Quantum gravity



Quantum gravity appears today as the Holy Grail of physics. This is so far detached from any possible experimental result but with a lot of attentions from truly remarkable people anyway. In some sense, if a physicist would like to know in her lifetime if her speculations are worth a Nobel prize, better to work elsewhere. Anyhow, we are curious people and we would like to know how does the machinery of space-time work this because to have an engineering of space-time would make do to our civilization a significant leap beyond.

A fine recount of the current theoretical proposals has been rapidly presented by Ethan Siegel in his blog. It is interesting to notice that the two most prominent proposals, string theory and loop quantum gravity, share the same difficulty: They are not able to recover the low-energy limit. For string theory this is a severe drawback as here people ask for a fully unified theory of all the interactions. Loop quantum gravity is more limited in scope and so, one can think to fix theAlain Connes problem in a near future. But of all the proposals Siegel is considering, he is missing the most promising one: Non-commutative geometry. This mathematical idea is due to Alain Connes and earned him a Fields medal. So far, this is the only mathematical framework from which one can rederive the full Standard Model with all its particle content properly coupled to the Einstein’s general relativity. This formulation works with a classical gravitational field and so, one can possibly ask where quantized gravity could come out. Indeed, quite recently, Connes, Chamseddine and Mukhanov (see here and here), were able to show that, in the context of non-commutative geometry, a Riemannian manifold results quantized in unitary volumes of two kind of spheres. The reason why there are two kind of unitary volumes is due to the need to have a charge conjugation operator and this implies that these volumes yield the units (1,i) in the spectrum. This provides the foundations for a future quantum gravity that is fully consistent from the start: The reason is that non-commutative geometry generates renormalizable theories!

The reason for my interest in non-commutative geometry arises exactly from this. Two years ago, I, Alfonso Farina and Matteo Sedehi obtained a publication about the possibility that a complex stochastic process is at the foundations of quantum mechanics (see here and here). We described such a process like the square root of a Brownian motion and so, a Bernoulli process appeared producing the factor 1 or i depending on the sign of the steps of the Brownian motion. This seemed to generate some deep understanding about space-time. Indeed, the work by Connes, Chamseddine and Mukhanov has that understanding and what appeared like a square root process of a Brownian motion today is just the motion of a particle on a non-commutative manifold. Here one has simply a combination of a Clifford algebra, that of Dirac’s matrices, a Wiener process and the Bernoulli process representing the scattering between these randomly distributed quantized volumes. Quantum mechanics is so fundamental that its derivation from a geometrical structure with added some mathematics from stochastic processes makes a case for non-commutative geometry as a serious proposal for quantum gravity.

I hope to give an account of this deep connection in a near future. This appears a rather exciting new avenue to pursue.

Ali H. Chamseddine, Alain Connes, & Viatcheslav Mukhanov (2014). Quanta of Geometry: Noncommutative Aspects Phys. Rev. Lett. 114 (2015) 9, 091302 arXiv: 1409.2471v4

Ali H. Chamseddine, Alain Connes, & Viatcheslav Mukhanov (2014). Geometry and the Quantum: Basics JHEP 12 (2014) 098 arXiv: 1411.0977v1

Farina, A., Frasca, M., & Sedehi, M. (2013). Solving Schrödinger equation via Tartaglia/Pascal triangle: a possible link between stochastic processing and quantum mechanics Signal, Image and Video Processing, 8 (1), 27-37 DOI: 10.1007/s11760-013-0473-y

News from CERN



Two days ago, CERN presented their new results at 13 TeV to the World. Of course, collected data so far are not enough for conclusive results but the these are exciting anyway. The reason is that both the collaborations, CMS and ATLAS, see a bump at around 750 GeV in the \gamma\gamma decay. Summing up the results of the two collaborations, they are around 4\sigma without look elsewhere effect, not yet a discovery but, probably, at the summer conferences they will have something more conclusive to say. This could be an unlucky fluctuation but this situation remember us the story of the discovery of the Higgs boson more than three years ago. The question if this is beyond Standard Model physics is what I will try to answer in these few lines.ATLAS diphoton reults at 13 TeV

Firstly, if this particle is real, it decays with two photons exactly as the Higgs boson. Secondly, with a final state like this it can have only spin 0 or 2. We will be conservative and assume that this is not a graviton. Rather, it is a sibling of the Higgs particle. Besides, it was not observed in run I but is not inconsistent with data from there. It appears like the increased luminosity favored its appearance. We want to be more conservative and we take for granted just the Lagrangian of the Standard Model. So, what is this beast?

