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Quantum Field Theory and Strings for Mathematicians

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Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 20

Edward Witten

In this semester we will continue the discussion of quantum eld theory, but

now mostly dynamics rather than perturbation theory and purely formal things.

The topics we will discuss are much more dicult to deal with rigorously than the

formal theory we studied in the fall semester. We will try to do it when possible,

but it will not always be possible. In general, we will try to form an intuitive picture

of what is going on, and illustrate it by considering concrete examples.

1.0. Theories and realizations. [This section is explanatory and was written

by the preparers of these notes in order to create a false sense of security i.e. an

unsubstantiated feeling that we understand what we are talking about in the rest

of the lecture. Unfortunately, this is not the case, at least if \understand" means

what it usually means among mathematicians.]

For the purposes of the present and forthcoming lectures, it will be important

for us to distinguish theories and their realizations. So let us explain what we

mean by a theory and what we mean by its realization. This explaination is not a

mathematical denition (in fact, it is hard to give a denition which is both rigorous

and useful), but we hope that it will make clear what we are talking about.

Recall that a classical physical system is usually described by dening the

space of states X of (a symplectic manifold, maybe innite-dimensional) and a 1-

parameter group gt of time translations which preserves symplectic structure. Then

gt produces a Hamiltonian ow, which is dened (ignoring topological problems)

by a Hamiltonian function H . This function is called the Hamiltonian, or energy

function of the system. One should remember that H is dened only up to adding

a (locally) constant function.

In most examples, H is bounded from below. In such a case, H is always

normalized in such a way that the innum of H on (each connected component of)

X is zero.

In this situation, by a theory we mean a pair (X; H ), where X is a symplectic

manifold, and H : X ! R the energy function, dened up to a (locally) constant

function. By a vacuum state of this theory we mean a lowest energy equilibrium

state x 2 X of the system , i.e. a state where the energy functional H attains a

global minimum.

The same theory can have dierent vacuum states. For example, if we have a

particle on the line with potential energy U (x) = g (x a ) , then the space X

2 2 2

4!

2

is the phase plane R with coordinates (x; p), the Hamiltonian is p + U (x), and

2

2

Typeset by AMS-TEX

Often a classical system can be described by a Lagrangian L, dened on some

space of elds S on the spacetime V . In this case its space of states is the space

X S of extremals of L. As we have seen before, the space X carries a natural

closed 2-form !, which is nondegenerate, and thus denes a symplectic structure

on X . Also, the group of time translations acts on X and preserves !. Therefore,

the
ow on X generated by this 1-parameter group is Hamiltonian, and is dened

by a Hamiltonian function H .

However, one should remember that the description of a theory by a Lagrangian

is not intrinsic, since dierent Lagrangians dened on dierent spaces of elds

S mayR dene the same theory. Indeed, consider, for example, the Lagrangian

L = x0 (t) dt=2 dened on S = C 1(R; M ), where M is a Riemannian manifold.

1

2

1

This Lagrangian denes the geodesic
ow. The space of states in this case is

T M , and the Hamiltonian

R 0 function is p =2. On the other hand, we can

2

write the

Lagrangian L = ( x (t)p(t)+ p (t)=2)dt dened on the space S = C (R; T M ).

2

2

2

1

It is easy to see that these two Lagrangians dene the same theory.

We will consider relativistically invariant theories (X; H ), i.e. theories with an

action of the Poincare group P on X , which preserves the symplectic structure

(in the case when the system is dened by a Lagrangian, the group P acts on S

and preserves the Lagrangian, and therefore, it acts on X preserving the Poisson

structure). The group of time translations is a subgroup of P, so P also preserves

the energy function H . In this case, when we talk about vacuum states of the

theory (X; H ), we mean a vacuum state invariant under P.

Recall that to dene a symplectic manifold X is the same thing as to dene

the Poisson algebra A = C 1(X ) (X can be reconstructed as the spectrum of A).

Therefore, we may say that a theory is a pair (A; H ), where A is a Poisson algebra

and H 2 A. The Poisson algebra A is called the algebra of observables of the

system.

Now let us consider quantum systems. The denition of a theory in this case

is similar to the classical case. Namely, we will dene a quantum theory to

be a pair (A; H ), where A is a *-algebra (not necessarily commutative), and H is

a selfadjoint element of A, dened up to adding a real number. The algebra A is

called the algebra of quantum observables (operators). The element H , as before, is

called the Hamiltonian. Everything here is dependent on a real positive parameter

~ (the Planck constant).

By a realization (or solution) of a quantum theory (A; H ) we will mean an

irreducible *-representation of the algebra A in some Hilbert space H, such that the

spectrum of the operator H is bounded from below (representations are considered

up to an isomorphism which preserves H ). We will always normalize H so that

the lowest point of its spectrum is zero. The space H is called the quantum space

of states of the system (in this realization). Of course, as in the classical case, the

same theory can have dierent realizations, as the same algebra can have dierent

representations.

As we have mentioned, we will be interested in relativiatically invariant theories,

i.e. theories with an action of the Poincare group on A, so that the subgroup of

time translations acts by a ! eitH=~ ae itH=~ . When we talk about realizations

of such a theory, we will assume that P acts in H by unitary operators, with the

group of time translations acting by eitH=~.

2

By a vacuum state we mean a vector

2 H such that Hv = 0. In a rela-

tivistically invariant situation, a vacuum state is the same thing as a P-invariant

vector.

Remark. In general, as we will see, an irreducible realization of a theory can

have many vacuum states. Therefore, the notions of a realization and of a vacuum

state are not equivalent. However, if the algebra of observables is commutative (

i.e. in the classical theory), each irreducible representation of this algebra is 1-

dimensional, and there is no real dierence between the notions of a realization and

a vacuum state. Therefore, the word \realization" is not usually used when one

refers to the classical theory.

Suppose that we have a classical theory (A ; H ) which has been quantized, and

0 0

~-dependent family we mean a family depending on the dimensionless parameter

~=S , where S is a characteristic scale of action). This means that we have a

quantization map { some linear map A ! A, given by a ! a^, such that H^ = H ,

0 0

0 0

a; bg + o(~), ~ ! 0. In this case, we will say that a state v 2 H

of norm 1 is localized near a classical solution x 2 X = SpecA if for any a 2 A

hv; a^vi ! a(x), ~ ! 0.

