One of the questions that is not that easy to answer is: When is a quantum field theory exactly solved? Of course, we have the example of a free theory. When one is able to put the generating functional into a Gaussian form, the spectrum of the theory is that of a harmonic oscillator and when the coupling is zero, one is left with a possibly solved theory. But this case is trivial and does not say anything about the case of an exactly solved but interacting quantum field theory. An immediate answer to this question is: When one is able to get all the n-point functions. This implies that, if you are able to solve all the hierarchy of Dyson-Schwinger equations, you are done. Solving this set of equations is practically impossible in almost all the interesting case. But there is an exception and a notable one. So, consider the case of a massless quartic scalar field theory. Lattice computations in d=3+1 strongly hint toward triviality in the low-energy limit. Better, for d>3+1 there is a beautiful proof by Michael Aizenman that went published here. In this case the hierarchy is exactly solved (see here) and this is true also for d=3+1. So far, triviality and exact solution indeed are the same thing. But why does an interacting theory become trivial? The reason is in the behavior of the running coupling as the energy varies. We have learned from quantum field theory that couplings have not always the same value. Rather, their value is varying depending on the energy scale they are measured. In a trivial theory, couplings happen to go to zero in the given limit and an interacting theory becomes free!

For the scalar theory in the low-energy limit (infrared) in d=3+1, evidence is becoming wider that the beta function, the function that determines the behavior of the running coupling, goes like


being \lambda the coupling and d space-time dimension. I have proved this firstly here for d=3+1 but other authors arrived to an identical conclusion by different means (see here and here). But there is a surprise here: Some authors, a few years ago, proved an identical result for Yang-Mills theory (see here) with lattice computations. So, this is again a striking proof of the correctness of my mapping theorem but an indirect one. Then, we can conclude this post by stating a shocking result: Yang-Mills theory is trivial in the infrared even if QCD is not. But this result is enough to make QCD manageable at very low-energies.

Classical Yang-Mills theory and mass gap


One of the key ingredients to build up a quantum field theory is to have a set of solutions of classical equations of motion to start with. Then, given such solutions, we are able to perform perturbation theory and to extract results from the theory to be compared with experiment. I think that my readers are familiar with standard approach having free equations of the theory solved. When path integrals are used, we solve for the Green function of the free theory but we are talking about the same thing: we know how to solve our theory in some limit and then we build on it. So, to give an answer to the question of the mass gap for Yang-Mills theory, we have to know how to solve the theory in a limit we are not so familiar: strong coupling limit. So far, very few was known about this limit except knowledge acquired through lattice computations. Also in this latter case, for several years a lot of confusion pervaded the field: Does gluon propagator go to zero or not? Enlarging volumes produced an answer that is a reason for hot debate yet: Gluon propagator does not go to zero at very low energy but reaches a finite value. In literature this is known as the decoupling solution to be contrasted with the scaling solution having a propagator going to zero at very small momenta. If we know gluon propagator, we are able to compute the behavior of QCD at very low energies (see here) and this is a well-known fact since eighties.

The question of existence of a class of solutions for Yang-Mills theory to work with at low energies has been successfully answered quite recently. I have written a nice pair of papers that went published in respectful journals and permitted to solve all this matter (see here and here). Two papers were needed because Terry Tao showed that a proof in a key theorem (mapping theorem) was not correct. After this, I was able to give  an answer that both agreed. My aim in this post is to explain, with some simple mathematics, what is the content of this theorem that produces a set of classical solutions to build up a quantum field theory in the low-energy limit for Yang-Mills theory and so QCD.

