

The Ripple Catcher

21 September 2015

Our high speed 3D air-fluid interface sensor arrived in Nottingham.


Our 3D sensor technology is based on a stereo-photogrammetry approach. It includes a pattern projector, two cameras, two cameras are directed onto the water surface. Because of fluorescent dye of average concentration, the projector light is converted at the surface of the water. The two cameras take pictures of the water surface with differing statistical patterns from the projector illuminating it.


After capturing a sequence of images with both cameras, correspondence assignment is applied to the images to achieve many, accurately located homologous image points. Afterwards, the corresponding image points are triangulated with a preliminary calibration of the camera parameters. The obtained 3D points can now be taken for manifold investigations, dispersion relation, amplitude magnification and so on. 


The University of Nottingham and EnShape have submitted a joint-pattent application to protect our invention. If you are interested in purchasing our sensor, please contact EnShape. The first Hight speed 3D air-fluid interface sensor has now arrived in Nottingham. On site we will document the arrival, setup and first results obtained with the newest member of QG-Lab.

3D printer up and running

15 July 2015

Congratulations to Zack Fifer! Over the last month Zack has built and callibrated a 3D printer from scratch. We will use the 3D printer for various applicaitons, e.g. to print flow straightners and callibration surfaces for our 3D surface wave detection sensors.

Undergraduate Research Bursary application successful

11 May 2015

Andrew Scoins (University of Nottingham) wins an Undergraduate Research Bursary Fellowship from the London Mathematical Society to join QG-LAB.

Marie Curie Fellowship

4 February 2014

Antonin Coutant has been awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship to join QG-LAB. The title of his proposal was 'From fluid dynamics to quantum gravity'.


Antonin is an expert in theoretical analogue gravity studies in fluids and superfluids, and has already made imporant contributions in the field. Antonin will be a valuable addition to QG-LAB.


Spektrum der Wissenschaft

09 January 2015

Article about analouge gravity experiments by Franziska Konitzer (in German), including qg-LAB experiments.


Analoge Gravitation

Das Schwarze Loch in der Badewanne

Sind Schwarze Löcher wirklich schwarz? Wie bildeten sich Galaxien? Erste Antworten auf solche Fragen liefern jetzt raffinierte Nachbauten: Mini-Universen auf dem Labortisch.

Spektrum der Wissenschaft

14 November 2014

Article about analogue table-top experiments by Sophie Hebden (in German), including qg-LAB experiments.



Große Physik ganz klein

Manche Experimente sind schlicht undurchführbar: Für die einen müsste der weltgrößte Teilchenbeschleuniger noch 100-mal größer sein, für andere bräuchte man gar ein Schwarzes Loch. Doch es gibt analog funktionierende Systeme, die auf einen Labortisch passen und trotzdem Erkenntnisse versprechen.

BECosmology @ UoN

23/24 June 2014

Workshop on 'Non-equilibrium Bose-Einstein condensates and its application to Cosmology'


List of participants:

John Barrett •  Tom Barrett • Clare Burrage • Ed Copeland • Antonin Coutant • Daniele Faccio • Jorge Ferreras • Andreas Finke • Juan Garrahan • Ed Hinds • Ted Jacobson • Piyush Jain • Dieter Jaksch • Claus Kiefer • Peter Kruger • Tim Langen • Emanuele Levi • Jorma Louko • Fedja Orucevic • Parentani Renaud • Wolfgang Rohringer • Joerg Schmiedmayer • Thomas Sotiriou • Andrea Trombettoni • Bill Unruh • Silke Weinfurtner • Chris Westbrook

Workshop for Science Writers: Quantum Theory

27-29 August 2014

Quantum Gravity LABORATORY will participate at the workshop for science writers organized by Prof. Sabine Hossenfelder and George Musser to give an overview on analogue gravity.


"Quantum physics is a notoriously challenging subject even for the experts. The goal of this workshop is to give science writers the opportunity to take a step back and gain a broader perspective on this field. At the same time, we want to give researchers in the field the possibility to interact with science writers and share experiences about the pitfalls of science communication.