0 0

Let us now explain the connection between the classical and the quantum no-

tions of a vacuum state. Suppose we have a quantum vacuum state

of norm

1 which is localized near a classical state x. In this case x is a classical vacuum

state. Indeed, H (x) = lim~! h

; H

i = 0, and for any F 2 A fF; H g(x) =

^ H ]

i = 0, so x is a stationary point of H .

0 0 0 0

lim~! i~ h

; [F;

1

Remark. Note any quantum vacuum state is localized near a classical vacuum

0 0

state. Sometimes a quantum vacuum state is \spread" with some density over the

set of classical vacuum states. We will see examples of this in today's lecture.

Given a quantum theory (A; H ), it is convenient to represent its realizations by

correlation functions. Namely, given a realization H of this system, and a vacuum

state

2 H, we can dene correlation functions h

; L :::Ln

i, where Li 2 A.

Since the action of A in H is irreducible, the realization H can be completely

1

Remark. The irreducibility condition is not always satised in physically inter-

esting examples. But here for simplicity we will assume that it is satised.

Sometimes a quantum system can be dened by a Lagrangian. Of course, as in

the classical case, this is not always possible, and if possible, not in a unique way.

However, such a presentation is very convenient for understanding the behaviour

of the system. So let us explain (on examples) how to pass from a Lagrangian to

the Hamiltonian and the operator algebra.

We will start with the case of quantum mechanics, when the spacetime is just

the time line. Consider a Lagrangian for one boson:

Z (0 )

L = [ 2 U ()]dt:

2

0 0

[ ; 0 ] = i~; [H; ] = i~0 ; [H; 0 ] = i~U 0 ( ):

0 0 0 0 0 0

3

Dene the local operators (t) = eiHt=~ e iHt=~ , 0 (t) = eiHt=~ 0 e iHt=~ . It

follows from the above denition that d=dt = 0 , and satises the Newton's

0 0

dierential equation

00 (t) = U 0 ((t)):

The operators of the form F ((t); 0 (t)), where F is a polynomial, are called local

operators at t (we order products in such a way that 0 stands on the right from

).

The operator algebra is spanned (topologically) by operators (t ):::(tn). Thus,

1

operators { the correlation functions.

In any realization of the theory, the Hamiltonian is given by the following explicit

formula:

H = 21 (0 ) + U () + C:

2

Indeed, the dierence of the left and the right hand sides of this equation commutes

with and 0, so by irreducibility it acts by a scalar.

Now consider quantum eld theory. We rst consider the theory in a spacetime

V = L R, where L is a lattice (nite or innite). Let rL be the discrete gradient

operator on the lattice. Consider a Lagrangian

XZ 1

L= dt[ 2 (t (x; t) (rL (x; t)) ) U ((x; t))]

2 2

x2L

In this case the operator algebra is generated by operators (x; 0); t (x; 0), x 2 L,

and H , satisfying the commutation relations

[(x; 0); t (x; 0)] = i~; [H; (x; 0)] = i~t(x; 0);

[H; t (x; 0)] = i~[ L(x; 0) + U 0 ((x; 0))];

(where L is the lattice Laplacian) and such that (x; 0); 0 (x; 0) commute with

(y; 0); 0 (y; 0) if x 6= y (causality). The local operators (x; t); 0 (x; t) are dened

as above. (Observe that since H does not commute with , for t 6= t the operators

1 2

1 1 2 2

As before, the operator algebra is spanned by the operators (x ; t ):::(xn ; tn).

1 1

erators { the correlation functions.

As in the case of quantum mechanics, in any realization we can compute P the

Hamiltonian explicitly. Namely, the Hamiltonian is of the form H = x2L Hx,

where Hx = (t (x; 0) + (rL (x; 0)) ) + U ((x; 0)) + Cx.

1 2 2

2

problematic, since the sum over L may be divergent. However, since commutators

of H with other operators are well dened, one may hope that the constants Cx

can in fact be adjusted in such a way that the sum converges. This is indeed true

in many situations.

Now let us consider eld theory in continuous spacetime. In this case the operator

algebra and the Hamiltonian are dened similarly to the case of discrete space,

4

which was considered above. Namely, the operator algebra will be generated by

the operators (x; 0), t(x; 0), and also Hb, b 2 p, where p is the Lie algebra of the

Poincare group P, with the commutation relations between , t and Hb similar

to the above.

However, we will face an additional problem { now expressions like (x; t) may

2

not be well dened, because of ultraviolet divergences. This problem can be cured

by the ultraviolet renormalization theory, which we discussed last semester, if the

Lagrangian we started with was renormalizable. In this case, the algebra of local

operators is not quite an algebra, but an OPE algebra (an algebra with operator

product expansion). It is almost never possible to compute the structure constants

of this algebra exactly (rational conformal eld theory in 2 dimensions is the main

exception), but it is possible to compute them in perturbation expansion to any

nite order. In general, for continuous space we have additional analytic diculties

(compared to the case of discrete space), but they will not be very important in

the present lecture, so we will not discuss them here. We will just need the rough

general picture, which has been outlined in this introduction.

Finally, let us say what we will mean by a vacuum for a quantum theory (A; H ).

We will mean by a vacuum for (A; H ) one of two, roughly equivalent, things:

1. A linear functional h; i : A ! C on the operator algebra (the expectation

value), which satises some eld theory axioms (e.g. axioms for Wightman func-

tions);

2. A realization H of (A; H ) together with a vacuum state

, normalized to

unity.

The passage from 2 to 1 is trivial, and the passage from 1 to 2 is a part of the

general formalism of eld theory (see Kazhdan's lecture 1).

In general, a vacuum is not the same thing as a realization, since the same

realization can have dierent vacua. For example, in the theory of Dirac operator

on a manifold the space of vacua is the space of harmonic spinors. However, in a

Wightman eld theory in innite volume, one can show that any realization has

exactly one vacuum state.

1.1. What is symmetry breaking, and why it does not happen in

quantum mechanics.

Suppose we have some classical physical theory (A; H ), which has a symmetry

group G. Let us ask the following question: does this theory have a G-invariant

vacuum state?

If we have a quantum theory (A; H ), which has a symmetry group G, then the

correct analogue of this equestion is: does this theory have a G-invariant realization?

