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Gravitational Memory, Information, and Black Holes

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A burst of gravitational radiation passing through an arrangement of freely falling test masses far from the source will cause a permanent displacement of the masses, called the ''gravitational memory''. It has recently been found that this memory is closely related to the change in the so called ''super-translation'' charge carried by the spacetime, where ''super-translations'' here refer to an unexpected enlargement of the asymptotic symmetries of general relativity beyond the expected asymptotic Poincare-transformations, known already since the work of Bondi et al. in the early 60s (no relation with ‘’supersymmetry''). I will describe these concepts from an intuitive perspective and point out that super-translations, as well as gravitational memory, are a phenomenon that is unique to relativity in 3+1, but not higher, dimensions. I close the talk by explaining the relation between these results and the notion of a ''charge super-selection sector'' in quantum field theories with massless particles such as QED.

[Based on joint work with A. Ishibashi and R. M. Wald]