The direct detection of gravitational waves promises to open up a new spectrum that is otherwise mostly closed to electromagnetically based astronomical observations. Detecting gravitational waves from binary black holes and neutron stars, as well as estimating their parameters, requires a sufficiently accurate prediction for the expected waveform signal. Unfortunately, the state of the art for the pillars of gravitational wave theory -- numerical relativity, the post-Newtonian approximation, and linear black hole perturbation theory -- have yet to cover accurately the entire parameter space even when taken together. In this talk, I present a new direction for systematically describing compact binaries that is valid over a potentially very large portion of the parameter space.
The approach uses high-order black hole perturbation theory in the mass ratio together with ideas and techniques borrowed from effective field theory for incorporating the physics of extended masses like spin and tidal effects. I discuss recent advances, future prospects, and potential impacts in this direction.