If the answer is no, one says that the symmetry is broken. If the answer is yes,

one says that the symmetry is preserved.

In classical mechanics and classical eld theory symmetry breaking can easily

happen. For example, consider a classical particle of mass 1 on the line whose

potential energy is U (x) = g(x a ) =4!, where a > 0; g > 0. The space of

2 2 2

states of this particle is the plane with coordinates x; p, and its Hamiltonian is

p2 + U (x). There is an action of the group G = Z=2Z on the space of states,

by (x; p) ! ( x; p), which preserves the equations of motion, and there are two

2

lowest energy states: s = (a; 0); s = ( a; 0), which are permuted by G. But

+

5

In quantum mechanics, symmetry breaking does not occur. This is a simple,

but nontrivial and very important result. Let us show why this is true in the case

of quantum mechanics of bosons, with a real Lagrangian. In this case, the opera-

tor algebra is generated by operators xi ; pi , i = 12; :::; n, satisfying the Heisenberg

algebra relations, and has a Hamiltonian H = p + U (x). There is a realization

of the theory in H = L (Rn), with xi acting by multiplication by the coordinate

2

2

symmetry group G of the potential U also acts in H. Thus, symmetry breaking

does not occur.

Remark. In fact, according to the Stone-von-Neumann theorem, H is the unique

realization of the theory.

In the case of bosons with real Lagrangian we can in fact make a stronger state-

ment. Namely, not only is the realization unique, but the vacuum is also unique

(and therefore invariant under any symmetry group of U ). For simplicity we will

show it in the case of only one boson on the line, but the argument we will give

generalizes to any number of bosons in a space of any dimension.

We will consider a single boson on the line, in a eld with potential U (x) as

above.

Theorem 1.1. Let H = dxd22 + U (x) be any Schrodinger operator, such that the

1

potential U (x) tends to +1 at innity (so that H has discrete spectrum). Let E be

2

2 L (R) (called the vacuum state wave function) such that H = E .

2

0

2

Z 1 1

(1.1) (f; Hf ) = 0

jf (x)j + U (x)jf (x)j dx

2 2

1 2

Thus, is dened by the condition that it is a global minimum point for the energy

functional E (f ) := (f; Hf ) on the sphere jjf jj = 1. The proof of uniqueness of

rests on the following Lemma.

Lemma. If is a real global minimum point of (1.1) than has constant sign.

Proof of the Lemma. Let E ( ) = E . Suppose that changes sign at the point

0

have 0 (x ) 6= 0. Consider the function j j. It is clear that E (j j) = E ( ) = E ,

0 0

0 0

and thus cannot be the global minimum of E . So, the smallest value of E on the

sphere is less than E { a contadiction.

0

is more than 1-dimensional, then there exist two linearly independent, orthogonal

real solutions ; . On the other hand, both of them have to be of constant sign,

so ( ; ) 6= 0 { a contradiction.

1 2

1 2

theory, arises in the quasiclassical limit. For this purpose, we should introduce the

Planck's constant ~, and consider the ~-dependent Hamiltonian

(1.2) H = ~2 dx

2

d + U (x);

2

6

where U (x) = g(x a ) =4!. Let E ; E be the lowest eigenvalues of H in the space

2 2 2

0 1

0 1

We assume that , have unit norm, and are normalized in such a way that

(0) > 0, 0 (0) > 0. It is easy to show in the same way as above that

0 1

0 1

1

= p ( + ), +

1

2

0 1

=p (1

0 ). 1

2

p

Theorem 1.2. (i) As ~ ! 0, E ; E a~ g=4!, and E E Ce S0 =~ , where

0 1 1 0

S is a positive constant.

0

(1.3) lim

~!

j j = (x a):

0

2

This theorem shows that for very small ~, although there is only one lowest

energy state with energy E , there is another stationary state with energy

0 0 1

E almost indistinguishable from the lowest one, and in the 2-dimensional space

1

spanned by ; , there are two orthogonal states , localized near the clas-

0 1 +

sical equilibrium states a; a. The states , are not stationary (i.e. are not

+

order in ~ (in fact, the angle between H and is dominated by conste S0 =~ . In

particular, symmetry restoration in quantum theory is not seen at the perturbation

theory level.

Thus, we have seen how symmetry is lost in the quasiclassical limit. One can

consider this eect from a slightly dierent prospective, by looking how symmetry

appears in the process of quantization.

Recall that we have two classical lowest-energy states a; a, near which the

operator H looks approximately like a harmonic oscillator. Therefore, we can look

for eigenfunctions of H perturbatively, in the form

(1.4)

~ (x) = f ( xp a ); f (z) = (~) = g = e pgz2 = (1 + u (z)~ = + u (z)~ + :::)

1 4 1 8 2

1

1 2

2

~

(the 0-th term of this expansion is the lowest eigenfunction of the harmonic oscil-

lator). It is easy to see that the real \eigenfunction" of the form (1.4), normalized

to have unit norm, is unique for each sign.

Now, one can see the following.

(i) The formal series f (z) do not p converge. However, they represent asymptotic

expansions of actual functions (z ~ a) (where are as above), which are

smooth from the right in ~ on [0; 1), but not analytic.

(ii) The formal series ~ (x) are eigenfunctions of H with the same eigenvalue.

On the other hand, the actual functions (x) are not eigenvectors of H , although

their failure to be ones is exponentally small. The actual lowest eigenvector of

H is unique up to a factor, and equals = p ( + ). In particular, it is

0

1

+

G-invariant, unlike , .

2

(iii) Let W n(t ; :::; tn), W n(t ; :::; tn) be the correlation functions computed per-

1 1

+

+ +

7

do not serve as small ~ asymptotic expansions of the correlation functions of any

realization of our quantum theory. However, the averages (W n + W n) do serve as 1

+

2

This shows how symmetry appears in quantization, when one goes from the

perturbative to the nonperturbative setting.

1.2. Still no symmetry breaking in quantum eld theory in nite

volume.

Before going over to quantum eld theory, we will give one more argument, at the

physical level of rigor, which shows why there is no symmetry breaking in quantum

mechanics (this argument is more of an explanation than a proof). It is based on

the path integral approach. It does not use representation theory of the Heisenberg

algebra, nor the positivity of the vacuum wave function, and has the advantage

that it also works for quantum eld theory on a spacetime with a \space" part of

nite volume.