The key element is a mapping theorem. We map two classical theories, one of this we are able to solve exactly. So, consider a massless scalar field theory


Contrarily to common wisdom, we are able to solve this exactly. Our solution can be written down as

\phi(x)=\mu\left(\frac{2}{\lambda}\right)^\frac{1}{4}{\rm sn}(p\cdot x+\theta,i)

provided that


Hera \mu is an integration constant with the dimension of energy, \theta is another integration constant and {\rm sn} is the snoidal Jacobi’s elliptic function. Why is this solution so interesting? The reason is that we started with a massless equation and the solution describes a wave with a massive dispersion solution of a free particle! This is the famous mass gap when we translate this result to quantum field theory. I have done this here. So, the classical theory already has the feature of a mass gap. Scalar theory proves to be trivial for the simple reason that we produce, in the low-energy limit, free massive excitations. This is a long awaited result that is going to get increasingly confirmed from other theoretical studies. I will discuss this issue in another post.

What is the relation, if any, between a massless scalar field theory and Yang-Mills theory? Indeed, there exists a deep relation in the low-energy limit, when the coupling becomes increasingly large, as the solutions of the two theories can be mapped. So, for SU(3), mapping theorem shows that


being \phi(x) our solution above provided the substitution \lambda\rightarrow\sqrt{3}g. This is a very beautiful result as this gives at once the following conclusions:

  • Strong coupling solutions of classical Yang-Mills theory are free massive waves.
  • Yang-Mills theory displays massive solutions already at classical level.
  • Quantum theory maintains such conclusions as I showed in my papers.

Lattice computations beautifully confirmed this mapping theorem in d=2+1 as showed by Rafael Frigori in a very nice paper (see here). Strong hints are also seen in d=3+1 by other authors and it would be very nice to see an extended computation in this case as the one Frigori did in d=2+1. For yourselves, you can check with Mathematica or Maple the equations given above. You will also see that gauge invariance is not hindered.

Classical solutions of Yang-Mills equations


So far, I have posted several posts in this blog about the question of classical solutions to Yang-Mills equations. This has produced some fuzz, mostly arisen from my published papers, as to such solutions may not be correct. Thanks to a wise intervention of Terry Tao, I was able to give a complete understanding of my solutions and a theorem was fully proved in a recent paper of mine to appear in Modern Physics Letters A (see here), agreed with Terry in a private communication. So, I think it is time to give a description of this result here as it appears really interesting showing how, already at a classical level, this theory can display massive solutions and a mass gap is already seen in this case. Then, it takes a really small step to get the corresponding proof in quantum field theory.

To understand how these solutions are obtained, let us consider the following equation for a scalar field


This is a massless self-interacting field. We can select a class of solutions by looking at the case of a rest reference frame. So, we put any dependence on spatial variables to zero and solve the equation


whose solutions are known and given by

\phi(t,0)=\mu\left(\frac{2}{\lambda}\right)^{\frac{1}{4}}{\rm sn}\left[\left(\frac{\lambda}{2}\right)^{\frac{1}{4}}\mu t+\theta,i\right]

being \mu and \theta two integration constants and sn a Jacobi elliptical function. Then, boosting this solution will produce an exact solution of the equation we started from given by

\phi(x)=\mu\left(\frac{2}{\lambda}\right)^{\frac{1}{4}}{\rm sn}(p\cdot x+\theta,i)

provided the following dispersion relation holds


and we see that, although we started with a massless field, self-interaction provided us massive solutions!

Now, the next question one should ask is if such a mechanism may be at work for classical Yang-Mills equations. These can be written down as

\partial^\mu\partial_\mu A^a_\nu-\left(1-\frac{1}{\alpha}\right)\partial_\nu(\partial^\mu A^a_\mu)+gf^{abc}A^{b\mu}(\partial_\mu A^c_\nu-\partial_\nu A^c_\mu)

+gf^{abc}\partial^\mu(A^b_\mu A^c_\nu)+g^2f^{abc}f^{cde}A^{b\mu}A^d_\mu A^e_\nu = 0

being \alpha chosen depending on the gauge choice, g the coupling and f^{abc} the structure constants of the gauge group taken to be SU(N). The theorem I proved in my paper above states that the solution given for the scalar field theory is an exact solution of Yang-Mills equations, provided it will not depend on spatial coordinates, for a given choice of Yang-Mills components (Smilga’s choice) and \lambda=Ng^2, otherwise the following identity holds


Here \eta_\mu^a is a set of constants arising with the Smilga’s choice. This theorem has the following implications: Firstly, when the coupling become increasingly large, a massless scalar field theory and Yang-Mills theory can be mapped each other. Secondly, already at the classical level, for a coupling large enough, a Yang-Mills theory gets massive solutions. We can see here that a mass gap arises already at a classical level for these theories. Finally, we emphasize that the above mapping appears to hold only in a strong coupling regime while, on the other side, these theories manifest different behaviors. Indeed, we know that Yang-Mills theory has asymptotic freedom while the scalar theory has not. The mapping theorem just mirrors this situation.

