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Quantum Field Theory and Strings for Mathematicians

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Edward Witten

December 17, 1996

I Introduction

In this lecture we shall extend the discussion from the last lecture to the case of signature

operators and Dirac operators on loop spaces.

sions

We shall consider the space (or rather the super-space) of maps of R2j2 to a nite dimensional,

complete riemannian manifold M of even dimension. Let u; v be the coordinates on the under-

lying space R2 of R2j2 and let + ; be the odd coordinates on this super manifold. The metric

on the underlying R2 is the at Minkowski metric ds2 = du dv. On R2j2 we have the vector

elds D+ and D given by

D+ = @@ + @u @;

+

and

D = @@ @:

@v

The Lagrangian that we consider is

Z

L = 12 d2dudv gIJ D+ X I D X J ;

R2j2

1

or written invariantly using the metric h ; iM on TM

Z Z

1 1

L = 2 2j2 d dudvhD+ X; D X iM = 2 2 dudv (D D+ hD+ X; D X iM ) j=0:

2

R R

Let us write the supereld out in coordinates as

X = x + + + + + + F

where x = X j=0 , = D (X)j=0 , and F = D D+ (X)j=0 . Integrating out the odd variables

yields

Z

1 @x @x 1

L = 2 dudv 2 h @u ; @v i + h + ; Du + i + h ; Dv i + 4 RIJKL I J K L

+ + + hF; F i :

R

Of course, when we consider the action since F appears purely quadratically and with no deriva-

tives we can simply integrate out these degrees of freedom introducing the condition that F = 0

as one of the equations of motion. From now on we drop this term.

The presence of the indenite form h @x @x

@u ; @v i indicates that neither u nor v can be used as

a time coordinate on R2. We switch coordinates letting (time coordinate) t = (u + v)=2 and

(space coordinate) be (u v)=2 with the metric ds2 = dt2 d2. We also allow the possibility

that the spatial direction has been made periodic so that it is a circle instead of a copy of R.

Under this change of coordinates we have

d d d

du = dt + d

d d d

dv = dt d

and analogously for covariant derivatives.

t u

v

Figure 1.

2

Rewriting the Lagrangian in these variables yields

Z

1

L = 2 2 dtd hx;_ x_ i + h + ; _ + i + h ; _ i

R

@x @x @ + @ 1

h @ ; @ i + h + ; @ i h ; @ i + 4 RIJKL I J K L

+ + :

The rst three terms, those involving the time derivatives, are the kinetic energy terms. The

other terms are potential terms.

As usual, we have symmetries of the Lagrangian associated with the right invariant vector

elds

Q+ = @@+ + + @u@

Q = @@ + + @v @:

Of course we have

@

Q2+ = @u

@:

Q2 = @v

III Quantization

Now that we have a time direction t it makes sense to quantize in the Hamiltonian framework.

In order to quantize we restrict to the slice t = 0. The elds should be viewed as spinors on

the slice t = 0 with values in x (TM) , or equivalently as half-densities on the slice with values

in S

x T M. In the case that the spatial direction is a circle, we can view as half-density

on S 1 with values in T (LM). Since we are taking periodic boundary values for the the spin

bundles S are trivial over the circle (i.e., give the non-bounding spin structure on S 1 .) We can

write Z

( + ; +)

t=0

as a well-dened quadratic form on the space of sections on the slice. Quantizing this innite

dimensional quadratic space yields a spin space. Since we are in innite dimensions now, the

spin space depends not only on the underlying quadratic space but also on a polarization (i.e.,

a self-annihilating subspace in the complexication). The subspace we choose is given by the

3

operator D=D acting on the spinors. Since space is now a circle, this operator has discrete

spectrum. For the spinors + we use the polarization coming from the negative eigenspaces plus

a polarization of the zero eigenspace. The choice of this latter polarization is irrelevant since it

is nite dimensional. For the spinors we choose the polarization consisting of the positive

eigenspaces of D=D plus a polarization for the zero eigenspace. The reason for these choices

will be apparent presently. We call the resulting spin spaces for the two types of spinors SR of

right-moving spinors (the + ) and SL of left-moving spinors (the ). The Hilbert space after

quantizing is the tensor product SR

SL . This gives us a model for the dierential forms on the

loop space

(LM). They are a type of middle dimensional forms in the sense that they are of

neither nite dimension nor codimension.