Some of the topics that will be covered at this workshop are: Quantum computing, quantum optics and novel tests of the foundations of quantum mechanics, topologial insulators, tests of emergent quantum mechanics, analog gravity, the gauge-gravity duality and its applications in condensed-matter physics, and searching for new physics in atomic, molecular and optical physics."


The workshop will take place at NORDITA in Stockholm.

New Scientist feature article on analogue gravity experiments

10 March 2014

The New Scientist reports on 'A black hole in a bath: Big physics on a bench-top': "Over the event horizon Where analogues really come into their own is with objects in the universe that we know exist, but that are impossible to investigate directly. Black holes are a good example. These cosmic monsters are predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity, the general theory of relativity. They form when large stars collapse and die, and supermassive versions are thought to skulk at the heart of most large galaxies. They are also portals to the ultimate prize of physics – a theory that explains what happens when the quantum particles of matter meet the extremes of gravity, the only force not covered by the quantum rules of the standard model. But given that it emits no light, it is not easy to discern exactly what a black hole is doing. Silke Weinfurtner at the University of Nottingham, UK, aims to lift the veil in the lab, using just water and laser light to simulate a black hole's emission of Hawking radiation. This process, proposed by the physicist Stephen Hawking in the 1970s, is thought to occur when a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum near a black hole's event horizon – its point of no return – causes a quantum-entangled pair of matter and antimatter particles to form. If one of the pair falls into the black hole while the other is just far enough away to escape it, the two particles can separate, with one trapped inside the black hole forever and one radiated away. Weinfurtner's analogue actually simulates a "white hole" that, instead of sucking everything in to it, deflects everything away. Reverse the direction of time in the underlying equations, however, and conclusions drawn for white holes are just as valid for black ones. The analogue consists simply of water flowing along a channel containing a smooth obstacle. The team induced ripples on the surface of the water travelling in the opposite direction, and used a 2D sheet of laser light to analyse the properties of the surface waves as they hit the obstacle region and are reflected off. They found that the amplitude and spread of wave frequencies corresponded to those expected of Hawking radiation at a black hole's event horizon (arxiv.org/abs/1302.0375). "It was a very clear, conclusive detection of the effect," says Weinfurtner. "It was a big surprise to us how robust these experiments are." The work has already triggered theoretical studies into how an entirely classical-physics experiment can even crudely reproduce aspects of Hawking radiation, which is a fundamentally quantum effect. A full-blown lab demonstration – one that also shows that the particles remain entangled as predicted by the theory – would require a more sophisticated, quantum analogue. Together with her Nottingham colleague Peter Kruger, Weinfurtner is working out how to detect the effect using supercooled atoms."

Cover page

7 March 2014

Our article Reducing spacetime to binary information published in the Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical was selected for the cover page.

Perimeter Welcomes Five New Emmy Noether Fellows

7 March 2014

The Perimeter Institute announced the appointment of five young scientists to its Emmy Noether Fellowships program: Alejandra Castro, Belén Paredes, Catherine Pépin, Silke Weinfurtner (QG-LAB), and Kathryn Zurek.

3 year project funded by Royal Society Research Grant Scheme

10 February 2014

The RS has funded a thre year project to outsource some of the ativities taking place to Nottingham. In particular, we will further develop the 2D surface weve detection mechanism in Nottigham. Besides its purpuse for the analogue gravity experiment, this project has various applications for industry, such as 3D printing.

The Quantum Gravity LABORATORY group moves to Nottingham (UK)

1 October 2013

From October 2013 onwards the Quantum Gravity LABORATORY will be part of the Quantum Gravity Group at the School of Mathematics at the University of Nottingham.

Audience favorite

6 July 2013

Matt Penrice presented a poster on his PhD project 'Experimental Hydrodynamic Simulations of Rotating Black Holes ' and wins the 'Audience favorite Certificat'.

Royal Society

13 June 2013

QG-LAB wins Royal Society University Research Fellowship (URF) with the University of Oxford. The Royal Society is the national Academy of science in the UK and its fundamental purpuse is to "to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity." The Royal Society offers various grant schemes for all career stages. More information can be found on their website.

