Evidence of a QCD critical endpoint at RHIC

21/06/2011

ResearchBlogging.org

A critical endpoint in QCD is a kind of holy grail in nuclear physics. It has been theorized as a point where deconfinement occurs and hadronic matter leaves place to some kind of plasma of quarks and gluons. We know that the breaking of chiral symmetry is something that people has proposed several years ago and we recently gave a proof of existence of such a transition (see here). But here the situation is more complex: We have essentially two physical variables to describe the phase diagram and these are temperature and chemical potential. This makes lattice computations a kind of nightmare. The reason is the sign problem. Some years ago Zoltan Fodor and Sandor Katz come out with a pioneering paper (see here) doing lattice computation and seeing the chemical potential taking an imaginary factor: The infamous sign problem. Discretization implies it but a theoretical physicist can happily lives just ignoring it. Fodor and Katz evaded the problem just taking an absolute value but this approach was criticized casting doubt on their results at chemical potential different from zero. It should be said that they gave evidence of existence for the critical point and surely their results are unquestionably correct with zero chemical potential in close agreement with my and others findings. A lucid statement of the problems of lattice computations for finite temperatures and densities was recently given by Philippe de Forcrand (see here).

So far, people has produced several results just working around with phenomenological model like a Nambu-Jona-Lasinio or sigma model. This way of work arises from our current impossibility to manage QCD at very low energies but, on the other side, we are well aware that these models seem to represent reality quite well. The reason is that a Nambu-Jona-Lasinio is really the low-energy limit for QCD but I will not discuss this matter here having done this before (see here). Besides, the sigma model arises naturally in the low-energy limit interacting with quarks. The sigma field is a true physical field that drives the phase transitions in low-energy QCD.

While the hunt for the critical point in the lattice realm is already open since the paper by Fodor and Katz, the experimental side is somewhat more difficult to exploit. The only facility we have at our disposal is RHIC and no much proposals are known to identify the critical point from the experimental data were available since a fine proposal by Misha Stephanov a few years ago (see here and here). The idea runs as follows.  At the critical point, fluctuations are no more expected to be Gaussian and all the correlations are extended to all the hadronic matter  as the correlation length is diverging. Non-Gaussianity implies that if we compute cumulants, linked to higher order moments of the probability distribution, these will depend on the correlation length with some power and, particularly, moments like skewness and kurtosis, that are a measure of deviation from Gaussianity, start to change. Particularly, kurtosis is expected to change sign. So, if we are able to measure such a deviation in a laboratory facility we are done and we get evidence for a critical point and critical behavior of hadronic matter. We just note that Stephanov accomplishes his computations using a sigma model and this is a really brilliant hindsight.

At RHIC a first evidence of this has been obtained by STAR Collaboration (see here). These are preliminary results but further data are expected this year. The main result is given in the following figureWe see comparison with data from lattice as red balls for Au+Au collisions and the kurtosis goes down to negative values! The agreement with lattice data is striking and this is already evidence for a critical endpoint. But this is not enough as can be seen from the large error bar. Indeed further data are needed to draw a definitive conclusion and, as said, these are expected for this year. Anyhow, this is already a shocking result. Surely, we stay tuned for this mounting evidence of a critical endpoint. This will represent a major discovery for nuclear physics and, in some way, it will make easier lattice computations with a proper understanding of the way the sign problem should be settled.

Marco Frasca (2011). Chiral symmetry in the low-energy limit of QCD at finite temperature arXiv arXiv: 1105.5274v2

Z. Fodor, & S. D. Katz (2001). Lattice determination of the critical point of QCD at finite T and  \mu JHEP 0203 (2002) 014 arXiv: hep-lat/0106002v2

Philippe de Forcrand (2010). Simulating QCD at finite density PoS (LAT2009)010, 2009 arXiv: 1005.0539v2

M. A. Stephanov (2008). Non-Gaussian fluctuations near the QCD critical point Phys.Rev.Lett.102:032301,2009 arXiv: 0809.3450v1