The Hamiltonian operator is a perturbation of the operator given by the purely quadratic

part of the kinetic plus potential energy. This operator derived from the quadratic energy terms

has pieces Z

H += D )

( + ; D +

S1

and Z

H = ( ; D ):

S1 D

Since we need these two operators to be bounded below, the choices we have made are forced

upon us (up to nite dimensional change which does not aect the result spin space).

The supersymmetries Q discussed above become operators after we quantize satisfying the

same relations they did before quantization. In addition, the operators Q commute with the

Hamiltonian H, which is associated with the vector eld

@ =1 @ + @ :

@t 2 @u @v

Associated to the vector elds Q are conserved quantities also denoted Q given by

Z

Q+ = ( + ; Du x)

S1

Z

Q = ( ; Dv x):

S1

Writing things out in local coordinates on M, we have

Z J J

I @x

Q+ = dgIJ + () @t + @ :@x

S1

4

Under quantization @xI =@t becomes igIJ =xJ (t) so that

Z

Q+ = d i +I xI(t) + ( ; d dx ) :

S1

The rst term in this last formula for Q+ is formally the Dirac operator for the free loop space

LM. The second term is needed to make the operator well-behaved quantum mechanically.

Recall that in the last lecture (in the nite dimensional S 1 -equivariant case) we had the operator

D + t V where D was the Dirac operator and V was the Killing vector eld of a circle action

(t is a real number and represents Cliord multiplication). In the case of the free loop space,

there is a natural circle action which rotates the parametrization on the domain circle. Its Killing

vector eld V is @@ so that the analogue of t V in this case is the second term in the last

expression for Q+ . Notice that there is no parameter here playing the role of t in the nite

dimensional discussion. If we tried to vary our operators replacing D=Du by D=Dt + D=D,

this would work ne as long as > 0 (of course once 6= 1 we would violate relativity, but that

is not relevant here), but when < 0 our Hamiltonian operators would no longer be bounded

below. To achieve this we would have to pick the opposite polarizations for the spinors, so our

operators and index theory would jump discontinuously in passing through = 0. This is the

basic reason that the vanishing results we will get for index theory on free loop space are weaker

than the nite dimensional vanishing theorem. Half of the S 1 -indices vanish in the loop space

case rather than all of them as in the nite dimensional case. In the language of our discussion

from last week, we are forced to keep t > 0 and hence can only show that half the indices vanish.

Of course, for a spin manifold M of nite, even dimension we have that the dierential forms

can be decomposed in terms of spinors (which we denote S(M)) by by

(M) = S(M)

S(M).

In general, in Riemannian geometry, there is a natural Dirac operator acting on sections of

S(M)

E where E is any vector bundle with connection. By setting E = S(M) and identifying

S(M)

V with S(M)

S(M) in either of two ways (which dier by exchange of the factors),

we have two Dirac operators acting on

(M). These coupled Dirac operators commute and are

given by D = d + d , using the Dirac operator on the rst factor, and D~ = d d , using the

Dirac operator on the second factor. If M has a circle action generated by a Killing vector eld

V , then we can form the operators

Q+ = D + V

5

Q = D~ ~ V;

where and ~ represent Cliord multiplication in the rst and second factor respectively. These

operators commute and furnish nite-dimensional prototypes for the supersymmetry generators

Q in the loop space case.

IV The Index of Q+

Our goal is to calculate the index(Q+ ) on the free loop space. Of course, this index must be

interpreted properly since the free loop space is of innite dimension. One thing we need to

do in this innite dimensional context is dene the `degree' of our `forms' on the loop space, at

least modulo two. How to do this was discussed at the end of the last lecture. Recall from that

discussion that in our situation there is a group Z=2Z Z=2Z with generators acting via

+ 7! +; 7!

and

+ 7! +; 7! :

As we saw, if M is spin then the full group of symmetries exists in the quantum theory; in

any event, the diagonal copy of Z=2Z always exists as a symmetry of the quantum theory. It

turns out that using the diagonal Z=2Z produces an index which plays the role of the Euler

characteristic in nite dimensions. (After all in our nite dimensional analogy, the diagonal

Z=2Z acts with (S

+

S + ) (S

S ) as the xed space and (S +

S ) (S

S + ) as

S with

(M), this Z=2Z-grading

corresponds to the degree modulo two. So it is not surprising that in the context of the loop

space the index graded by the diagonal involution gives an Euler characteristic-type object.)