Andreas Finke joins QG-LAB

20 May 2013

Andreas won a RESEARCH TRAINING FELLOWSHIPS FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS at SISSA for the period of 1 Oct 2013 till 31 Dec 2013 at SISSA to study analogue gravity systems.


In 2014 he will start his PhD on a joint-project linking the School of Mathematics (supervisor: Silke Weinfurtner) and the School of Physics & Astronomy (supervisor: Peter Krueger) at the University of Nottingham.


15 May 2013

QG-LAB wins NWO VIDI grant with the Radboud University. NWO is the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research is the national research council in the Netherlands, with a yearly budget of 625 million euros, promoting quality and innovation in science.

Lorenz G. Straub award

30 April 2013

Ted Tedford, working on the joint SISSA-ICTP experimental activity in analog gravity models at the ICTP Applied Physics/Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Elettra, was awarded the Lorenz G. Straub Prize Friday, 30 April 2013 at the University of Minnnesota. The award, established under the Lorenz G. Straub Memorial Fund, is given for the most outstanding thesis in hydraulic engineering, ecohydraulics, or related fields in a given year and is open internationally.  Ted will be giving live-streamed lecture. More information can be found at the link below.

New record on ICTP Facebook website

23 April 2013

ICTP pulishes some pictures of our experimental setup, and we set a new record in the number of 'Likes'.

qg-LAB in The Economist

16 March 2013

qg-LAB was interviewed for The Economist. The overall article is about How to build a multiverse, and the section about is called A black hole in a bath…


"Creating a star in a laboratory is small beer compared with creating a black hole. This is an object that is so massive and dense that not even light can flee its gravitational field. Looking inside one is therefore, by definition, impossible. All the more reason to try, says Silke Weinfurtner of the International School for Advanced Studies, in Trieste, Italy.


Dr Weinfurtner plans to make her black hole in the bath. The bath in question, properly called a flume, is a water-filled receptacle 3 metres by 1.5 metres and 50cm deep, across which carefully crafted trains of ripples can pass. In the middle of the tank is a plug hole. If the water going down the hole rotates faster than the ripples can propagate, the ripples which stray beyond the aqueous “event horizon” (a black hole’s point of no return) will not make it out. They are sucked down the drain.


Then the researchers will check whether the simulacrum affects water waves in a way analogous to that which general relativity predicts for light—itself a wave—approaching an astrophysical black hole. According to Albert Einstein’s theory, a region immediately outside the event horizon of a rotating black hole will be dragged round by the rotation. Any wave that enters this region but does not stray past the event horizon should be deflected and come out with more energy than it carried on the way in. To detect this super-radiant scattering, as the effect is called, Dr Weinfurtner will add fluorescent dye to the water and illuminate the surface waves with lasers. The waves, often no bigger than one millimetre, can then be detected using high-definition cameras.


Stefano Liberati, Dr Weinfurtner’s colleague in Trieste, reserves the greatest enthusiasm for another aspect of the experiment. It might, if the researchers are lucky enough, offer clues to the nature of space-time. Could the cosmic fabric be made up of discrete chunks, atoms of space if you like, rather than being continuous, as is assumed by relativity? This problem has perplexed physicists for decades. Many suspect black holes hold the answer, because they are sites where continuous relativity meets chunky quantum physics.


Waterborne holes serve as a proxy. Water is, after all, made up of just such discrete chunks: molecules of H₂O. As wavelengths fall—equivalent to rising energy—waves reach a point where the size of molecules may begin to influence how they behave. If Dr Weinfurtner and Dr Liberati observe some strange behaviour around their event horizons, theorists will be thrilled."


14 March 2013

QG-LAB wins Nottingham Advanced Research Fellowship (NARF), a fellowship scheme to target outstanding early career researchers. 

