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The observation of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by matter was instrumental in revealing the quantum properties of atoms and molecules in the early XX century, and constituted a turning-point in the development of the quantum theory. Quantum mechanics changes dramatically the way radiation and matter interact, making the probability of emission and absorption of light strongly frequency dependent, as clearly manifested in atomic spectra. In this essay, we advocate that gravitational radiation can play, for the quantum aspects of black holes, a similar role as electromagnetic radiation did for atoms, and that the advent of gravitational-wave astronomy can bring this fascinating possibility to the realm of observations.

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International Journal of Modern Physics D