As before, we will consider the Z=2Z-symmetric quartic potential U (x). Suppose

that symmetry breaking were the case. Then the two perturbative vacua ~ ; ~ +

lowest eigenstates ; of the Hamiltonian, in two dierent realizations of the

theory, H ; H . Consider the space H = H H . The vectors ; 2 H are

+

+ + +

\localized" near a; a, and are orthogonal to each other. Thus, the inner product

( ; e Ht=~ ) must vanish. Let us now compute the same inner product using

+

path integrals.

Recall Feynman-Kac formula:

Z

(1.5) (x1 ; e Ht=~ x ) = e S =~ D;

( )

2

;t !R ;

:[0 ] (0)= x1 ; t x2

( )=

where

Zt1

(1.6) S () = [ 2 (0 ) + U ()]ds:

2

a; a after a suitable normalization). So, if we believe the Feynman-Kac formula in

this situation, we can substitute (x a), (x + a) instead of them, and apply the

Feynman-Kac formula. Using the small ~ stationary phase estimate on the right

hand side of (1.5), we will get

(1.7) ( ; e tH=~ ) Ce S t =~;

+

( )

where S(t) is the least possible action of a path : [0; t] ! R such that (0) =

a; (t) = a.

The least action S(t) is attained at a classical trajectory = ( ), which is

a solution of the Euler-Lagrange dierential equation, i.e. the Newton's equation

00 = g ( a ) with boundary conditions (0) = a, (t) = a. (Such a solution

2 2

6

Remark. The function x = ( ) describes the motion of a ball in the potential

eld with potential U (x) (a camel's back), from one hump to the other. The

8

initial velocity of the ball is such that the time needed to go from the top of one

hump to the top of the other is t. The reason that the potential U (x) is replaced

here by U (x) is that we are doing a Euclidean path integral, which means that we

performed a Wick rotation t ! it. This rotation transforms the Newton's equation

for the potential U into the Newton's equation for the potential U .

Formula (1.7) contradicts the fact that ( ; e Ht=~ ) vanishes. So our assump-

+

Remark. Formula (1.7) actually gives the correct estimate of the inner product

( ;e

+

tH ). In particular, S = S (1). This estimate can be conrmed by

0

rigorous methods.

In this argument, we have never used the fact that , are functions on the

+

real line. All we used is that they are \localized" near classical equilibrium states

a; a, i.e. that for any local observable A the expectation value of A on is close

to the value of the corresponding classical observable at the point (a; 0) in the

phase space. Thus, our argument is independent of the realization of the space of

states as L (R). This makes it easy to generalize this argument to the case of eld

2

theory.

Consider a spacetime M R, where M is the \space". We will assume that we

have already performed a Wick rotation, so that the metric on the spacetime is a

Riemannian product metric. We will assume that the volume of M is nite and

equals V .

Consider the eld theory on M R with one scalar Bose eld , described by

the Euclidean Lagrangian

Z 1

(1.8) L = ( 2 (r) + U ())dx;

2

states a; a.

Now consider this theory quantum mechanically. Then we can see that there is

still no symmetry breaking. The simplest way to see it is to consider rst a discrete

space M . In this case, the operator algebra is a nite tensor product of Heisenberg

algebras corresponding to points of M , so it is a Heisenberg algebra itself, and the

representation-theoretic argument the we used in the case of quantum mechanics

shows that symmetry breaking does not occur.

However, it is more instructive to use the path integral argument. As before,

assume that symmetry breaking occurs. Then we have two realizations H , H ,

and two orthogonal quantum vacua

2 H = H H whic are \localized" near

+

; (x ):::(xn)

i !

+

(a)n , ~ ! 0.

1

; e tH=~

) vanishes.

+

On the other hand, computing it using the Feynman-Kac formula, we will get

(1.9) (

; e tH=~

) e S t V=~;

+

( )

where S(t) is as above. The reason is that the least action is attained on the

(; ) = ( ), 2 M , 2 R.

space-independent classical solution M

9

Since (1.9) is nonzero (here it is essential that the volume V is nite), we get a

contradiction.

As in quantum mechanics, we can dene two sets of correlation functions W n,

W n, evaluated by using perturbation theory near the lowest energy points a; a (of

+

course, we can only dene them in the renormalizable case, i.e. in 4 dimensions and

below; also, one should remember that renormalization is not uniquely determined).

Our reasonings show that W n , W n are not small ~ expansions of the correlation

+

functions of a realization of our quantum theory. On the other hand, the functions

W n = (W n + W n) have a chance to be asymptotic expansions of the actual

0

1

+

2

For dim(M ) = 1; 2 the existence of the quantum theory H has been established

in constructive eld theory. In this case, it is possible to show that there exists

a G-invariant vacuum

, such that the correlation functions of the theory with

0

respect to

indeed have the asymptotic expansion given by W n.

1.3. Symmetry breaking in quantum eld theory in innite volume.

0 0

When the volume V of the space M becomes innite, the arguments of the previ-

ous section fail. The representation-theoretic argument fails, because the canonical

representation of the operator algebra, whioch we used in the case of nite volume,

is now an innite tensor product of spaces corresponding to points; so we have

to make sense of it, and there may be no G-invariant way of doing so. The path

integral argument also fails. Indeed, the right hand side of (1.9) vanishes, so both

computations of (

; e tH=~

) give the same answer, and we can derive no con-

tradiction. Moreover, if we assume that we have a representation H of the operator

+

;

, then using the formula

Z

+

(1.10) h

; (x )::::(xn)

( )

X !R ;!a;t!1

1 1

:

where x = (; it) for x = (; t), we infer that the inner product (1.10) vanishes

for any x ; :::; xn . This shows that the space H splits in an orthogonal direct sum:

H = H H , where the spaces H are the Hilbert spaces of separate realizations

1

;

. This means, symmetry breaking could occur, like

+

in the classical theory: quantum eects are not strong enough to restore symmetry.

This is what in fact happens in quantum eld theory. More precisely, the situa-

tion is the following.

(i) If the symmetry group G is a nite group, symmetry can be broken in innite

volume starting with spacetime dimension 2. For example, in the example we

considered symmetry breaking does occur.

