The quadruple image configurations of gravitational lenses with vanishing ellipticity are examined. Even though such lenses asymptotically approach circularity, the configurations are stable if the position of the source relative to the vanishing diamond caustic is held constant. The configurations are the solutions of a quartic equation, an "Asymptotically Circular Lens Equation" (ACLE), parameterized by a single complex quantity. Several alternative parameterizations are examined. Relative magnifications of the images are derived. When a non-vanishing quadrupole, in the form of an external shear (XS), is added to the singular isothermal sphere (SIS), its configurations emerge naturally as stretched and squeezed versions of the circular configurations. And as the SIS+XS model is a good first approximation for most quadruply lensed quasars, their configurations likewise have only 2+1 salient dimensions. The asymptotically circular configurations can easily be adapted to the problem of Solar System "occultation flashes."

There are at least two ways to deduce Einstein's field equations from the principle of maximum force $c^4/4G$ or from the equivalent principle of maximum power $c^5/4G$. Tests in gravitational wave astronomy, cosmology, and numerical gravitation confirm the two principles. Apparent paradoxes about the limits can all be resolved. Several related bounds arise. The limits illuminate the beauty, consistency and simplicity of general relativity from an unusual perspective.

We consider diffeomorphism violation, which is parameterized by nondynamical background fields of the gravitational Standard-Model Extension (SME), and study its effects on the time evolution of the Universe. Our goal is to identify background field configurations that imply stages of accelerated expansion without exotic forms of matter and radiation present. Although our approach gives rise to a set of restrictive conditions, configurations are encountered that exhibit this property or show other interesting behaviors. The findings of our article, which is among the first to apply the SME to a cosmological setting, provide an initial understanding of how to technically incorporate background fields into the cosmological evolution equations and what their phenomenological impact may be.

In scale-invariant models of fundamental physics all mass scales are generated via spontaneous symmetry breaking. In this work, we study inflation in scale-invariant quadratic gravity, in which the Planck mass is generated classically by a scalar field, which evolves from an unstable fixed point to a stable one thus breaking scale-invariance. We investigate the dynamics by means of dynamical system standard techniques. By computing the spectral indices and comparing them with data, we put some constraints on the three dimensionless parameters of the theory. We show that certain regions of the parameter space will be within the range of future CMB missions like CMB-S4, LiteBIRD and STPol. The second half of the paper is dedicated to the analysis of inflationary first-order tensor perturbations and the calculation of the power spectrum of the gravitational waves. We comment on our results and compare them with the ones of mixed Starobinsky-Higgs inflation.

Weyl's conformal theory of gravity is an extension of Einstein's theory of general relativity which associates metrics with 1-forms. In the case of locally integrable (closed non-exact) 1-forms the spacetime manifolds are no more simply connected. The Weil connections yield curvature tensors which satisfy the basic properties of Riemann curvature tensors. The Ricci tensors are symmetric, conformally invariant, and the Einstein tensors computed with the Weyl connections implicate a cosmological term replacing the cosmological constant by a function of spacetime, and a shear stress tensor. A toy model based on the Schwarzschild metric is presented where the associated 1-form is proportional to $d\varphi$ in Schwarzschild coordinates. This implies a singularity on the whole z-axis and it generates a torque effect on geodesics. According to initial conditions planar geodesics show almost constant velocities independently of r. In the free case spin effects occur in the neighbourhood of the singularity.

We study the quantum vacuum zero point energy in the Schwarzschild black hole as well as in the Nariai limit of the dS-Schwarzschild backgrounds. We show that the regularized vacuum energy density near the black hole and also in the Nariai setup match exactly with the corresponding value in the flat background, scaling with the fourth power of the mass of the quantum field. The horizon radius of the dS space created from the vacuum zero point energy introduces a new length scale which should be compared with the black hole horizon radius. There is an upper limiting mass for the black hole immersed in the vacuum zero point energy which is determined by the mass of the Nariai metric associated to the dS background constructed from zero point energy. This result supports the proposal made recently that the dS spacetime created from the vacuum zero point energy develops strong inhomogeneities on sub-horizon scales in which the regions inside the dS horizon radius may collapse to form black holes.

The double Hawking temperature $T=2T_H$ appears in some approaches to the Hawking radiation, when the radiation is considered in terms of the quantum tunneling. We consider the origin of such temperature for the black hole horizon and also for the cosmological horizon in de Sitter spacetime. In case the black hole horizon, there are two contributions to the tunneling process of radiation, each being governed by the temperature $T=2T_H$. These processes are coherently combined to produce the radiation with the Hawking temperature $T_H$. This can be traditionally interpreted as the pair creation of two entangled particles, of which one goes towards the centre of the black hole, while the other one escapes from the black hole. In case of the cosmological horizon, the temperature $T=2T_H$ is physical. While the creation of the entangled pair is described by the Hawking temperature, the de Sitter spacetime allows for the another process, in which only single (non-entangled) particle inside the cosmological horizon is created. This process is characterized by the local temperature $T=2T_H$. Such single particle process is suppressed in case of the black hole horizon.