My answer is that this could be an excited state of the Higgs boson that, having a production rate lower than its ground state seen at run I, needed more luminosity to be observed. You do not need to change the Lagrangian of the Standard Model for this and it is not BSM physics yet. You do not even need a technicolor theory to describe it. The reason is that the Higgs part of the Standard Model can be treated mathematically yielding exact solutions. The quantum field theory can be exactly solved and the spectrum of the theory says exactly what I stated above (see here, and here). The Higgs model per se is exactly solvable. So, Jester’s idea to add another scalar field to the Lagrangian model is useless, it is all just inside and you will get a two photon final state as well.

Of course, it is too early to draw a final conclusion and a wealth of papers with a prompt explanation flooded arxiv in these two days. With the restart of LHC on spring and the collecting of more data, things will be clearer than now. For the moment, this hint is enough to keep us excited for the next few months.

Marco Frasca (2015). A theorem on the Higgs sector of the Standard Model arxiv arXiv: 1504.02299v2

Marco Frasca (2015). Quantum Yang-Mills field theory arxiv arXiv: 1509.05292v1

Higgs even more standard



LHCP 2015 is going on at St. Peterburg and new results were presented by the two main collaborations at CERN. CMS and ATLAS combined the results from run 1 and improved the quality of the measured data of the Higgs particle discovered on 2012. CERN press release is here. I show you the main picture about the couplings between the Higgs field and the other particles in the Standard Model widely exposed in all the social networks

Combined couplings for the Higgs by ATLAS and CMS

What makes this plot so striking is the very precise agreement with the Standard Model. Anyhow, the ellipses are somewhat large yet to grant new physics creeping in at run 2. My view is that the couplings, determining the masses of the particles in the Standard Model, are less sensible to new physics than the strength of the signal at various decays. Also this plot is available (hat tip to Adam Falkowski)

Combined strengths at various decays by ATLAS and CMS

In this plot you can see that the Standard Model, represented by a star, is somewhat at the border of the areas of the ZZ and WW decays and that of the WW decay is making smaller. This does not imply that in the future deviations from the Standard Model will be seen here but leave the impression that this could happen in run 2 with the increasing precision expected for these measurements.

The strengths are so interesting because the Higgs sector of the Standard Model can be solved exactly with the propagator providing the values of them (see here). These generally disagree from those obtained by standard perturbation theory even if by a small extent. Besides, Higgs particle should have internal degrees of freedom living also in higher excited states. All of this to be seen at run 2 as the production rate of these states appears to be smaller as higher is their mass.

Run 2 is currently ongoing even if the expected luminosity will not be reached for this year. For sure, the next year summer conferences could provide a wealth of shocking new results. Hints are already seen by both the main collaborations and LHCb. Something new is just behind the corner.

Marco Frasca (2015). A theorem on the Higgs sector of the Standard Model arxiv arXiv: 1504.02299v1

Particle physics at a dead end


Giovanni Jona-Lasinio is one of the greatest Italian physicists and it is well-known for his contributions to quantum field theory and statistical physics. He belongs to the School of Rome that yielded three Boltzmann medallists: himself, Giorgio Parisi and Giovanni Gallavotti. His model, postulated together with Yoichiro Nambu, represents the right behaviour of quantum chromodynamics at very low energies and put the basis for the future understanding of broken symmetries in particle physics. Indeed, Jona-Lasinio took the Nobel medal Giovanni Jona-Lasinio Nobel Lectureon behalf of Nambu and presented also the lecture. Nambu could not go to Stockholm and so, the award passed by the hands of Jona-Lasinio. That year two Italian names were associated to that prize, the other one was Nicola Cabibbo. Jona-Lasinio has been one of my professors during my graduation course at University La Sapienza, together with Luciano Maiani and Nicola Cabibbo. I have got the best instruction and, of course, gaps are all mine. The School of Rome has been one of the main engines toward the complete realization of the Standard Model of particle physics as testified by the people I have just named. Then, most of these persons moved to statistical mechanics realizing great findings in this area and Jona-Lasinio was one of them. Sometime, he expressed some criticisms to particle physics as is practised today and in the last decades. This view is absolutely shareable and recently he presented it again in an interview to Asimmetrie (in Italian), the journal of Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare on 17 January 2014. You can find the full interview here. The interview was in Italian but the part numbered as 11 yields the critical view. I give here a translation:

I see… Also young people… Now there is not a position for everybody, especially in Italy, it is become hyper-competitive and so, this is a sociological fact, a lot of works come out, for young people is important to publish a lot, a lot of works come out that differ each other, I say, by an epsilon, and so we say the level is lowered a lot of… of… It is exactly the contrary of what was happening then because then to not publish was considered a virtue and maybe to have more interests. Now, there is hyper-specialization instead. So, where physics goes I do not know. Particle physics that was always considered fundamental physics even if indeed, in the second half of ‘900, the most important progresses were in statistical mechanics and condensed matter rather than particle physics, and biology. But indeed now with the experiments, I do not believe that after the LHC other accelerators will be made. Then, one recurs to cosmology also to have information on particles, so this is indirect knowledge. Where it will end particle physics I do not know because there is this aura, that I consider artificially kept yet, because it uses a huge quantity of money and so there is the need to present itself with a façade always of big… so futuristic, but I have no idea where it will go.

It is a fact that particle physics has not seen a great revolution since the end of seventies of the last century and LHC is yet there to check that somewhat old physics. Standard Model developed on sixties and seventies of the last century and we can date back the Higgs mechanism to 1964, very few years after Nambu and Jona-Lasinio proposal. Supersymmetry, if will be ever seen, is old as eighties of last century. After this, we have lived our latest thirty years with metaphysics without any sound foundation from experiments. Rather speculations.  Richard FeynmanSome of these ideas become so strong to convince people that these are the truth with bad consequences for all the community. This is now a recurring attitude for physicists. In other periods, most of the papers that today appear as great advances would be considered rubbish as now we use to accept shaky foundations for brave proposals.

Let me conclude with the concluding remarks by Richard Feynman at Caltech on 1974:

So I have just one wish for you–the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.

That Higgs is trivial!



Notwithstanding LHC has seen the particle, the Higgs sector of the Standard Model has some serious problems. This fact yielded more than one headache to physicists. One of these difficulties is called technically “triviality“. Michael AizenmanThe scalar field theory, that is so well defined classically, does not exist as a quantum field theory unless is non-interacting. There is a wonderful paper by Michael Aizenman that shows that this is true for dimensions 5 and higher. So, one should think that, as we live in four dimensions, there is no reason to worry. The point is that Michael Aizenman left the question in four dimensions open. So, does Higgs particle exist or not and how does it yield mass if it will not interact? CERN said to us that Higgs particle is there and so, in some way, the scalar sector of the Standard Model must properly work. Aizenman’s proof was on 1981 but what is the situation now? An answer is in this article on Scholarpedia. As stated by the author Ulli Wolff

Triviality of lattice phi^4 theory in this sense has been rigorously proven for D>4 while for the most interesting borderline case D=4 we have only partial results but very strong evidence from numerical simulations.

While there is another great expert on quantum field theory, Franco Strocchi, in his really worth to read book saying

The recent proof of triviality of phi^4 in 3 + 1 spacetime dimensions indicates that the situation becomes worse in the real world, and in particular the renormalized perturbative series of the phi^4 model seems to have little to do with the non-perturbative solution.

We see that experts do not completely agree about the fact that a proof exists or not but, for sure, the scalar theory in four dimensions cannot interact and the Standard Model appears in serious troubles.

Before to enter more in details about this matter, let me say that, even if Strocchi makes no citation about where the proof is, he is the one being right. We have proof about this, the matter is now well understood and again we are waiting for the scientific community to wake up. Also, the Standard Model is surely secured and there is no serious risk about the recent discovery by CERN of the Higgs particle.

The proof has been completed recently by Renata Jora with this paper on arxiv. Renata extended the proof an all the energy range. I met her in Montpellier (France) at this workshop organized by Stephan Narison. We have converging interests in research. Renata’s work is based on a preceding proof, due to me and Igor Suslov, showing that, at large coupling, the four dimensional theory is indeed trivial. You can find the main results here and here. Combining these works together, we can conclude that Strocchi’s statement is correct but there is no harm for the Standard Model as we will discuss in a moment. Also the fact that the perturbation solution of the model is not properly describing the situation can be seen from the strictly non-analytical behaviours seen at strong coupling that makes impossible to extend what one gets at small coupling to that regime.

The fact that CERN has indeed seen the Higgs particle and that the Higgs sector of the Standard Model is behaving properly, unless a better understanding will emerge after the restart of the LHC, has been seen with the studies of the propagators of the Yang-Mills theory in the Landau gauge. The key paper is this where the behaviour of the running coupling of the theory was obtained on all the energy range from lattice computations.