(ii) If the symmetry group G is a connected Lie group, symmetry breaking can

occur starting with spacetime dimension 3. The fact that it does not occur in

dimension 2 is a remarkable and a very important fact, which we will discuss in the

next section. This fact was proved by S.Coleman in 1973 (see S.Coleman's paper,

CMP, vol. 31, page 259).

Thus, symmetry breaking is an \infrared" eect, associated with the behavior

of the theory at large distances.

1.4. Innite volume asymptotics of correlation functions.

Let us see how symmetry is broken in the innite volume limit of nite volume

quantum eld theories. We will assume that M is a torus Tr = (R=rZ)d , and r ! 1

10

1. In the limit, we hope to recover a Poincare invariant eld theory corresponding

to our Lagrangian. However, as we know, there are two such theories: H and H . +

Let us formulate the question more precisely. Consider the correlation functions

Wrn, corresponding to the eld theory with space being the torus Tr . Let also

W n; W n be the correlation functions of the theories H , H . The question is,

what is the asymptotics of Wrn as r ! 1, in terms of W n, W n?

+ +

The answer is: there exists an r-dependent normalization constant C (r) such

+

that

(1.11) lim C ( r ) W n = 1 (W n + W n ):

r!1 r 2 +

R

Now consider a eld theory dened by a Lagrangian L = ( (r) )+ U ())dn x, 1 2

where U () is a general potential, with a nite symmetry group G. Suppose that

2

1

U (ai ) = 0. Consider rst the quantum eld theory with space being the torus of

volume V = rd . We have seen that there is one realization H of this theory, and it

1

has certain correlation functions Wrn. On the other hand, in innite volume we will

have m dierent realizations H ; :::; Hm, with correlation functions W n; :::; Wmn .

Let us consider the asymptotics of Wrn as r ! 1. The answer is the following:

1 1

(1.12) lim C ( r ) W n = 1 X W n;

r!1 r m i

This shows that the limit of normalized nite volume correlation functions may,

in general, fail to satisfy the cluster decomposition axiom, (see Kazhdan's lectures).

This story can be slightly generalized. Namely, we can make M a ball of radius r,

and impose some boundary conditions B on elds at the boundary of the spacetime.

This means, we will dene correlation functions by the formula

Z

Wrn(B)(x

1 ; :::; xn ) = (x ):::(xn)e

1

S

( )

D:

satisfying boundary conditions

X

(1.12) lim C (r)Wrn (B) =

r!1

pi Win;

The collection of numbers pi represents the \density" with which the quantum

vacuum in nite volume is spread over the set of classical minima (=quantum

vacua in innite volume). This density depends on the boundary conditions. The

word \density" should not be taken literally, however, because the numbers pi are

in general complex numbers.

If we take the simplest boundary condition = ai , then in the limit we will get

the correlation functions Win (i.e. pi = 1; pj = 0, i 6= j ), so we get purely the i-th

vacuum. However, if we impose some other boundary condition, we will, in general,

get a mixture of vacua.

11

For example, in the case of Z=2Z-invariant quartic potential, we can impose

boundary conditions = a, = a, or = 0 (do not worry that the action of

all elds in the third case is innite; since we are considering a normalized path

integral, i.e. divided by the partition function, this innity will cancel). Let Wrn(s)

are the corresponding correlation functions s = a; a; 0. Then in the rst case

p = 1; p = 0 (as it it hard to get from the boundary anywhere except a with a

+

small action), in the second case p = 0; p = 1 (for a similar reason), and in the

+

1.5. Continuous symmetry breaking.

+

Now we will consider symmetry breaking in quantum eld theory, when the

symmetry group is a connected Lie group. The typical example is a complex valued

Bose eld , and the Lagrangian

Z

(1.13) L() = ddx 1 jrj + (jj

2

2 2

a) :2 2

we have lowest energy states = aei , 2 [0; 2), so we have symmetry breaking.

We will try to nd out whether symmetry breaking exists also in the quantum

theory.

Above we showed that symmetry breaking does not occur in the 1-dimensional

case (quantum mechanics). We did it for the case of a real boson , but for the

complex boson the argument (with path integral) works even better. For instance,

for Lagrangian (1.13) the set of classical minima of energy is the circle jj = a, which

is connected. Therefore, to go from one classical minimum, aei1 , to another, aei2 ,

one does not need to go over the \hump" of the potential, and can go along the

circle of minima, so one can do it with even less action than before. Therefore,

the path integral computation described above would show that in the complex

case there is even more linking between the states ; than in the real case.

+

This eect might make us think that perhaps in eld theory, continuous symmetry

breaking does not happen as easily as discrete symmetry breaking. And indeed, it

turns out that continuous symmetry breaking cannot happen in two dimensions,

and can happen only in dimensions 3.

Unfortunately, the path integral method is too crude to show that continuous

symmetry breaking does not occur in 2 dimensions. Indeed, it is easy to see that all

paths in the integral which computes (

; e tH

) have innite action in innite

+

is preserved in 2 dimensions and broken above 2 dimensions by considering the

simplest example.

The simplest example is the theory of a free massless real scalar Bose eld in d

dimensions, dened by the Lagrangian

Z

(1.14) L () = ddx( 21 (r) ):

0

2

This theory has a translation symmetry ! + c. Let us show that this symmetry

is broken for d > 2, and preserved for d = 2.

12

For d > 2, symmetry breaking is obvious. Indeed, in this case we have a Wight-

man eld theory generated by an elementary eld , satisfying Wightman axioms

(see Kazhdan's lectures). In this theory, the 1-point function of the operator is

zero, while the 1-point function of the operator + c is c. Therefore, the trans-

formation ! + c does not preserve the 1-point function. This shows, that in

the case d > 2 we in fact have not a single realization, but a family of realizations

Hc parametrized by points c of the line. The theory Hc is dened by the condition

that h

c ;

ci = c, where

c is the vacuum of Hc . The vacuum

c is \localized"

near the classical equilibrium state c. The map ! + c transforms Hb to Hb c. +

For d = 2, the situation is not the same. The problem is that the operator is

not dened in 2 dimensions, although its derivatives are. Indeed, in 2 dimensions,

we have

(1.15) h@(x)@(y)i = @x @y ln jx yj;

so if the operator was dened in some way, we would have

(1.16) h(x)(y)i = ln jx yj + C;

which contradicts positivity (the function on the RHS of (1.16) is not positive).