But if we assume that M is spin, then we can take one of these involutions, say the involution

sending + to + . In the nite dimensional situation this involution is the Hodge -operator,

so it is reasonable to view the index computed using this involution as a generalization the usual

signature of a nite dimensional manifold. This is the index that we shall study. But just using

this involution is not enough. In order to get nite answers, we need to use the circle symmetry

6

on the free loop space in addition to the involution. The way we set things up is to consider the

index as a formal character of the circle. That is to say we consider

index Q+ = TrKer+ (Q+ ) qP TrKer (Q+ ) qP

where q is a formal variable, the operator P is given by

P = @ @;

and Ker (Q+ ) refer to the decomposition of Ker(Q+ ) into 1-eigenspaces under the involution

.

We will compute this index by quantizing the space of maps of a 2j2 supermanifold whose

underlying geometric manifold is (S 1 R) into a compact even dimensional spin manifold M.

action.

As usual the computation localizes around the xed points of the supersymmetry Q+ . Let us

see what these are. The operator

Q2+ = H + P

is the Laplacian on forms plus LV + jV j2, where V is the vector eld generating the natural circle

action on the free loop space. Thus, as in the last lecture we compute the index by localizing

around the xed points of V . The zeros of the vector eld V acting on the loop space are easy

to determine: they are simply the constant loops. Hence, they make a copy of the manifold M,

embedded as a subspace of LM. Thus, by an innite dimensional analogue of the Atiyah-Bott

xed point theorem we expect the computation to yield an answer of the form

Z

F(q) = ^

A(M)ch(R)

M

where R is a bundle (or more precisely, a formal sum of bundles) that will be found presently

by a computation on the normal bundle to M in the free loop space.

We made a similar computation in the last lecture for circle actions on nite dimensional

manifolds. The method was to nd the kernels of the Hamiltonian operators in the normal

7

direction to the xed point set. That is what we do here as well. Let us begin the discussion by

parameterizing this normal bundle. We consider a constant loop at x0 2 M. Then any nearby

x can be written as

X() = x0 + exp('())

R

where '() 2 T Mx0 satises S 1 d'() = 0 and '() satises the free wave equation:

2

d d2 ' = 0:

dt2 d2

This means that we can decompose '() uniquely as

'() = '+ () + ' ();

with '+ be left-moving and ' being right-moving. This decomposition is unique since we have

required that the zero Fourier mode for ' vanishes.

Since we are considering `dierential forms' on the loop space as being the tensor product of

two spin bundles SR

SL , we also have to consider the fermions

(v); + (u):

If we want to consider the Dirac operator Q+ that acts on spinors SR , then the roles of SR

and SL are not symmetrical. SR is the bundle of \spinors on free loop space," while SL is an

auxiliary bundle on free loop space that just happens to be a spin bundle constructed with a

dierent polarization. (In fact, at the end of the lecture we will replace SL by a more general

vector bundle on free loop space.) Let us then focus on the role of SR , which is obtained by

quantizing + . By quantizing the zero modes of + , we get the spinors on M (regarded as the

xed point subset of LM), while quantization of the nonzero modes of + gives the spinors on

the normal bundle N to M. The tensor product is SR = S(M)

S(N), where the two factors

are S(M), the spinors on M, obtained by quantizing the constant modes of + , and S(N), the

spinors of the normal bundle, obtained by quantizing the part of + that is orthogonal to the

zero modes. Thus + = +;0 + +;? , where +;0 is constant and

Z

d +;? (u) = 0:

S1

S(N) is obtained by quantizing +;? .

8

First suppose that M is the
at manifold R2n. Then the theory would have no interaction

terms and the action would be purely quadratic. The resulting Hilbert space would be the tensor

product of spinor-valued L2 functions on R2n (obtained by quantizing x0, x_ 0 , and +;0 ) with a

tensor product Hilbert space

= +

;

where + and are Hilbert spaces of right-movers and left-movers, respectively. Concretely

+ comes from quantizing '+ and +;0 , and comes from quantizing ' ; . (Because the

Dirac operator whose index we will compute is Q+ { a choice that breaks the symmetry between

left and right { it is very helpful to separate out the zero modes from + , as we have done, but

there is no need to similarly separate out the zero modes from .) + is a Fock space since,

for M = R2n, the theory is free. is almost a Fock space; it is actually the tensor product of

a copy of S(M) (obtained by quantizing the zero modes in ) with a Fock space obtained by

quantizing the nonzero modes of and ' . The Dirac operator Q+ of the free model is the

sum of an operator that acts in + and an operator (namely ( +;0 x_ 0), which is interpreted as

the ordinary Dirac operator on R2n) that acts on the spinors on R2n.

