Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 7

arXiv:1802.01198v1 [hep-th] 4 Feb 2018

Why do Things Fall?

Leonard Susskind

Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics and Department of Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-4060, USA


This is the first of several short notes in which I will describe phenomena that illustrate GR=QM. In it I explain that the gravitational attraction that a black hole exerts on a nearby test object is a consequence of a fundamental law of quan- tum mechanics—the tendency for complexity to grow. It will also be shown that the Einstein bound on velocities is closely related to the quantum-chaos bound of Maldacena, Shenker, and Stanford.



There are a number of correspondences between quantum mechanics and gravity that are suggestive of a much deeper connection than we might have imagined several years ago [1]. ER=EPR is one [2], and the relation between the generic growth of quantum complexity and the expansion of space behind the horizons of black holes is another [3]. There are more that I will publish in a series of short notes. In this first note I will point out a relation between ordinary gravitational attraction and the general properties of quantum chaos.

  • 2 Momentum and Operator Size

Why do things fall toward the horizon of a black hole? The usual answer is: Gravity makes them do it. But if, as I have suggested, GR=QM [1] then there should be another explana- tion of purely quantum origin. So what I propose is that there is a quantum-information meaning to gravitational attraction. In this note I will argue that the gravitational at- traction is nothing but the statistical tendency for complexity to grow in chaotic quantum systems 1 ; in other words the second law of complexity [3]. I will also comment on the quantum origin of the Einstein bound on velocity (v c) and argue that it is closely related to an apparently entirely different bound: the recent chaos bound [4] governing fast scrambling [5]. Let us consider a test particle near an AdS black hole. The angular position of the particle can be described in terms of angular momentum which is an exactly conserved quantity in the gauge theory: wave packets of well defined angular position are superpo- sitions of angular momentum states. By contrast the radial position and momentum are encoded in a much less obvious way. There is no symmetry of the CFT corresponding to radial momentum and it is not obvious that the gauge/gravity dictionary contains a precisely defined radial momentum. Nevertheless, in some approximation, at least when semiclassical Einstein gravity is a good approximation, some notion of the radial momen- tum of a particle should exist. More precisely the average momentum of an infalling wave packet should exist. Let us suppose that the particle is created by applying a smeared time-reversal-invariant CFT operator, W, at Rindler time τ = 0. The time-reversal invariance means the particle

1 There is a similarity with E. Verlinde’s entropic theory of gravity [6], but in this paper the growth of complexity and operator growth play the leading role.


would be at rest at τ

= 0. Now let us go to a later time τ. From the standpoint of an

observer at that later time the particle was created by a precursor operator,

W(τ ) = e iHτ We iHτ .


By time τ the wave packet will have fallen toward the horizon and the radial momentum will have grown. Classically as time increases the radial component of the average momen- tum grows exponentially in the near-horizon region. In terms of the dimensionless Rindler time τ the average momentum grows as,

P = P 0 e τ


At the same time the average radial distance of the wave packet from the horizon de- creases as e τ . The question is what quantity in the QFT description represents the radial momentum? To answer this lets consider the theory of precursor-operators like W(τ ). At time τ = 0 they are simple smeared local operators but as time increases W(τ ) becomes more complex. In fact the complexity is related to a quantity called the size of the operator [7]. Here are a number of examples of what size means: The first is from string theory. Strings grow as their momentum increases [8]. The length of a string (measured along the string itself) grows proportional to its momentum [9]. The growth is due the time dilation as the velocity of the center of mass of the string increases. More and more oscillating modes of the string become visible as the velocity becomes relativistic and that in turn causes the length of string to grow [10]. If the string is made of string-bits, as long advocated by Thorn [11], the number of bits will grow with time. If the string is a gauge-theory string the number of gauge quanta grows. If the infalling particle is described by a precursor operator W(τ )—for example in the SYK model—the precursor operator grows in the sense that the average number of elementary fermions making up the precursor grows 2 . In each of these cases the growth is exponential in time. I’ll now propose the following correspondence: The average infalling radial momentum of an object is the size of the precursor 3 W(t). From this correspondence and 2.2 we

2 D. Roberts and S. Stanford, unpublished. I thank Dan Roberts and Douglas Stanford for bringing this to my attention.

3 One

may put it another


The momentum is the average number of elementary constituents.


conclude that the size grows like e τ . It is therefore very interesting that the size of operators in chaotic theories—SYK being an example—grows exponentially in a characteristic way [7]. The growth is described by a Lyapunov exponent [12] called λ,


size e λt .


Now the punch line:

The time





boundary gauge theory time which is

universally related to the Rindler time by,

t =


2π τ


where β is the inverse temperature of the black hole. Thus the exponential increase of momentum of the falling particle, P e τ , translates to a growth of size,

size e (2π/β)t


This exactly saturates the chaos bound of Maldacena, Shenker, and Stanford, and moreover it is the expected behavior of precursor-size in the environment of a black hole. Thus we see a precise parallel between the phenomena of falling in a gravitational field, and operator growth for a strongly coupled chaotic quantum system.

