The dynamics of the early universe and black holes are fundamental reflections of the interplay between general relativity and quantum fields. The essential physical processes occur in situations that are difficult to observe and impossible to experiment with: when gravitational interactions are strong, quantum effects are important, and theoretical predictions for these regimes are based on major extrapolations of laboratory-tested physics.
We will discuss the possibility to study these processes in experiments by employing analogue classical/quantum simulators – systems (e.g. immiscible 2-fluid systems, ultra-cold atoms, superfluid 4He, and non-linear optical fibres) whose excitations behave like classical/quantum fields in a spacetime background. Their high degree of tunability, in terms of dynamics, effective geometry, and field theoretical description, allows one to emulate a wide range of elusive physical phenomena in a controlled laboratory setting. We will discuss two recent developments in this area of research: first order phase transition in quantum field theory and the black hole relaxation process.