Now suppose that M is not
at, but scale up the metric of M by a large factor so that the

curvature is everywhere very small. Working near the constant loops in LM and using the fact

that the
at model is everywhere a good approximation, we make a berwise version of the

description in the last paragraph. The Hilbert space of the theory consists of spinor-valued L2

sections of a certain bundle of Fock-like spaces over M. The bundle over M is a tensor product

+

where + and are constructed exactly as in the
at model. (We call the factors

Fock-like only because is not quite a Fock space.) One might think in terms of a projection

from a small neighborhood of M LM back to M. The idea is to compute the index of the

Dirac operator by using this bration; as usual the rst step is to solve the Dirac equation along

the bers, which are copies of the normal bundle to M in LM. We write Q+;? for the part of

Q+ that acts in .

The Dirac operator in the bers is easily described. The operator Q+;? acts in + as the

tensor algebra of its action on the space generated by '+ (n); + (n) for n > 0. (As usual we

P

make Fourier expansions '+ = n ein '+ (n), and likewise for other elds.) In each such space,

9

Q+;? has a one-dimensional kernel, so the kernel of Q+;? in the full Fock space + is the innite

tensor product L of the one-dimensional invariant subspaces. Hence its kernel in is identied

with tensored with L:

Ker(Q+;? ) = L

:

The involution that we are using acts nontrivially on + but trivially on L and trivially on

. It then follows that the involution acts trivially on the kernel of Q+;? . To understand better

that kernel, let us examine in more detail. We have elds

X

' () = 'n ein

n6=0

X

() = n ein :

n

These produce creation and annihilation operators in the Fock space which satisfy:

f ni ; j ij

m g = n+m ;

where ij is the metric in the tangent space to M at x0. We quantize so that H is bounded

below. In particular, the bosons can be quantized with a vacuum state j

i, such that

'n j

i = 0; n > 0;

1

Y

'`` j

i

`=1

P

of energy ` `` .

For the fermions the zero mode is allowed so that the quantization of 0 gives a copy

of the spin bundle S of the manifold M. In particular, there is not a unique vacuum since

any state of S is of zero energy. We use jsi for such zero energy states. As before, we want

njsi = 0; n > 0 and for any zero energy state jsi. Thus, the states in the Fock space are

1

Y

n jsi

n

n=1

10

of energy 1

P 1

n=1 nn . Now we are in position to describe Ker(Q+ ) = as an S -module.

Clearly, from the above description we see that it is given by

= S

1 1

n=1 Symqn (TM)

n=0 qn (TM):

Symqn (TM) = 1 nm m

m=0 q Sym (TM);

and similarly

qn (TM) = 1 nm m

m=0 q (TM):

Here Symm and m denote as usual the mth symmetric or exterior powers. Finally, a factor qn

in front of a vector bundle is to indicate that the action of the circle on this bundle is by the nth

power of the standard representation.

After solving the Dirac equation along the bers to get the kernel L

, the next step is

to solve the Dirac equation along M with values in this kernel. Thus, formally at least, we have

Z

F(q) = q dimM=24 ^

A(M)ch S

1 1

n 1 Symqn (TM)

m=1 qm (TM) ;

M

where F(q) is Signature(LM)(q) as dened by the index of Q+ . Several comments are in order

about this formula. First of all the power of q out front comes from the action of the circle on

the xed complex line L; we will explain later why this is the correct factor. Secondly, notice

that only positive powers of q appear under the integral sign. But since there are positive powers

which do appear in this formula, the signature is not constant as a representation of S 1 , unlike

the nite dimensional case. What replaces the constancy for the character is the fact that in

this context the character is a holomorphic function of q, with positive powers only (multiplying

a xed prefactor). We shall see shortly that setting q = e2i , this character extends to a

holomorphic function of in the entire upper half-plane, a function that is modular for the

subgroup 0(2) of SL2 (Z).