The incorporation of classical general relativity into quantum field theory yields a surprising result -- thermodynamic particle production. One such phenomenon, known as the Unruh effect, causes empty space to effervesce a thermal bath of particles when viewed by an observer undergoing uniformly accelerated motion. These systems will have a Rindler horizon which produces this Unruh radiation at the Fulling-Davies-Unruh temperature. For accelerated charges, the emission and absorption of this radiation will imprint the FDU temperature on photons emitted in the laboratory. Each of these photons will also change the Rindler horizon in accordance with the Bekenstein-Hawking area-entropy law. In this essay, we will discuss these aspects of acceleration-induced thermality which have been experimentally observed in a high energy channeling experiment carried out by CERN-NA63.

Broad arguments indicate that quantum gravity should have a minimal length scale. In this essay we construct a minimum length model by generalizing the time-position and energy-momentum operators while keeping much of the structure of quantum mechanics and relativity intact: the standard position-momentum commutator, the special relativistic time-position, and energy-momentum relationships all remain the same. Since the time-position and energy-momentum relationships for the modified operators remains the same, we retain a form of Lorentz symmetry. This avoids the constraints on these theories coming from lack of photon dispersion while holding the potential to address the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin (GZK) puzzle of ultra high energy cosmic rays.

The mild form of the Weak Gravity Conjecture (WGC) requires higher derivative corrections to extremal charged black holes to increase their charge-to-mass ratio. This allows decay via emission of a smaller extremal black hole. In this paper, we investigate if similar constraints hold for extremal rotating black holes. We do so by considering the leading higher derivative corrections to the four-dimensional Kerr black hole and five-dimensional Myers-Perry black hole. We use a known mapping of these rotating solutions to a four-dimensional non-rotating dyonic Kaluza-Klein black hole and impose the WGC on this charged solution. Going back again to the rotating solutions, this fixes the sign of the corrections to the rotating extremality bounds. The sign of the corrections is non-universal, depending on the black hole under consideration. We argue that this is not at odds with black hole decay, because of the presence of a superradiant instability that persists in the extremal limit. When this instability is present, the WGC is implied for the four-dimensional charged black hole.

The observation of a population of massive black hole binaries (MBHBs) is key for our complete understanding of galaxy mergers and for the characterization of the expected gravitational waves (GWs) signal. However, MBHBs still remain elusive with only a few candidates proposed to date. Among these, SDSSJ143016.05+230344.4 ('tick-tock' hereafter) is the only candidate with a remarkably well sampled light curve showing a clear reduction of the modulation period and amplitude over three years of observations. This particular feature has been claimed to be the signature of a MBHB that is about to merge (Jiang et al. 2022). In this paper, we provide an optical follow-up of the tick-tock source using the Rapid Eye Mount (REM) telescope. The decreasing luminosity observed in our follow up is hardly explained within the binary scenario. We speculate about an alternative scenario that might explain the observed light curve through relativistic Lense-Thirring precession of an accretion disc around a single massive black hole.

We show that if a massive body is put in a quantum superposition of spatially separated states, the mere presence of a black hole in the vicinity of the body will eventually destroy the coherence of the superposition. This occurs because, in effect, the gravitational field of the body radiates soft gravitons into the black hole, allowing the black hole to acquire "which path" information about the superposition. A similar effect occurs for quantum superpositions of electrically charged bodies. We provide estimates of the decoherence time for such quantum superpositions. We believe that the fact that a black hole will eventually decohere any quantum superposition may be of fundamental significance for our understanding of the nature of black holes in a quantum theory of gravity.

Motivated by quantum gravity, semiclassical theory, and quantum theory on curved spacetime, we study the system of an oscillator coupled to two spin-1/2 particles. This simple model provides a prototype for comparing three types of dynamics: the full quantum theory, the classical oscillator with spin backreaction, and spins propagating on a fixed oscillator background. From nonperturbative calculations of oscillator and entanglement entropy dynamics, we find that (i) entangled tripartite states produce novel oscillator trajectories, (ii) the three systems give equivalent dynamics for sufficiently weak oscillator-spin couplings, and (iii) spins driven by a classical oscillator, with or without backreaction, can produce entangled spin states. The latter result suggests a counterpoint to claims that gravity must be quantized to produce entangled matter states.

Purely geometrical arguments show that there exist classes of homospectral inflationary cosmologies, i.e. different expansion histories producing the same spectrum of comoving curvature perturbations. We develop a general algorithm to reconstruct the potential of minimally-coupled single scalar fields from an arbitrary expansion history. We apply it to homospectral expansion histories to obtain the corresponding potentials, providing numerical and analytical examples. The infinite class of homospectral potentials depends on two free parameters, the initial energy scale and the initial value of the field, showing that in general it is impossible to reconstruct a unique potential from the curvature spectrum unless the initial energy scale and the field value are fixed, for instance through observation of primordial gravitational waves.