  • 3 The Chaos Bound and the Einstein Bound

The Lyapunov exponent λ = 2π/β has a purely quantum meaning: it is the maximum pos- sible value of λ permitted by quantum chaos. A rigorous theorem of Maldacena, Shenker, and Stanford, independent of any gravitational considerations, bounds λ to be less than or equal to 2π/β. Is there a corresponding relativity bound on the rate of growth of momentum? Indeed there is. Figure 1 shows some infalling trajectories in Rindler space.

A very precise example is BFSS matrix theory where longitudinal momentum in the light-cone frame is identified with the number of constituent D 0 -branes. The relation between momentum and size is expected to work when the particle becomes relativistic as it accelerates toward the horizon.


Figure 1 The trajectories have the form r = e (3.6) for various values of a

Figure 1

The trajectories have the form

r = e aτ


for various values of a. They correspond to a momentum growth of the form

P e aτ


For example an infalling light-like particle has a = 1 as does a particle falling through the horizon with time-like momentum. The value a < 1 represents a time-like trajectory that never crosses the horizon. All of these are trajectories are consistent with causality. Only the case a > 1 (equivalently λ > 2π/β) violates the speed of light constraint, the corresponding trajectories being space-like. Evidently then, a Lyapunov exponent greater


than 2π/β would violate the Einstein bound on velocities.

To summarize: Classical gravitational attraction toward a horizon parallels a purely quan- tum mechanical phenomenon associated with quantum chaos, the exponential growth of operator size. The size of a precursor is related to its complexity C by

size = dC/dτ.


Both size and complexity of a precursor grow exponentially in the early stages of growth. Size saturates at the scrambling time while complexity continues to grow linearly. The growth of size and the growth of complexity are consequences of what Adam Brown and I call the second law of complexity [3]. One may ask what the saturation point—the scrambling time—means. In fact it is the point at which the particle reaches the stretched horizon and becomes thermalized from the point of view of an external observer. From the outside it is the point at which the particle loses its identity and can no longer be followed.

I am grateful to Dan Roberts and Douglas Stanford for discussions about operator growth in the SYK model. Support for this research came through NSF Award Number 1316699.


[1] L. Susskind, “Dear Qubitzers, GR=QM,” arXiv:1708.03040 [hep-th].

[2] J. Maldacena and L. Susskind, “Cool horizons for entangled black holes,” Fortsch. Phys. 61, 781 (2013) doi:10.1002/prop.201300020 [arXiv:1306.0533 [hep-th]].








arXiv:1701.01107 [hep-th].

“The Second Law of Quantum Complexity,”

[4] J. Maldacena, S. H. Shenker and D. Stanford, “A bound on chaos,” JHEP 1608, 106 (2016) doi:10.1007/JHEP08(2016)106 [arXiv:1503.01409 [hep-th]].













doi:10.1088/1126-6708/2008/10/065 [arXiv:0808.2096 [hep-th]].


[6] E. P. Verlinde, “On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton,” JHEP 1104, 029 (2011) doi:10.1007/JHEP04(2011)029 [arXiv:1001.0785 [hep-th]].

[7] The concept of the size of a precursor appears in a number of papers including:

  • S. H. Shenker and D. Stanford, “Stringy effects in scrambling,” JHEP 1505, 132 (2015)

doi:10.1007/JHEP05(2015)132 [arXiv:1412.6087 [hep-th]].

  • J. Maldacena, S. H. Shenker and D. Stanford, “A bound on chaos,” JHEP 1608, 106

(2016) doi:10.1007/JHEP08(2016)106 [arXiv:1503.01409 [hep-th]].

The connection between size and complexity was spelled out in,

  • D. A. Roberts, D. Stanford and L. Susskind, “Localized shocks,” JHEP 1503 (2015)

051 doi:10.1007/JHEP03(2015)051 [arXiv:1409.8180 [hep-th]].

  • L. Susskind and Y. Zhao, “Switchbacks and the Bridge to Nowhere,” arXiv:1408.2823


  • A. R. Brown, L. Susskind and Y. Zhao, “Quantum Complexity and Negative Cur-

vature,” Phys. Rev. D 95, no. 4, 045010 (2017) doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.95.045010

[arXiv:1608.02612 [hep-th]].

[8] L. Susskind, “Strings, black holes and Lorentz contraction,” Phys. Rev. D 49, 6606 (1994) doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.49.6606 [hep-th/9308139].

[9] M. Karliner, I. R. Klebanov and L. Susskind, “Size and Shape of Strings,” Int. J. Mod. Phys. A 3, 1981 (1988). doi:10.1142/S0217751X88000837

[10] A. Mezhlumian, A. W. Peet and L. Thorlacius, “String thermalization at a black hole horizon,” Phys. Rev. D 50, 2725 (1994) doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.50.2725 [hep-


[11] C. B. Thorn, “Substructure of string,” hep-th/9607204.

[12] A. Kitaev, “Hidden Correlations in the Hawking Radiation and Thermal Noise,” talk given at Fundamental Physics Prize Symposium, Nov. 10, 2014.

Stanford SITP seminars, Nov. 11 and Dec. 18, 2014.