Please reload

27 Jan 2017

Presentation by Koen J.Groot

BiGlobal Stability Theory – Applications to Measured Mean Flows. Abstract: Flow stability theory studies small perturbations to steady "base flows." The classical equation applied to boundary layer flows is the Orr-Sommerfeld equation, which returns the perturbations' shape and growth rate. The growth indicates where the perturbations become large and can breakdown non-linearly to yield a turbulent flow; the process referred to as laminar-turbulent transition. Where the Orr-Sommerfeld equation is restricted to predominantly one-dimensional flows, like boundary layers, the BiGlobal stability equations handle two-dimensional flows.

Laminar-turbulent transition depends sensitively on the specific disturbance environment. To take into account realistic disturbance environments, windtunnel experiments are performed. The general stability approach presumes the base flow to be a steady Navier-Stokes solution. In some cases, however, the wintunnel's disturbance environment strongly influences the base flow. Computing the corresponding flow can therefore be difficult and expensive, especially in cases where they are higher dimensional. In that case, it is sensible to perform the stability analysis on the measured time-averaged flow.

This approach is applied to two application cases. The first involves the secondary instability to swept-wing boundary layers and the second the instability of a micro-ramp wake. For consistency purposes, verifications are performed regarding statistical convergence and the impact of practical limitations associated to the experiments. The results are validated with the instantaneous measurement data. The stability results are converged with respect to the ensemble size of the measured mean flow and independent of the spatial limitations of the measurement. This shows one can bring the stability approach closer to the experiment, which can yield a better representation and physical understanding of the ultimate transition process.

Physics building, room B13 at 11am

9 Nov 2016

Presentation by Julian Barbour

A dynamical theory of time's arrows. Abstract: Because all known physical laws are time-reversal symmetric, it is almost
universally believed the various arrows of time can only be explained under
the assumption that the solution to the law of the universe in which we
find ourselves is very special. This idea goes back to Boltzmann and today
is often expressed in the assumption that the universe began at the big
bang with an exceptionally low entropy. In PRL *113*, 181101 (2014),
Koslowski, Mercati and I identified bidirectional gravitational arrows of
time that are present in all N-body solutions with non-negative energy. The
oppositely pointing arrows arise at a unique 'Janus point', which divides
any given solution into two qualitatively symmetrical halves, thus
reflecting the time-reversal symmetry of the dynamical law. Any observer
must be on one or the other side of the Janus point and will observe an
arrow time while simultaneously establishing that the underlying law is
time-reversal symmetric. As I will explain, this initial insight has led us
to think many accumulated ideas about the arrows of time could be wrong.

Pope C1 from 2pm till 4pm

10 November 2016

Colloquium presentation by Bill Unruh

Analogues for Horizons. Abstract: Hawking's discovery of black hole emissions via quantum effects was one of the most surprising results of the latter half of the 20th century. The experimental observation of this seems impossible (small black holes being pretty dangerous to have on earth, and astrophysical ones being far too cold for the radiation to be observable). Analogue systems which have low frequency horizons and suffer the same type of quantum instability promise experimental observations of the analogue effects, and a few such experiments have recently been carried out. This talk will report on the quantum instability, and describe some of the experiments.

C05 (Physics building)

16 November 2017

Colloquium presentation by Joerg Schmiedmayer

Does an isolated quantum system relax? Abstract: The evolution of an isolated quantum system is unitary.  This is simple 
to probe for small systems consisting of few non-interacting particles. But what happens if the system becomes large and its constituents  interact? In general, one will not be able to follow the evolution of the complex many body eigenstates.

Ultra cold quantum gases are an ideal system to probe these aspects of many body quantum physics and the related quantum fields. Our pet systems are one-dimensional Bose-gases. Interfering two systems allows studying coherence between the two quantum fields and the full distribution functions and correlation functions give detailed insight into the many body states and their non-equilibrium evolution.

In our experiments we study how the coherence created between the two isolated one-dimensional quantum gases by coherent splitting slowly degrades by coupling to the many internal degrees of freedom available [1]. We find that a one-dimensional quantum system relaxes to a pre-thermalisatized quasi steady state [2] which emerges through a light cone like spreading of ’de-coherence’ [3]. The pre-thermalized state is described by a generalized Gibbs ensemble [4]. Finally, we investigate the further evolution away from the pre-thermalized state. On one hand we show that by engineering the Quasiparticles we can create many body quantum revivals. On the other hand, we point to two distinct ways for further relaxation towards a final state that appears indistinguishable from a thermally relaxed state. The system looks like two classically separated objects. This illustrates how classical physics can emerge from unitary evolution of a complex enough quantum system.

