Quantum field theory and gradient expansion

In a preceding post (see here) I showed as a covariant gradient expansion can be accomplished maintaining Lorentz invariance during computation. Now I discuss here how to manage the corresponding generating functional

Z[j]=\int[d\phi]e^{i\int d^4x\frac{1}{2}[(\partial\phi)^2-m^2\phi^2]+i\int d^4xj\phi}.

This integral can be computed exactly, the theory being free and the integral is a Gaussian one, to give

Z[j]=e^{\frac{i}{2}\int d^4xd^4yj(x)\Delta(x-y)j(y)}

where we have introduced the Feynman propagator \Delta(x-y). This is well-knwon matter. But now we rewrite down the above integral introducing another spatial coordinate and write down

Z[j]=\int[d\phi]e^{i\int d\tau d^4x\frac{1}{2}[(\partial_\tau\phi)^2-(\partial\phi)^2-m^2\phi^2]+i\int d\tau d^4xj\phi}.

Feynman propagator solving this integral is given by


and a gradient expansion just means a series into p^2 of this propagator. From this we learn immeadiately two things:

  • When one takes p=0 we get the right spectrum of the theory: a pole at p_\tau^2=m^2.
  • When one takes p_\tau=0 and Wick-rotates one of the four spatial coordinates we recover the right Feynman propagator.

All works fine and we have kept Lorentz invariance everywhere hidden into the Euclidean part of a five-dimensional theory. Neglecting the Euclidean part gives us back the spectrum of the theory. This is the leading order of a gradient expansion.

So, the next step is to see what happens with an interaction term. I have already solved this problem here and was published by Physical Review D (see here). In this paper I did not care about Lorentz invariance as I expected it would be recovered in the end of computations as indeed happens. But here we can recover the main result of the paper keeping Lorentz invariance. One has

Z[j]=\int[d\phi]e^{i\int d\tau d^4x\frac{1}{2}[(\partial_\tau\phi)^2-(\partial\phi)^2-m^2\phi^2-\frac{\lambda}{2}\phi^4]+i\int d\tau d^4xj\phi}

and if we want something not trivial we have to keep the interaction term into the leading order of our gradient expansion. So we will break the exponent as

Z[j]=\int[d\phi]e^{i\int d\tau d^4x\frac{1}{2}[(\partial_\tau\phi)^2-\frac{\lambda}{2}\phi^4]-i\int d\tau d^4x\frac{1}{2}[(\partial\phi)^2+m^2\phi^2]+i\int d\tau d^4xj\phi}

and our leading order functional is now

Z_0[j]=\int[d\phi]e^{i\int d\tau d^4x\frac{1}{2}[(\partial_\tau\phi)^2-\frac{\lambda}{2}\phi^4]+i\int d\tau d^4xj\phi}.

This can be cast into a Gaussian form as, in the infrared limit, the one of our interest, one can use the following small time approximation

\phi(x,\tau)\approx\int d\tau' d^4y \delta^4(x-y)\Delta(\tau-\tau')j(y,\tau')

being now


that can be exactly solved giving back all the results of my paper. When the Gaussian form of the theory is obtained one can easily show that, in the infrared limit, the quartic scalar field theory is trivial as we obtain again a generating functional in the form

Z[j]=e^{\frac{i}{2}\int d^4xd^4yj(x)\Delta(x-y)j(y)}

being now


after Wick-rotated a spatial variable and having set p_\tau=0. The spectrum is proper to a trivial theory being that of an harmonic oscillator.

I think that all this machinery does work very well and is quite robust opening up a lot of possibilities to have a look at the other side of the world.


3 Responses to Quantum field theory and gradient expansion

  1. tomate says:

    Hi, I’m a PhD student in statistical mechanics, with a background in theoretical physics (basic QFT of gauge fields, basic GR). I’m looking for a good resource on classical gauge theories, with all its mathematical machinery about manifolds, forms, connections, loops, cohomology, holonomy. I do not really need to go quantum, not for the moment. Which would you suggest?

  2. Rafael says:

    Dear Marco,

    If I correctly understood your post, does this means that now you are able to compute (in a covariant and mathematically sound way) even QCD bound states? It would be impressive!
    Please, how do you think your gradient expansions could be compared with 5D AdS/QCD duals, such as: http://conferences.jlab.org/lattice2008/talks/plenary/emanuel_katz.pdf ?
    Best regards,


  3. mfrasca says:

    Dear tomate,

    A very good book about all the matters you cite is the following by Theodore Frankel


    It is well-written and covers in details all the mathematical background behind gauge theories and general relativity.

    Dear Rafael,

    Thank you very much for appreciating my work. Yes, I can restate all my preceding QCD computations through this kind of covariant formulation confirming all the findings. I should write an extended review paper in the near future. I hope to find the time to accomplish this task.

    About AdS/QCD I think that this approach is not mature yet but correct theories should give identical results. That’s all I can say.


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