Gradient expansions and quantum field theory

01/02/2009

It is more than two years that I am working on quantum field theory in the strong coupling limit and I am generally very satisfied with the acceptance by the community about my views. Of course, these are new ideas and may take some time to be accepted. So, I keep on working on them trying to clarify them at best so that people can have a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. One of the ways we researchers have to know how our colleagues consider our views is peer-review. This system is indeed crucial to any serious scientific endeavor and, indeed, I am proud of my achievements only when my peers agree about their value. But peer-review is also useful to my work to know what are the main objections to it. It can happen that sometime these objections are deeply wrong and may be worthwhile to discuss them at length also to have an idea on how such a prejudice arose.

We should know that when a mathematical theory enters into the description of nature, whatever mathematical method one uses to exploit it is always correct. So, natural laws in physics are described by differential equations and  whatever method you know to solve them is good provided is also mathematically legal. You should consider mathematics for physicists as a severe judge that grants no appeal. You are right or wrong depending on the correctness of your computation. But in physics there is something more and these are assumptions we start with. You can do the beautiful mathematics in the world but if you started with a wrong concept about how nature works your computations are simply rubbish.

One of the criticisms I have received on trying to get my papers published is that one cannot do a gradient expansion because this breaks Lorentz/Poincare’ invariance. This is completely wrong from a mathematical standpoint. As an exercise  you can consider the wave equation in two dimensions as

\partial^2_{tt}u-\partial^2_{xx}u=0

and consider the case where the spatial part is not so important. This can be easily obtained by rescaling time as t\rightarrow\sqrt{\lambda}t and taking the limit \lambda\rightarrow\infty. One gets the solution series

u=u_0+\frac{1}{\lambda}u_1+\frac{1}{\lambda^2}u_2+\ldots

solving the equations

\partial^2_{tt}u_0=0

\partial^2_{tt}u_1=\partial^2_{xx}u_0

\partial^2_{tt}u_2=\partial^2_{xx}u_1

and so on. All this is perfectly legal from a mathematical standpoint and I get a true solution of the wave equation. But, as you can see, I have broken Lorentz invariance, a symmetry of this equation. So, mathematics says yes while physics seems to say no. The answer is quite simple and is known since a long time: The computation is right but Lorentz invariance is no more manifest. This is due to the fact that I have separated time and space. But if I am able to resum all the terms of the expansion series I will get the right answer

u=f_1(x-t)+f_2(x+t)

that is Lorentz invariant. So, both physics and mathematics give the same answer and is a resounding yes, it works and it works so well that we are left with a kind of strong coupling expansion.

So, what should do a smart referee with such a doubt, admitting that a smart referee does not know such mundane facts of physics and mathematics? It should realize that here one is facing a really interesting problem of physics: Could we formulate a gradient expansion in such a way to have Lorentz invariance manifest? I have not an answer yet to this question but I grant to you that is a matter I would like to publish a paper about  somewhere. This is an interesting mathematical problem as well. We know that people met a similar problem at the start of the deep understanding of QED due to Feynman, Schwinger, Tomonaga and Dyson. I think that an answer to this question would have the same scientific value.


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