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Exploring (astro)physics with gravitational waves

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The ground-based gravitational-wave telescopes LIGO and Virgo approach the era of first detections.  Gravitational-wave observations will provide a unique probe for exploring strong-field general relativity and compact-binary astrophysics.  In this talk, I describe recent predictions regarding the distributions of black-hole and neutron-star binary mergers, and progress on solving the inverse problem of turning gravitational-wave observations into astrophysical information. I highlight some exciting recent investigations into the use of gravitational waves as tests of general relativity.