Christiana Athanasiou, Krishna Rajagopal, & Misha Stephanov (2010). Using Higher Moments of Fluctuations and their Ratios in the Search for
the QCD Critical Point Physical review D arXiv: 1006.4636v2

Xiaofeng Luo (2011). Probing the QCD Critical Point with Higher Moments of Net-proton
Multiplicity Distributions arXiv arXiv: 1106.2926v1


PHENIX says gluons are not all the story

04/05/2009

PHENIX is a collaboration working with data extracted from RHIC (Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider) located at Brookhaven Labs. phenixed In an experiment with proton-antiproton colliding beams and looking at the ejected \pi^0 they were able to extract the contribution of the gluons to the proton spin. They did this using Next-to-Leading-Order perturbation theory fixing the theory scale at 4GeV^2. Their paper is here and will appear shortly in Physical Review Letters. Their result is

\Delta G^{[0.02,0.3]}_{\rm GRSV}=0.2\pm0.1{\rm (stat)}\pm0.1{\rm (sys)} ^{+0.0}_{-0.4}{\rm (shape)}\pm0.1{\rm (scale)}

that is consistent with zero. This is an independent confirmation of the results of the COMPASS Collaboration that we discussed here. These results let us know that in a proton no contribution to the spin comes from glue, rather this is mostly orbital angular momentum. So, why is this conclusion so relevant? From our point of view we know that, in the low energy limit, glue carries no spin. Rather, true excitations of the Yang-Mills field are some kind of colorless states that makes the spectrum and having the lower state with a massive glueball that can also be seen in labs. We know that this state is the \sigma resonance. This is the scenario that is emerging from experiments and that whatever theory one can think about should explain.

Update: COMPASS Collaboration confirms small polarization of the gluons inside the nucleon (see here, to appear in Physics Letters B). The current world situation is given in their figure that I put here with their caption (for the refs check their paper).

compass

These results, emerging from several different collaborations, are saying to us a relevant information. Glue seems to carry no spin in the low-energy limit. I think that any sound approach to manage QCD in this case should address this result. The main conclusion to be drawn is that glue excitations seen in this case are different from those seen in the high-energy limit. This is a strong confirmation of our point of view presented here and in published papers. It is a mounting evidence that appears to outline a clear scenario of strong interactions at lower energies.


An inspiring paper

24/10/2008

These days I am closed at home due to the effects of flu. When such bad symptoms started to relax I was able to think about physics again.  So, reading the daily from arxiv today I have uncovered a truly inspiring paper from Antal Jakovac a and Daniel Nogradi (see here). This paper treats a very interesting problem about quark-gluon plasma. This state was observed at RHIC at Brookhaven. Successful hydrodynamical models permit to obtain values of physical quantities, like shear viscosity, that could be in principle computed from QCD. The importance of shear viscosity relies on the existence of an important prediction from AdS/CFT symmetry claiming that the ratio between this quantity and entropy density can be at least 1/4\pi. If this lower bound would be proved true we will get an important experimental verification for AdS/CFT conjecture.

Jakovac and Nogradi exploit the computation of this ratio for SU(N) Yang-Mills theory. Their approach is quite successful as their able to show that the value they obtain is still consistent with the lower bound as they have serious difficulties to evaluate the error. But what really matters here is the procedure these authors adopt to reach their aim making this a quite simple alley to pursuit when the solution of Yang-Mills theory in infrared is acquired. The central point is again the gluon propagator. These authors assume simply the very existence of a mass gap taking for the propagator something like e^{-\sigma\tau} in Euclidean time. Of course, \sigma is the glueball mass. This is a too simplified assumption as we know that the gluon propagator is somewhat more complicated and a full spectrum of glueballs does exist that can contribute to this computation (see my post and my paper).

So, I spent my day to extend the computations of these authors to a more realistic gluon propagator.  Indeed, with my gluon propagator there is no need of one-loop computations as the identity at 0-loop G_T=G_0 does not hold true anymore for a non-trivial spectrum and one has immediately an expression for the shear viscosity. I hope to give some more results in the near future.


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