Running Coupling

This behaviour shows that, while the theory is trivial at both the extremes of the energy range, there is an intermediate regime where we can trust the theory and treat it as an effective one. There the coupling does not run to zero but moves around some finite non-null value. Of course, all this is just saying that this theory must be superseded by an extended one going to higher energies (supersymmetry? Technicolor?) but it is reasonable to manage the theory as if all this just works at current energies. Indeed, LHC has shown that a Higgs particle is there.

So, triviality is saying that the LHC will find something new for sure. Today, beams moved again inside the accelerator. We are eager to see what will come out form this wonderful enterprise.

Aizenman, M. (1981). Proof of the Triviality of Field Theory and Some Mean-Field Features of Ising Models for Physical Review Letters, 47 (12), 886-886 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.47.886

Renata Jora (2015). $Φ^4$ theory is trivial arXiv arXiv: 1503.07298v1

Marco Frasca (2006). Proof of triviality of $λφ^4$ theory Int.J.Mod.Phys.A22:2433-2439,2007 arXiv: hep-th/0611276v5

Igor M. Suslov (2010). Asymptotic Behavior of the \Beta Function in the Φ^4 Theory: A Scheme
Without Complex Parameters J.Exp.Theor.Phys.111:450-465,2010 arXiv: 1010.4317v1

I. L. Bogolubsky, E. -M. Ilgenfritz, M. Müller-Preussker, & A. Sternbeck (2009). Lattice gluodynamics computation of Landau-gauge Green’s functions in the deep infrared Phys.Lett.B676:69-73,2009 arXiv: 0901.0736v3

Is Higgs alone?



I am back after the announcement by CERN of the restart of LHC. On May this year we will have also the first collisions. This is great news and we hope for the best and the best here is just the breaking of the Standard Model.

The Higgs in the title is not Professor Higgs but rather the particle carrying his name. The question is a recurring one since the first hints of existence made their appearance at the LHC. The point I would like to make is that the equations of the theory are always solved perturbatively, even if exact solutions exist that provide a mass also if the theory is massless or has a mass term with a wrong sign (Higgs model). All you need is a finite self-interaction term in the equation. So, you will have bad times to recover such exact solutions with perturbation techniques and one keeps on living in the ignorance. If you would like to see the technicalities involved just take a cursory look at Dispersive Wiki.

What is the point? The matter is rather simple. The classical theory has exact massive solutions for the potential in the form V(\phi)=a\phi^2+b\phi^4 and this is a general result implying that a scalar self-interacting field gets always a mass (see here and here). Are we entitled to ignore this? Of course no. But today exact solutions have lost their charm and we can get along with them.

For the quantum field theory side what could we say? The theory can be quantized starting with these solutions and I have shown that one gets in this way that these massive particles have higher excited states. These are not bound states (maybe could be correctly interpreted in string theory or in a proper technicolor formulation after bosonization) but rather internal degrees of freedom. It is always the same Higgs particle but with the capability to live in higher excited states. These states are very difficult to observe because higher excited states are also highly depressed and even more hard to see. In the first LHC run they could not be seen for sure. In a sense, it is like Higgs is alone but with the capability to get fatter and present himself in an infinite number of different ways. This is exactly the same for the formulation of the scalar field as originally proposed by Higgs, Englert, Brout, Kibble, Guralnik and Hagen. We just note that this formulation has the advantage to be exactly what one knows from second order phase transitions used by Anderson in his non-relativistic proposal of this same mechanism. The existence of these states appears inescapable whatever is your best choice for the quartic potential of the scalar field.

It is interesting to note that this is also true for the Yang-Mills field theory. The classical equations of this theory display similar solutions that are massive (see here) and whatever is the way you develop your quantum filed theory with such solutions the mass gap is there. The theory entails the existence of massive excitations exactly as the scalar field does. This have been seen in lattice computations (see here). Can we ignore them? Of course no but exact solutions are not our best choice as said above even if we will have hard time to recover them with perturbation theory. Better to wait.