Let us say this more precisely. What we have in 2 dimensions is a quantum

eld theory generated by a Wightman map from Schwarz functions to operators,

which is dened not on the whole space of Schwarz functions S (V ) but only on the

space S (V ) of Schwarz functions on V with integral zero. Then derivatives of

0

@i (f ) = (@i f )

R

(the right hand side makes sense since @i f = 0).

However, in the theory dened by such the question of symmetry breaking

does not arise, since there is no symmetry to begin with: on the space S (V ), the

0

maps and + c are the same. So, in order to raise the question about symmetry

breaking, we should consider an extension of our operator algebra, which will have a

nontrivial action of symmetry. The most reasonable way of doing so is the following.

Instead of considering the theory of an R-valued massless scalar , we will con-

sider the theory of a circle-valued eld with the same Lagrangian. We take the

circle to be S = R=2Z. The Lagrangian is the same as before. In this case,

the local functional is not dened, but instead we have local functionals eik=,

k 2 Z. The local functionals in this theory are Laurent polynomials in ei= whose

coecients are dierential polynomials in the derivatives of the eld , but not in

itself. The translational symmetry in this theory is the U (1)-symmetry: for a

complex number z with jzj = 1, z eik= = zk eik= , and z acts trivially on the

derivatives of . Classically, this theory has a family of vacua (equilibrium states),

given by = c, c 2 S.

Let us show that in this system symmetry is not broken quantum-mechanically.

It is enough to show that the 1-point function h

; O(0)

i vanishes for any local

operator O of the form O = P ()eik= for k 6= 0. Let us show this in the case

13

P = 1 (in general, the proof is analogous). Proof: From the OPE in the free theory

(cf. Witten's lecture 3 from the fall term) we get

h

; O(x)O (0)

i = jxj k2 =2 ;

so this 2-point function vanishes at innity. But by clustering, the limit of this

function at innity is jh

; O(0)

ij . So, h

; O(0)

i = 0.

2

Another way to see that there is no symmetry breaking is as follows. The Hilbert

space of the quantized theory is of the form H = F

F

l (Z) = k2Z (F

F )k ,

2

this decomposition, while the operator eik= maps the space (F

F )k0 to (F

belongs to the zero component (F

F ) . This

+ 0

implies that all correlation functions of operators in this theory are invariant under

the action of U (1). In particular, heik= i = k , which shows that the vacuum

is

0

not \localized" near any classical vacuum but is \spread" uniformly over the space

S of classical vacua. Thus, symmetry under U (1) is not broken.

Remark 1. It is instructive to see why our argument that there is symmetry

breaking for d > 2 fails in nite volume, where, as we know, there should be no

symmetry breaking. The problem is that in nite volume the eld is not dened,

although its derivatives are. Indeed, since the spacetime is the product of a time

line with a compact space, at large distances in looks simply like a line, the 2-

point function of (which is the Green's function of the spacetime) at large jtj

looks like the 1-dimensional Green's function, i.e. jtj + C + o(1). This function

is not bounded from below, so it violates positivity. Moreover, as follows from

considering the case d = 2, the situation is the same if all spatial directions but one

are compactied.

Remark 2. Above we have considered the theory of a free massless scalar in

dimension d > 2 and found that its space of quantum vacua is the space of values of

(i.e. the target space R). More generally, if one considers the sigma-model with

spacetime Rd, d 2, and target space M (a Riemannian manifold), the space of

quantum vacua, as well as the space of classical vacua, will be M . (Here you should

forget for a moment that this sigma-model for nonlinear M is not renormalizable,

and so it is not clear what this statement means. We will clarify this point later.)

In particular, M as a Riemannian manifold can be recovered from the quantum

theory as moduli space of quantum vacua (see Remark 3 below).

On the other hand, we saw that for d = 2 the theory of a circle-valued eld

(which is the same as the 2-dimensional sigma-model with target space S) has

only one vacuum

. This is the case for 2-dimensional sigma-model in general: its

moduli space of quantum vacua is generally very small, and does not coincide with

the space of classical vacua (=the target space). In particular, the target space

cannot be recovered intrinsically from the quantum theory. For example, the circle

S cannot be recovered intrinsically from the theory of maps into S considered

above. This, in fact, happens for a good reason { one can show that the theories

attached to the circles S and S = are equivalent (for example, their partition

1

functions coincide { see Gawedzki's lecture 1, formula (9)). This is the starting

point for the theory of mirror symmetry.

Remark 3. Consider a eld theory with the Lagrangian L = R dd x( (r) + 1 2

2

14

function on M (U 0). Let M (0) is the set of zeros of U . Assume that M (0)

is nonempty and smooth, and that d U is nondegenerate on TxM=TxM (0) for

2

xes U , and acts transitively on M . In this case, one can show (at the physical

level of rigor) that the \infrared behavior" of the theory described by L is the same

0

as the \infrared behavior" of the sigma-model with target space being the space

M (0) of classical vacua. The precise meaning of this statement is explained in

Section 1.7. (We can ignore nonrenormalizability problems by dening the theories

by a cuto path integral, where integration is taken over elds dened on a lattice

with step , or over elds having only Fourier modes with jkj < , with respect

1

to some coordinate system; in this setting, the cuto is not sent to innity). This

fact can be explained heuristically: if a function has only low Fourier modes, it

cannot oscillate rapidly, so in order to have a small action and thus give a noticeable

contribution to the path integral, it has to stay closely to the minimum locus M (0),

i.e. has to be close to a map into M (0).

Thus, continuous symmetry breaking, being an infrared eect, will occur in the

theory described by L i it occurs in the corresponding sigma-model. So, as follows

from remark 2, symmetry breaking tends not to occur in dimension 2, but tends to

occur in dimension > 2.

These are, however, mostly heuristic arguments. In the next section we will

treat the issue of continuous symmetry breaking in a more systematic way, using

Goldstone's theorem.

1.6. Goldstone's theorem.

Recall the standard formalism of Noether's theorem and currents in classical

eld theory. Suppose we have a Lagrangian L = L() in a d-dimensional spacetime

V . Denote the space of solutions of the corresponding Euler-Lagrange equations

by X .