We note that these solutions are wave-like ones and describe free massive excitations. This means that these classical theories have to be considered trivial in some sense as these solutions seem to behave in the same way as the plane waves of a free theory.

One can build a quantum field theory on these classical solutions obtaining a theory manifesting a mass gap in some limit. This is has been done in several papers of mine and I will not repeat these arguments here.

Exact solutions on arxiv


As promised in my preceding post (see here), I have posted yesterday a preprint on this matter on arxiv (see here). I have presented all the exact solutions I was able to obtain at a classical level and I have given a formulation of the quantum field theory for a massless quartic theory. The key point in this case is the solution of the equation for the propagator


being \phi_c the given exact classical solution. As usual, I have used a gradient approximation and the solution of the equation


that I know when the phase in \phi_c(t,0) is quantized as (4n+1)K(i), being n an integer and K(i) an elliptic integral. This gives back a consistent result in the strong coupling limit, \lambda\rightarrow\infty, with my preceding paper on Physical Review D (see here).

The conclusion is rather interesting as quantum field theory, given from such subset of classical solutions, is trivial when the coupling becomes increasingly large as one has a Gaussian generating functional and the spectrum of a harmonic oscillator. This is in perfect agreement with common wisdom about this scalar theory. So, in some way, Jacobi elliptical functions that describe nonlinear waves behave as plane waves for a quantum field theory in a regime of a strong coupling.

Exact solutions of nonlinear equations


Recently, I have posted on the site of Terry Tao and Jim Colliander, Dispersive Wiki. I am a regular contributor to this beautiful effort to collect all available knowledge about differential equations and dispersive phenomena. Of course, I can give contributions as a solver of differential equations in the vein of a pure physicist. But mathematicians are able to give rigorous theorems on the behavior of the solutions without really solving them. I invite you to take some time to look at this site and, if you are an expert, to register and contribute to it.

My recent contribution is about exact solutions of nonlinear equations. This is a really interesting field and most of the relevant results come from soliton theory.  Terry posted on his blog about Liouville equation (see here). This equation is exactly solvable and is widely known to people working in string theory. But also one of the most known equations in physics literature can be solved exactly. My preprint shows this. Indeed I have to update it as, working on KAM theorem, I have obtained the exact solution to the following equation (check here on Dispersive Wiki):

\Box\phi +\mu_0^2\phi+\lambda\phi^3 = 0

that can be written as

\phi(x) = \pm\sqrt{\frac{2\mu^4}{\mu_0^2 + \sqrt{\mu_0^4 + 2\lambda\mu^4}}}{\rm sn}\left(p\cdot x+\theta,\sqrt{\frac{-\mu_0^2 + \sqrt{\mu_0^4 + 2\lambda\mu^4}}{-\mu_0^2 -  \sqrt{\mu_0^4 + 2\lambda\mu^4}}}\right)

being now the dispersion relation


As always \mu is an arbitrary parameter with the dimension of a mass. You can see here an example of mass renormalization due to interaction. Indeed, from the dispersion relation we can recognize the following renormalized mass


that depends on the coupling. This class of solutions clearly show how the nonlinearities produce contributions to mass. Either by modifying it or by generating it. So, it is not difficult to imagine that Nature may have adopted them to display mass wherever there is not.

As a by-product, I am now able to give a consistent quantum field theory in the infrared for the scalar field (always thank to my work on KAM theorem), obtaining the needed corrections to the propagator and the spectrum. I hope to find some time in the next days to add all this new material to my preprint. Meanwhile, enjoy Dispersive Wiki!