We conjecture that our experiments points to a universal way through which relaxation in isolated many body quantum systems proceeds if the low energy dynamics is dominated by scrambling of the eigenmodes of long lived excitations (quasi particles) [5].

Supported by the Wittgenstein Prize, the Austrian Science Foundation 
(FWF) SFB FoQuS: F40-P10 and the EU through the ERC-AdG /QuantumRelax/

[1] S. Hofferberth et al. Nature, *449*, 324 (2007).
[2] M. Gring et al., Science, *337, *1318 (2012); D. Adu Smith et al. 
NJP, *15,* 075011 (2013).
[3] T. Langen et al., Nature Physics, *9*, 640–643 (2013).
[4] T. Langen et al., Science *348* 207-211 (2015).
[5] T. Langen, T. Gasenzer, J. Schmiedmayer, J. Stat. Mech.  064009 (2016)

B13 (Physics Building)

2 June 2016

Presentation by Renaud Parentani

Observability of quantum entanglement due to pair creation effects. Abstract: In cosmology, the expansion of the universe induces the spontaneous amplification of density fluctuations. In the inflationary scenario, this explains the observed properties of the large scale structures. In homogeneous cond-mat systems, temporal changes induces pair creation of quasi-particles for the same reason. Depending of the initial state and the presence of dissipative effects, the final state can be quantum mechanically entangled. Interestingly, this property can be observationally tested by rather simple in situ measurements of the 2-point correlation function. Seminar based on arXiv:1305.6841, 1311.3507, and 1404.5754.

C04 (Physics Building)

1 June 2016

Presentation by Florent Michel

"No-hair" and uniqueness results for analogue black holes. Abstract: The seminal work of Unruh (1981) established a precise correspondence between linear perturbations in non-relativistic moving media and free relativistic fields in curved space-times. It lead to analogue models aimed at better understanding Hawking radiation through condensed matter and conversely. Surprisingly, the analogy partially extends to the non-linear level, where analogue black hole flows obey uniqueness and no-hair results reminiscent of those for black holes in general relativity. In this talk, after a brief introduction to analogue gravity I will show the uniqueness of black hole flows in Bose-Einstein condensates. I will then introduce the basics of Whitham's modulation theory and show how it allows for a precise characterization of the waves emitted by the formation of an analogue black hole. 

C27 (Physics Building)

25 May 2016

Presentation by Sebastian Erne

Analyzing and simulating quantum many-body systems. Abstract: The relaxation of isolated quantum many-body systems is a fundamental unsolved problem connecting many different fields of physics. Examples range from the dynamics of the early universe and quark-gluon plasmas to coherence and transport in condensed matter physics. Recent progress in cold atom experiments, make them 
ideal systems to study the fundamental aspects of quantum field theories in and out of equilibrium.
An extensive semi-classical field library was developed enabling numerical investigation for a wide range of experimentally accessible setups. Specifically we consider a system of linearly coupled quasi one-dimensional condensates, realizing the quantum Sine-Gordon or Lieb-Liniger theories. Studying the relaxation following a quantum quench we show that these systems can reach non-thermal quasi-steady states, determined by emergent universal properties from the unitary quantum evolution. Further we analyze higher order correlations and their factorization properties in and out of equilibrium. This enables a detailed analysis of the quantum-state and is a crucial ingredient towards the implementation and verification of (analogue) quantum simulators.

Physics Room C12

20 May 2016

Presentation by Alessio Belenchia

Discrete spacetime phenomenology. Abstract: In this talk I will discuss the phenomenology related to causal sets non-locality, which characterizes the propagation of massless fields on causal sets. After a brief review of causal sets theory, I will introduce a family of non-local wave operators and their properties. In particular, the fact that the theory present dimensional reduction. Then, I will discuss the response of Unruh-DeWitt detectors couple to non-local field theories inspired by causal sets theory, showing their power-law dependence on the non-locality scale and discussing future directions. Finally, I will show how using non-relativistic opto-mechanical systems it will be possible to cast stringent constraints on non-local theories.