Let Gs be a 1-parameter symmetry group of this Lagrangian. Let D :=

d js Gs . We assume that D is a local functional of .

ds =0

Let 2

(X;

n (V )) be the canonical 1-form on the space of solutions that

1 1

was discussed in Bernstein's Rlectures and in Witten's problem sets (the canonical

2-form on X was dened as C dX , where C is an n 1-dimensional cycle). For

instance, the formula for for the free theory of a massless scalar is

(1.17) ()(x) = (x) d(x):

Let J 2

(X;

d (V )) be dened by the formula J = (D ). Since D is local,

0 1

d (V ). For instance,

1

then D = 1, so J (x) = d(x). The local functional J is called the current

corresponding to the symmetry Gs . The main property of the current is that it is

conserved, i.e. dV J = 0. This follows form the fact that dV = 0. R

In nite volume it is useful to dene the charge functional Q = C J (x), where

C is some spacelike cycle (e.g. t = const). Since the current is conserved, this

quantity is independent of the choice of the cycle,

R as long as it represents the

fundamental homology class of \space". If

= C dX is a nondegenerate 2-form

on X , then Q is a Hamiltonian which denes the symmetry group Gs , in the sense

15

that dsd js (Gs ) F = fF; Qg, where f; g is the Poisson bracket on S , and F any

=0

local functional on X .

In innite volume, the functional Q is not necessarily dened, since the integral

does not converge. In this case, it is convenient to set C = C = ft = 0g (here

0

we have chosen a time coordinate on the spacetime), and dene the \cuto charge

functional"

Z

(1.18) Qf = f (x)J (x);

C0

where f : C ! R is a Schwarz function. The limit limf ! Qf in this case does not

0 1

f! 1

f ds s =0

set, and all derivatives of f go to zero uniformly on the whole space.

In quantum theory, the story is the same, except that (local) functionals are

replaced with local operators, and Poisson bracket with commutator times i. That

is, to any one-parameter symmetry Gs there corresponds a d 1-form-valued

R local

operator J (x), which is conserved, and the charge operator Q = C J (x) (in nite

volume) has the property

(1.20) d j (Gs ) F:

[F; Q] = i ds s =0

The case of innite volume is dealt with in the same way as in the classical theory,

by considering cuto operators Qf .

Now we will discuss Goldstone's theorem. Suppose that the symmetry Gs in the

theory dened by L is broken not only classically but also quantum mechanically.

In this case, if we have a solution of the theory H (a Hilbert space with an action

of the operator algebra), then there exists a scalar local operator whose 1-point

function is not invariant under symmetry.

Remark. Strictly speaking, we only know that some n-point function is not

invariant; but in all known situations with symmetry breaking there is also a non-

invariant 1-point function.

Let Qf be the cuto charge operator for the symmetry Gs . We have

(1.21) h

j[Qf ; (0)]j

i 6= 0;

for f suciently close to 1. Thus, h

j[J (x)(0)]j

i 6= 0 for some x.

Consider the 2-point functions

(1.22) M (x) := h

jJ (x)(0)j

i; M (x) := h

j(0)J (x)j

i

+

+

16

R

Let H = p2V+ Hp be the spectral decomposition of H with respect to the ac-

tion of the translation group (here V is the positive part of the full light cone).

+

P of the inner product in a sum over intermediate states,

(hJ (x)

; (0)

i = nhJ (x)

; nihn; (0)

i), we get

Z

(1.23) M (x) = K (x; p)dp;

V+

where K (x; p); K (x; p) are the contributions to M ; M from intermediate states

+ +

Because of Lorentz invariance, the distributions K ; K look like +

(1.24) K = peipx ( p ); 2

This yields

Z1

(1.25) M (x) = i dV (m )Wm (x)dm ;

2 2

R 0

where Wm (x) = Om+ eipxdp is the Klein-Gordon propagator with mass m dened

in Lecture 1 last term (Om is the upper sheet of the hyperboloid p = m ).

+ 2 2

+

Z1

(1.26) M (x) = i dV ( (m ) (m ))Wm (x)dm :

+

2 2 2

x. This implies that = = , and so (1.25) yields

Z1

+

2 2

Dierentiating both sides of (1.27), at a point x such that x > 0, and using the 2

get

Z1

(1.28) m (m )(Wm (x) Wm( x))dm = 0:

2 2 2

(1.29) p ( p ) = 0:

2 2

2 2

otherwise we will prove that [J (x); (0)] has a zero expectation value at the vacuum,

which contradicts the assumption of symmetry breaking.

This argument shows that all contributions to the 2-point function h

; J (x)(0)

i

comes from intermediate states of zero mass. This implies that L (O ) is contained 2 +

0

less particle of zero spin. Thus, we have proved the following statement, which goes

under the name of Goldstone's theorem:

17

Theorem. In the Hilbert space of a realization of a eld theory with continu-

ous symmetry breaking, there is a massless scalar (i.e. a subrepresentation of the

Poincare group isomorphic to L (O )) which is created by the current of the broken

2 +

0

symmetry.

Remark. \Created" means that J (x)

is not orthogonal to the subrepresenta-

tion.

Denition. The massless scalar whichs we found is called the Goldstone boson

corresponding to the broken symmetry G .

Remark 1. If the symmetry with respect to Gs was not broken, then limf ! Qf

would be zero. On the other hand, when symmetry breaking occurs, Qf creates

Goldstone bosons from the vacuum. Thus, Goldstone bosons \measure" the failure

of symmetry.

Remark 2. The Goldstone boson can be created not only by the current oper-

ator of the symmetry, but also by other local operators. In fact, as we saw in the

proof of Goldstone's theorem, it will be created by any scalar local operator whose

1-point function is not invariant under the symmetry.

Remark 3. There is no claim in Goldstone's theorem that the Goldstone boson

is free, i.e. that it can be created by a free eld (x). In fact, as we will see, this

is often not the case.

Remark 4. If continuous symmetry breaking occurs classically, the Goldstone

boson can already be seen in perturbation theory. As an example consider La-

grangian (1.13). Consider the classical vacuum state = a. This vacuum state is

degenerate. Therefore, if we introduce real variables = Re a, = Im, and

1 2

rewrite the Lagrangian in terms of these variable, then because of the degeneracy of

the minimum the eld will be classically massless. Therefore, if we compute the

2

2

2

rameters). Of course, in principle loop terms might shift this pole. In other words,

the classically massless may get nonzero mass quantum-mechanically. What

2

Goldstone theorem tells us is that this will not happen if symmetry is broken.