11

VI Path Integral Approach

In the path integral approach to computing the index under discussion we consider, for real ,

the expression

Tr e H eiP ( 1)F

where is the involution sending + to + and to . Since Q2+ = H+P = 0 on Ker(Q+ ),

on this kernel H = P. This trace is equal to

F(q) = strKer(Q+ ) qH

for q = e (+i) . Notice that jqj < 1 since > 0. The path integral has a propagator e H (so

that time is Euclidean) for elds on a circle. The term eiP says that before we glue the ends

of the cylinder together we rotate by an angle . This yields a riemann surface dieomorphic

to T 2 . As we have seen from the Hamiltonian discussion previously, there is a power series

expression for this supertrace which is a holomorphic function of q = exp(2i) for in the

upper half-plane. One can also prove directly using path integrals that this path integral is a

holomorphic function of in the upper half-plane. (The key step in the proof is to write certain

components of the stress tensor in the form fQ+ ; : : :g; one then uses this to prove that the

derivative of the index vanishes.)

twist by

angle θ

Figure 2.

In this path integral description, the elds are sections over T 2 of the spin bundles S .

Since there are four spin structures on T 2 , there are 16 dierent possibilities for the pair of spin

12

bundles S and hence 16 dierent possibilities for the path integral

Z

DX D + D e L :

X :T 2 !M

We need to know which spin structures we should use. These are of course determined by the

boundary conditions, or gluing conditions on the elds . In the spatial direction for both +

and we are using the ordinary periodicity and hence the spin structure in that direction is

the non-bounding one for both types of spinors. In the time direction for + we are computing

the supertrace, this means that the spin structure for S + in that direction is the non- bounding

one. In the time direction for we are computing the usual trace and hence the spin structure

for S in that direction is the bounding one. Letting + denote the non-bounding spin structure

on S 1 and the bounding one we see that the spin structures are given as pictured below:

+ +

spin structure spin structure

for S + for S -

Figure 3.

Let us consider the action of SL2 (Z) on these spin structures. First of all, the action of an

element in SL2 (Z) on a spin structure depends only on its reduction modulo two. The spin

structure for S+ is in fact invariant under the full group SL2 (Z) whereas the subgroup leaving

second one invariant is 0 (2), which consists of matrices whose lower left entry is zero modulo

two. This is a subgroup of index three in SL2 (Z) re
ecting the fact that the orbit of this spin

structure under SL2 (Z) has three elements. The fundamental domain for 0(2) acting on the

upper half-plane is:

13

Figure 4. Fundamental Domain for 0 (2)

Notice that the quotient of the upper half-plane by 0 (2) has three cusps. The one represented

at 1 in the upper half-space corresponds to 7! 1. Computing in this limit shows that the

path integral reduces to the supertrace on Ker(Q+ ) of qH , as discussed above. The other cusps

correspond to dierent computations. The cusps are interchanged by the action of SL2 (Z) and

hence computing in the limit at one of these means computing the same path integrals but with

dierent spin structures.

As we have already mentioned, the action of SL2 (Z) leaves invariant the spin bundle S+ , so

that when we compute at the other cusps + is still a section of the same spin bundle. What

changes is the spin bundle S . Computing at one of the two other cusps means taking as a

section of

x TM

where is a real line bundle on T 2 which is non-trivial over the the spatial circle. The two other

cusps dier by whether is trivial in the time direction; we rst take the case that it is.

The previous analysis can be repeated to determine the index that corresponds to a path

integral with this spin structure. Namely, the Hilbert space of states for the theory is a tensor

product = +

of Fock spaces. Nothing has changed with + , but let us examine . As

before, we have, for example, the Fourier decomposition

X

' () = 'nein :

n6=0

The dierence is that because of the change in the spin structure S around the spatial circle,

the Fourier expansion for is now

X

() = n eim :

m2Z+ 12

14

In particular, in the Fock space there is no copy of S, since there is no zero Fourier coecient

for . (So things are now a bit simpler: are true Fock spaces, while before this was not

quite so for .) Thus, the expansion at this cusp for the index is

Z

F(q) = q dimM=24 ^

A(M)ch

1

n=1 Symqn (TM)

m=1=2;3=2;::: qm (TM) :

M

The third cusp is the image of the second cusp under the map 7! +1. Thus, the expansion

at the third cusp diers from this one simply by changing the sign of q1=2 and thus, in the last

formula, changing the sign of qm for all m. (Recall that m is in Z + 12 .)