Paper replacement


I have updated the paper with the answer to Terry Tao on arxiv (see here). No correction was needed, rather I have added a new result giving the next-to-leading order correction for the Yang-Mills field. This result is important as it shows the right approximate solution, in an expansion into the inverse of the coupling constant, for the mapping between the scalar and the Yang-Mills field. As we repeated a lot of times, Smilga’s solutions are all is needed to work out our argument as this relies on a gradient expansion. A gradient expansion at the leading order has a solution depending just on time variable. But, as this has been a reason for discussion, I have also shown to what extent my approach applies to the solution of the quartic scalar field given in the form

\phi(x) = \mu\left(\frac{2}{\lambda}\right)^{1\over 4}{\rm sn}(p\cdot x,i)

with p^2=\mu^2\left(\lambda/2\right)^{1\over 2} with \mu an integration constant and \lambda the coupling. But I would like to emphasize that the relevance of these solutions for the Yang-Mills case was just demanded by Tao’s criticism but it is not needed for my argument to work. So, the main result of this paper is that


As it has been noted elsewhere, higher order corrections are zero in the Lorenz gauge. This result is certainly not trivial and worth to be considered in a classical analysis of Yang-Mills equations.

Finally, we note as any concern about gauge invariance is just worthless. Smilga’s solutions are exact solutions of the Yang-Mills equations. Casting doubt on them using gauge invariance arguments should be put on the same ground as casting doubt on Kasner solution of Einstein equations using general covariance reasons. Nothing worth to spend time on but a poor excuse to ignore a good work.

Exact solutions of Yang-Mills theory: The situation


Some time passed by since Terry Tao was so kind to take a look to my work. His concern about a main theorem in my paper, the so called mapping theorem, was motivated by the fact that no proof exists that there are common solutions between Yang-Mills equations and the one of the quartic scalar field. This point is quite crucial as, if such solutions do not exist, I cannot do any claim about Yang-Mills theory.

Some people are in confusion yet about this matter and I find occasionally someone, e.g. the Czech guy, claiming that my paper is false also after I have proved that such solutions exist.

Of course, Terry meant to point out a weakness in the proof given in my paper as I gave no evidence whatsoever of the form of these solutions and so the proof is, at least, incomplete. My next preprint proved that such solutions indeed exist and my argument is true already at level of perturbation theory. The conclusion is straightforward: Smilga’s choice select a class of common solutions between Yang-Mills equations and a quartic scalar field. I have not presented them explicitly in my paper and this is the reason why all this arguing was started. Terry’s suggestion was to complete the proof  and this I have done.

Curiously enough, I was able to see such solutions only in the Smilga’s book. I think this was Smilga’s idea and was also my source of inspiration.  I was in need of these solutions to treat classical Yang-Mills equations with a gradient expansion against a lot of unmanageable chaotic solutions. I would like to remember here that this approach is quite common in physics. For interested readers, I invite them to look at this beautiful Wikipedia entry about BKL solution. This is the way this approach is used in general relativity with a widespread example as the Kasner solution. This is an exact solution of Einstein equations that depends solely on time. Exactly as happens to the solutions obtained by a Smilga’s choice from Yang-Mills equations. Indeed, I suspect that Kasner solution may be helpful to quantize Einstein equations in the infrared limit. Currently I have no time to exploit this but I have given a hint about here.

Dmitry Podolsky (see his blog here) hit correctly the point when asked for the fate of chaotic solutions in the infrared quantum field theory. Presently, the fact that they are not relevant has the status of a conjecture: No quantum field theory can be built out of classical chaotic solutions. I do not even know how to face this kind of question as no closed form chaotic solutions exist to start from.

Finally, this gives the current situation about this matter. My paper that started all this is correct and in agreement with current lattice results. People’s mood about lattice computations range from fully convinced to skeptical.  My view is that they represent correctly the infrared physics at hand but I am a supporter of these people working on lattice computations and so, my judgement should not be counted.


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