Physics Room B21

17 March 2016

Presentations by Daniele Faccio and Angus Prain

Time: 3-3.50PM
Speaker: Daniele Faccio
Title: Imaging at the speed of light
Abstract: I will overview recent developments in the field of imaging at the single photon level. In particular, I will show how single-photon counting cameras can be used for measurements that require extremely high temporal resolution. Our cameras have picosecond temporal resolution thus allowing us to freeze light in motion and create the first ever videos of light-in-flight and therefore directly visualise the motion of a light pulse. This same idea can be turned into something completely new, e.g. the ability to see behind corners and walls.
Finally, I will show recent work in which we use the ability to freeze light in motion to observe a phenomenon predicted by Lord Rayleigh more than 100 years ago, namely the temporal inversion of events (sound emission) due to supersonic motion of the source. We have verified this effect using light and thus using a superluminal source. We observe not only temporal inversion but also image pair creation and annihilation associated to the transition from sub-to-super luminal (and vice-versa) motion of the source.

Time: 4.15-5PM
Speaker: Angus Prain
Title: Black holes or expanding spacetimes in time dependent dielectrics
Abstract: A moving pulse of intense light induces a time dependent and inhomogeneous refractive index in a dielectric. Such an optical system is physically very rich and has the potential to model, among other things expanding universes and black holes. I will discuss these possibilities at both the quantum and classical level paying particular emphasis on the precise experimental configuration. 

Physics Room B21

10 July 2015, 2PM

Presentation by Jeff Steinhauer

Observation of self-amplifying Hawking radiation in an analog black hole laser.Abstract: It has been proposed that a black hole horizon should generate Hawking radiation. In order to test this theory, we have created a narrow, low density, very low temperature atomic Bose-Einstein condensate, containing an analog black hole horizon and an inner horizon, as in a charged black hole. We observe Hawking radiation emitted by the black hole. This is the output of the black hole laser formed between the horizons. We also observe the exponential growth of a standing wave between the horizons. The latter results from interference between the negative energy partners of the Hawking radiation and the negative energy particles reflected from the inner horizon. We thus observe self-amplifying Hawking radiation. A method of measuring the entanglement within each Hawking pair is also discussed. It is found that the high-energy tail of the distribution should be entangled, whereas the low energy part should not be.

Cripps building, A113.

09 July 2015, 2PM

Presentation by Dieter Jaksch

Quantum simulation of strongly correlated non-equilibrium many body dynamics.


Abstract: Next generation scalable quantum devices promise a step change in our ability to do computations. In this talk I will describe a hybrid simulator for the non-equilibrium dynamics of strongly correlated infinite quantum lattices based on ideas from non-equilibrium dynamical mean field theory (DMFT). The scheme uses a quantum co-processor to efficiently solve a linear problem with parameters iterated to self-consistency via a feedback loop evaluated on a classical computer. The required quantum resources scale linearly with the simulated time while common classical algorithms scale exponentially. I will show that the simulation results are rather robust with regards to imperfectly implemented quantum gates and conclude that current efforts in developing scalable quantum technologies in the UK network of quantum hubs have the potential to outperform classical DMFT simulations in the near future.

Physics Building Room B21

21 January 2015, 2PM

Presentation by Vitor Cardoso

Superradiance: instabilities and particle physics with massive black holes


Abstract: Black holes are the elementary particles of gravity, and play a crucial role in fundamental physics, astrophysics, high energy physics and particle physics.


In the last years, our ability to understand strongly nonlinear phenomena involving black holes has opened up a new Golden Age in the field. General Relativity's 100 years are being celebrated with many new developments, ranging from Cosmic Censorship tests in violent scenarios to constraints on particle physics with supermassive black holes. I will describe some of the current activity in the field, focusing on black hole superradiance and how supermassive black holes can be used in particle physics.