Now there is one important point that we have not yet discussed. This is the source of the

factor q dimM=24 in front of these integral expressions. This comes from the S 1 action on

L = Ker(Q+;? )

In fact, L is an innite tensor product of one dimensional spaces which are obtained by quantizing

'+ (n); + (n) for n = 1; 2; 3; : : :: On the nth such space, the circle acts with character

n dimM:

2

Thus, on the tensor product the circle action contributes a multiplicative factor

1 P1 ndimM

q2 n=1 :

q 12 ( 1)dimM =q dimM=24:

As an alternative to the Hamiltonian approach that we have followed, the index of Q+ can

be evaluated by directly computing the path integral. One gets equivalent formulas, of course.

Scaling up the metric of M reduces the evaluation of the path integral to one-loop computations.

One requires computing Pfaans for D+ and D on spinors in a non-trivial but
at bundle over

T 2 and computing the determinant of the Laplacian for the bosons. We will not explore this

direction today.

15

VII Bundles with whose signature or Dirac operator has

constant character for circle actions

Let us examine the formulas we get for the index of Q+ at the various cusps. For one cusp we

get a formula of the form

Z

F(q) = ^

A(M)ch (S

(1 n

n=1 q Rn)) :

M

At the other cusps we get a formula of the form

Z

F(q) = ^

A(M)ch(m2Z=2 qm R~ m ):

M

Both the bundles Rn and R~ m are SO-bundles associated to the tangent bundle of M by certain

representations which we can make explicit. We claim that these bundles have a special property.

Suppose that M has an U(1)-symmetry G: S 1 M ! M, with generating vector eld K. Then

is independent of . Of course, this is really a statement about the signature operator coupled

with the nite dimensional vector bundles Rm (or the Dirac operator with R~ m ) on a nite

dimensional spin manifold with circle action. The statement is that for the special bundles

arising from consideration of the loop space index, the indices of these operators, viewed as

characters on the circle, are constant.

To establish this result, let us consider the path integrals where instead of using maps of

T 2 ! M we consider sections of a bundle over an M-bundle over T 2 where as we pass from time

t = 0 to t = we identify M with itself by twisting by exp(K). (Of course, we could do the

same sort of twisting in the other direction as well. That we will do presently.) We expand the

resulting index as

X

F(q; ) = q dimM=24 qk eim ck;m

k;m

for constants ck;m 2 Z. We have already seen that

16

Next we claim that:

ck;m = ck+m;m :

If we can establish this claim, then together with the rst fact, it immediately follows that

ck;m = 0 for m 6= 0, which is exactly the constancy of F(q; ) with respect to .

It remains to establish the above claim. To do this, let us introduce another
2 S 1 , and let

us consider the Dirac operator Q+ on a twisted loop space L
M, the M bundle over the spatial

circle obtained by gluing the ends together using the automorphism exp(
K). The -model

makes sense as a function of
, and F(q; ), being an index, is independent of the continuous

parameter
. On L
M, we have

e2 dd = e
K :

Let us dene subspaces H
;n;m in the Hilbert space of states by the conditions

jK = and P = n
m

n o

H
;n;m = 2 :

The dimension of the space HId;m;n is the index cn;m . Once again, we know that the dimension

of these spaces is independent of
(the Fredholm property of the operators). As we let
go

from 0 to 2 this has the eect of shifting the cn;m to cn+m;m . This, then, establishes the claim

and hence the constancy statement.

In this way we have found an innite sequences of bundles R~ m (or Rn ) associated to the

tangent bundle of a compact even dimensional spin manifold M with the following property. If

M has an isometric circle action, then the index of the Dirac (or signature) operator coupled to

these bundles is a constant character of S 1 . The rst few of the R~ m 's are:

R~ 1=2 = TM

R~ 1 = TM ^2TM:

By computing relevant bordism groups Landweber-Stong showed that for general spin mani-

folds the R~ m are the only bundles naturally associated to the tangent bundle with this constancy

property.

17

VIII Generalization to Vector Bundles over the Loop Space

There is an analogue of this theory where one considers spinors on the loop space with values

in certain vector bundles V over the loop space. The relevant V 's are constructed from ordinary

nite-rank vector bundles V ! M. Physically, this analogue is very important because it arises

in heterotic string theory. Mathematically, one nds that the index of the Dirac operator with

values in certain bundles made from V (rather than from the tangent bundle of M) is a constant

character of the circle if M has a circle action obeying certain conditions. Let us sketch brie
y

the relevant version of the nonlinear sigma model and its mathematical application.