Corollary from Goldstone theorem. Symmetry breaking does not happen in 2

dimensions.

Proof. Otherwise, by Goldstone's theorem Goldstone bosons would have to ex-

ist. But in a 2-dimensional quantum eld theory, there can be no massless particles

created by a local operator. Indeed,

R 1 d mthe

2

2-point function of this operator in mo-

mentum space equals w(k ) = k2 m2 , where is the spectral measure. If there

2 ( )

is a massless particle, this measure will have an atom at m = 0. But in this case

0 +

the 2-point function W (x) in position space will behave like C ln x at innity,

2

Now assume that we have a Lagrangian which has a Lie group G of symme-

tries. Assume that H is a realization of the quantum eld theory dened by this

Lagrangian, whose stabilizer is H G. In this case one says that in the realization

H, the G-symmetry is spontaneously broken to H .

Let g; h be the Lie algebras of G; H . Goldstone's theorem implies

Corollary. H contains in its discrete spectrum a subrepresentation isomorphic to

L (O )

(g=h).

2 +

0

18

Proof. The proof is clear: if this is not so than there exists an element Y 2 g,

Y 2= h, such that QYf

! 0 (weakly) when f ! 1. This means that the symmetry

with respect to Y is not broken { a contradiction.

The corollary means that Goldstone bosons corresponding to linearly indepen-

dent broken innitesimal symmetries are also linearly independent.

Example. Let : Rd ! RN be a scalar eld, and consider the Lagrangian

Z

(1.30) L() = dd x( 21 (r) + 4!g ( a ) ):

2 2 2 2

This Lagrangian has an SO(N )-symmetry, and the space of its classical vacua is

S N . Therefore, classically the SO(N )-symmetry is broken to SO(N 1). As we

1

know, if d > 2, the same will happen quantum mechanically (for a weakly coupled

theory), and so any realization (solution) of the theory has N 1 independent

Goldstone bosons.

Let P be the classical minimum with coordinates (0; 0; :::; 0; a). Consider the

realization HP of the theory, where the vacuum

is localized near P . Let Yi 2 soN ,

i = 1; :::; N 1, be the innitesimal rotations in the planes generated by basis vectors

ei ; eN of RN . The 1-point function of the operator i is not invariant under Yi, so

i creates the Goldstone boson corresponding to Yi.

We can construct low energy (non-vacuum) states localized near other classical

vacua than P . Indeed, let P 0 be another classical vacuum, and Y 2 so(N ) is an

element such that eY P = P 0 . Let JY be the current corresponding

Yf

to Y , and

Y iQ

Qf the corresponding cuto charge. Then the state e

is a low energy state

localized near P 0 .

At long distances the theory will behave as a sigma-model into the space of

classical vacua. This is an interesting statement for N 3, because in this case

the target (S N ) is not
at, so the sigma-model is not free. More precisely, at low

1

energies (or long distances), the theory of bosons i, i = 1; :::; N 1, will be free in

the zero approximation, but in the rst approximation it will not be free but will

be described by the Lagrangian of the sigma-model into the sphere.

1.7. Infrared behavior of purely non-renormalizable eld theories.

In this section we will clarify the meaning of the statement that for d > 2 a

quantum eld theory behaves in the infrared limit as a sigma-model into the space

of classical vacua.

Suppose we have a purely nonrenormalizable eld theory described by a La-

grangian L. We will call a Lagrangian purely nonrenormalizable if all its couplings

have negative dimension. An example of such a Lagrangian is the Lagrangian of

a sigma-model for d > 2. Such Lagrangians are not good for perturbative renor-

malization in the UV limit, but create no problem in the IR limit, since all their

interactions are IR irrelevant from the point of view of the Wilsonian renormaliza-

tion group
ow. Namely, if we introduce an UV momentum cuto (which is now

not being sent to innity), we can dene correlation functions of L perturbatively:

the correlation function is the sum of amplitudes of all Feynman diagrams, which

are evaluated as usual, with integration carried out with cuto jqj < . Because L

has no mass terms, there will be some IR divergences, but they can be dealt with

in the same way as we dealt with UV divergences in Lectures 1-3 last semester.

19

Moreover, since the theory is purely non-renormalizable, only nitely many graphs

will be divergent for each number of external legs (like in a superrenormalizable

theory in UV renormalization).

Now suppose that we want to compute the asymptotic expansion of the n-point

function

P in momentum representation, around the point ki = 0. We will have (for

ki = 0):

(1.31) Gn(k ; :::; kn) = k :::kn Gn(k ; :::; kn);

1 1

2 2 0

1

where Gn is a certain series, having a limit at ki = 0 (In general, this will not be a

0

The key property of this series, which follows from pure nonrenormalziability, is

that modulo terms of any nite power, it is determined by nitely many Feynman

graphs. Thus, we can obtain the IR asymptotics of the correlation functions to any

order in ki without having to sum the perturbation series.

Now suppose we have an actual quantum eld theory, given by some renormal-

izable Lagrangian L0 . When we say that the theory dened by L0 is described in

the IR limit by a purely nonrenormalizable Lagrangian L (on the same elds), we

mean that to a certain order in ki (near ki = 0), the functions Gn given by (1.31)

0

For instance, when at the end of the previous section we said that at low energies

(or long distances), the theory of bosons i , i = 1; :::; N 1, is free in the zero

approximation, and described by the Lagrangian of the sigma-model into the sphere,

Z X X X

L = dd x( 12 (ri) + R(

2

i )( (ri) ))

2 2

that the functions Gn(k ; :::; kn) for i are the same as in the free theory modulo

0

1

Computing higher terms of the k-expansion, one can construct a purely non-

renormalizable low energy eective theory, which will describe our theory in the

infrared to any required accuracy.

Remark. The restriction of the function Gn(k ; :::; kn) to the locus ki = 0 (but

1

2

0

of n Goldstone bosons in model (1.30) is like in the free theory for N = 2 (as the

circle is at), but has a quadratic correction due to curvature for N > 2.

20

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