Venue: The University of Nottingham, Physics Building A1

10 April 2014, 3PM

Presentation by Bill Unruh

Fuzzballs and Firewalls -- a critical perspective


Abstract: Recently prejudices about the behavior of black holes have led to a variety of radical suggestions as to the nature of black holes. Does something prevent the formation of black hole? Does something destroy the expected structure of black holes? This talk will be a quick tour though some of these topics, and to make suggestions as to how "normal" physics can solve the problems these are supposed to solve.

Venue: University of Nottingham, Coates Building C29

26 February 2014, 2PM

Presentation by Falk Eilenberger

Cavity Optical Pulse Extraction: ultra-short pulse generation as seeded Hawking radiation


Abstract: We investigate numerically and analytically the nonlinear dynamics of light, which is trapped in an optical cavity and its interaction with a high-power trigger pulse that is made to propagate through this cavity. The two light fields interact nonlinearly with each other via the Kerr effect. This effect is ubiquitous in nonlinear optics and occurs in virtually all optical materials.We show that the result of the interaction is the extraction of a significant part of the light which was originally stored inside the cavity as a short, coherent and powerful pulse. This process is termed Cavity Optical Pulse Extraction (COPE) and will briefly be discussed as a new concept for the generation of ultrashort optical pulses in wavelength ranges where short pulses are traditionally hard to generate. Results are generated using an analytic model and numerical simulations.After introducing the physical setting of the COPE process we will show that our proposed nonlinear, optical experiment and the generation of classical Hawking radiation share many analogous features. In COPE the trigger pulse acts like a moving event horizon, which interacts with the initially static photons. Using improved modelling we will attempt to rigorously identify the positive and negative frequency part of the Hawking radiation. A semi-rigorous mapping of our model to the Regge-Wheeler Equation is also presented, which we will in turn use to approximate an effective temperature for our event horizon. In the course of this discussion it will become clear that the COPE process is indeed not analogous to the generation of photonic Hawking radiation but to electronic Hawking radiation. Its effective temperature is therefore extremely high. We envision that it might eventually be used to give experimental insight into the dynamics of extremely light, primordial black holes, that cannot be observed any more in the present universe.

Venue: Nottingham University (Mathematical Physics Seminar)

20 February 2014, 5PM

Presentation by Antonin Coutant

Hawking radiation in acoustic black and white holes


Abstract: In 74, Hawking derived one of the main predictions of quantum field theory in curved space-times. He showed that black holes should emit a steady and thermal flux of particles. Later, Unruh proposed to mimic the behavior of fields around black hole geometries by looking at perturbations waves on a moving fluid. A fluid whose velocity crosses the speed of sound behaves much like a horizon, where the Hawking effect can be studied. In this talk, we first present the general ideas of analog models. To study the Hawking effect, the infinite redshift on the horizon forces us to take into account the necessary violations of Lorentz invariance at short wavelengths. Using improved WKB technics, we establish under which conditions the Hawking process is recovered in black or white hole flows. In a second part, we study a peculiar effect specific to analog white hole flows. We show that in this background, the large amplification of low frequencies through the Hawking effect leads to the emission of a large, classical wave of zero frequency but finite wavelength. We present the properties of this wave, and its birth, when it is triggered by quantum or thermal fluctuations. We also discuss the modifications introduced when the field excitations are massive.


19 February 2014, 2PM

Presentation by Gianluca Gregori

Laboratory astrophysics with high power lasers


Abstract: In the past decade, the advent of high power and high intensity laser system, such as the National Ignition Facility laser, extreme matter conditions and technological applications leading to inertial confinement fusion are becoming accessible. A new area of research has opened in which, using simple scaling relations, astrophysical environment can be effectively reproduced in the laboratory. Here we report the results of such experiments aimed at investigating problems related to the large scale magnetization of the Universe and the crystallization of white dwarfs. We will then explore the use of such lasers in order to recreate the most extreme environments - as the ones occurring near the event horizon of black holes. We show that extreme acceleration induced near the focus of these lasers produce observable effects, that could measurable with the next generation of x-ray lasers, such as the Linac Coherent Light Source.