We use \chiral" superelds; we set and to zero and consider maps

X: R2j1 ! M:

The Lagrangian we consider is

Z Z

d+ dudv (Dv X; D+ X = dudv gIJ @u xI @v xJ + + Dv + :

To get something interesting we add another supereld

2 2 j1 ; S

R

x (V ) ;

where V ! M is a real SO(k)-bundle with a connection. We express in components as

= + + G. We form a new Lagrangian

Z

d+ dudv (Dv X; D+ X) + (; D+ )

which after performing the theta integral and integrating out the auxiliary eld G becomes

schematically Z

dudv gIJ @uX I @v xJ + + Dv + + Du + F + + :

Here F is the curvature of the connection on V .

In this theory we have the operator Q+ as before, but no longer do we have Q . When we go

to evaluate path integrals we nd that for a xed choice of the Riemann surface and the map

X : ! M, the fermion path integral takes values in a product of determinant line bundles

detD+ () detD (). In order for the path integral to be a real number, and not just a section of

18

a line bundle, we need to trivialize this product of determinant line bundles. The rst question

then is a topological one: when is this product of determinant line bundles topologically trivial?

The answer depends a bit on what choices of spin structures one wishes to use. Assuming that

we want to be able to make independent choices of spin structure for both + and (this is what

one needs to do in the heterotic string theory, and it leads to the most interesting mathematical

results), one needs the theory to be invariant under the full Z2 Z2 of independent sign changes

for + and . For this, we need M to be a spin manifold and V a spin bundle. The triviality of

the product of determinant line bundles for any Riemann surface and any spin structures gives

further

p1 (TM) = p1 (V ) : ()

2 2

(Here p1 is the rst Pontryagin class, which is naturally divisible by two for spin manifolds and

spin bundles.)

The next question is to nd a
at connection on this product of determinant line bundles.

Mathematically, there is a standard denition of a connection on the determinant line bundle.

Though it is not
at, it can be modied to be
at if one is given a 3-form H on M such that

dH = trR ^ R82trF ^ F :

Here, R is the curvature of the riemannian manifold M. The point of the formula is that dH is

the four-form that appears in the standard mathematical formula for the curvature of the usual

connection. The equality of p1(TM) and p1 (V ) ensures that such H's exist. If one is given such

an H, then one modies the usual connection on the determinant line bundle as follows. The

Dirac operators whose product of determinants we wish to trivialize are dened when one is

given a choice of a Riemann surface and a map X : ! M. A one-parameter family of such

data give a three-manifold W = [0; 1] and a map XW : W ! M. We multiply the usual

parallel transport from 0 to 1 in the determinant line by the phase factor

Z

exp(i XW (H)):

W

The usual local formula for the curvature of the determinant line bundle ensures that the modied

connection is
at; its global holonomy is also trivial if the formula () holds integrally and not

just at the level of dierential forms.

19

This construction is related to some very important physics. Physically, H is the curvature

of the two-form eld that is usually called B, and the inclusion of the H-dependent phase factor

is part of the Green-Schwarz anomaly cancellation mechanism.

To give a mathematical application, we suppose that M and V have S 1 -actions and we ask,

as before, if the index is a constant character for the S 1 . Here a new question arises: the action

of S 1 induces a symmetry of the Lagrangian, but is it a symmetry of the quantum eld theory?

For this, we want not just that the product of determinant lines considered before should be

trivial, but that if X : ! M is an S 1 -invariant map, the S 1 action on the ber of the product

of determinant lines over X should be trivial. Via some further index theory, one can show

that the condition for this is that () must hold in the S 1 -equivariant cohomology, not just in

ordinary integral cohomology:

1

(p1)S 1 (TM) S = 0: ()

(p1 )S 1 (V )

2 2

(Here, (p1 )S 1 refers to the Pontryjagin class in S 1 -equivariant cohomology.) Once we have this,

the arguments as in the previous case apply to show that the Dirac index on M with values in

R~ m (V ) or in S(V )

Rn(V ) is constant as a character of the circle.

One can actually make a somewhat similar statement if the left hand side of () is not zero

but is the pullback of a class in H 4(BG). For if this is so, then by adding or in the sense of K

theory subtracting from V a trivial bundle with nontrivial S 1 action, one can reduce to the case

that () is satised.

20

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