Marco Frasca (2009). Exact solutions of classical scalar field equations J.Nonlin.Math.Phys.18:291-297,2011 arXiv: 0907.4053v2

Marco Frasca (2013). Scalar field theory in the strong self-interaction limit Eur. Phys. J. C (2014) 74:2929 arXiv: 1306.6530v5

Marco Frasca (2014). Exact solutions for classical Yang-Mills fields arXiv arXiv: 1409.2351v2

Biagio Lucini, & Marco Panero (2012). SU(N) gauge theories at large N Physics Reports 526 (2013) 93-163 arXiv: 1210.4997v2

Standard Model at the horizon



Hawking radiation is one of the most famous effects where quantum field theory combines successfully with general relativity. Since 1975 when Stephen Hawking uncovered it, this result has obtained a enormousStephen Hawking consideration and has been derived in a lot of different ways. The idea is that, very near the horizon of a black hole, a pair of particles can be produced one of which falls into the hole and the other escapes to infinity and is seen as emitted radiation. The overall effect is to drain energy from the hole, as the pair is formed at its expenses, and its ultimate fate is to evaporate. The distribution of this radiation is practically thermal and a temperature and an entropy can be attached to the black hole. The entropy is proportional to the area of the black hole computed at the horizon, as also postulated by Jacob Bekenstein, and so, it can only increase. Thermodynamics applies to black holes as well. Since then, the quest to understand the microscopic origin of such an entropy has seen a huge literature production with the notable Jacob Bekensteinunderstanding coming from string theory and loop quantum gravity.

In all the derivations of this effect people generally assumes that the particles are free and there are very good reasons to do so. In this way the theory is easier to manage and quantum field theory on curved spaces yields definite results. The wave equation is separable and exactly solvable (see here and here). For a scalar field, if you had a self-interaction term you are immediately in trouble. Notwithstanding this, in  the ’80 UnruhWilliam Unruh and Leahy, considering the simplified case of two dimensions and Schwarzschild geometry, uncovered a peculiar effect: At the horizon of the black the interaction appears to be switched off (see here). This means that the original derivation by Black-hole-model by Kip ThorneHawking for free particles has indeed a general meaning but, the worst conclusion, all particles become non interacting and massless at the horizon when one considers the Standard Model! Cooper will have very bad times crossing Gargantua’s horizon.

Turning back from science fiction to reality, this problem stood forgotten for all this time and nobody studied this fact too much. The reason is that the vacuum in a curved space-time is not trivial, as firstly noted by Hawking, and mostly so when particles interact. Simply, people has increasing difficulties to manage the theory that is already complicated in its simplest form. Algebraic quantum field theory provides a rigorous approach to this (e.g. see here). These authors consider an interacting theory with a \varphi^3 term but do perturbation theory (small self-interaction) probably hiding in this way the Unruh-Leahy effectValter Moretti.

The situation can change radically if one has exact solutions. A \varphi^4 classical theory can be indeed solved exactly and one can make it manageable (see here). A full quantum field theory can be developed in the strong self-interaction limit (see here) and so, Unruh-Leahy effect can be accounted for. I did so and then, I have got the same conclusion for the Kerr black hole (the one of Interstellar) in four dimensions (see here). This can have devastating implications for the Standard Model of particle physics. The reason is that, if Higgs field is switched off at the horizon, all the particles will lose their masses and electroweak symmetry will be recovered. Besides, further analysis will be necessary also for Yang-Mills fields and I suspect that also in this case the same conclusion has to hold. So, the Unruh-Leahy effect seems to be on the same footing and importance of the Hawking radiation. A deep understanding of it would be needed starting from quantum gravity. It is a holy grail, the switch-off of all couplings, kind of.

Further analysis is needed to get a confirmation of it. But now, I am somewhat more scared to cross a horizon.

V. B. Bezerra, H. S. Vieira, & André A. Costa (2013). The Klein-Gordon equation in the spacetime of a charged and rotating black hole Class. Quantum Grav. 31 (2014) 045003 arXiv: 1312.4823v1

H. S. Vieira, V. B. Bezerra, & C. R. Muniz (2014). Exact solutions of the Klein-Gordon equation in the Kerr-Newman background and Hawking radiation Annals of Physics 350 (2014) 14-28 arXiv: 1401.5397v4

Leahy, D., & Unruh, W. (1983). Effects of a λΦ4 interaction on black-hole evaporation in two dimensions Physical Review D, 28 (4), 694-702 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.28.694

Giovanni Collini, Valter Moretti, & Nicola Pinamonti (2013). Tunnelling black-hole radiation with $φ^3$ self-interaction: one-loop computation for Rindler Killing horizons Lett. Math. Phys. 104 (2014) 217-232 arXiv: 1302.5253v4

Marco Frasca (2009). Exact solutions of classical scalar field equations J.Nonlin.Math.Phys.18:291-297,2011 arXiv: 0907.4053v2

Marco Frasca (2013). Scalar field theory in the strong self-interaction limit Eur. Phys. J. C (2014) 74:2929 arXiv: 1306.6530v5

Marco Frasca (2014). Hawking radiation and interacting fields arXiv arXiv: 1412.1955v1


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