Venue: Nottingham (Mathematical Physics Seminar)

29 January 2014, 2PM

Presentation by Sam Dolan

Exploring phenomenology of analogue black holes


Abstract: In 1981, Bill Unruh suggested the "black hole analogue": an artificialsystem which mimic key properties of black holes. Three decades on,Unruh's team observed an analogue of (stimulated) Hawking radiation ina wave-tank experiment. The prospect of studying aspects of black holephenomenonology has captured the imagination of many researchers. Ofcourse, there is more to black holes than Hawking radiation. In thistalk I will discuss ideas for exploring the phenomenonology of blackholes in the laboratory, by studying effects such as quasi-normal moderinging, wave scattering and diffraction, and a modified version ofthe Aharonov-Bohm effect.



Venue: Nottingham (Mathematical Physics Seminar )

27 November 2013, 2:30PM

Journal Club Presentation by Matt Penrice

The physics of bathtub vortex flows


Abstract: We will discuss the interesting and complex physics of stationary draining fluid flows. In particular, we will focuss on the theoretical and numerical studies by Andersen et al, Anatomy of a Bathtub Vortex and The bathtub vortex in a rotating container.

Venue: Trieste, Via Corti 2

20 November 2013, 2.30PM

Journal Club Presentation by Andreas Finke

Advanced Fourier transform profilometry


Abstract: We will discuss variou papers on FTP, focussing on Improved Fourier-transform profilometry by Xianfu Mao et al. and Fourier transform profilometry: a review by Xianyu Su.

Venue: Trieste, Via Corti 2

15 November 2013, 2.30PM

Journal Club Presentation by Stefano Collovati

The physics of drums


Abstract: In this Journal Club we will discuss the physics of drums, discuss theoretical and experimental aspects of its excitations, and revisit the question to what extend can one hear the shape of a drum.

Venue: Trieste, Via Corti 2

06 November 2013

Presentation by Mauricio Richartz

Superradiance: an introduction


Abstract: At state of the art summary on superradiant scattering from black holes, Zeldovich zylinder, and analouge systems thereof.

Venue: Trieste, Via Corti 2

24 October, 4:00PM

Presentation by Bill Unruh

Black hole entropy, unitarity, firewalls, etc

Abstract: In the past few months the black hole information problem has become problematic. The argument has been made that if the black hole was created by collapse of a pure state, it will create a pure state after the evaporation has finished, then there must be a "firewall", a very large flux of energy just on or inside the horizon must exist. This talks will quiclky review the argument, and give my take on the possibilities this creates for the bahaviour of black holes.

Venue: Trieste, SISSA

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Our previous experimental studies gain more and more on popularity. The Big Bang Theory TV series mentioned "Hydrodynamic simulations of black holes" in Season 6, episode 24,  'The Bon Voyage Reaction'. 


Unfortunately they got some things mixed up: It is not Hawking that measured the Unruh effect, it was Unruh that detected the Hawking effect. The way we did it, was to use an analogue gravity system. The first person to realize the possiblity to use analogue gravity systems to mearuse black hole evaporation (also referred to as Hawking radiation/effect) was Bill Unruh.


More information about the experiment mentioned in the Big Bang theory, and our new projects can found here.



In the beginning of 20th century two new theories appeared, that radically changed our understanding of the physical world. In 1916 Einstein introduced general relativity, which was to replace Newton's theory of gravitation. In the same period the scientific community was beginning to realize that matter at atomic and sub-atomic scales exhibits unexpected behaviour and that physical quantities associated to it appear to change in discrete amounts, referred to as quanta.


Quantum theory and general relativity set the foundations of modern physics, but at the same time they caused a divide. One of the main reasons for which progress is quantum gravity has not been as fast as we would have hoped is precisely the fact that the regimes in which it is relevant are particularly hard to access experimentally and observationally. Thankfully, this lack of experimental guidance can be to some extend compensated by the careful analysis of "analogue systems".

QG-lab & The Big Bang Theory

Scientific idea

60 symbols video:

the black hole machine