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A Quantum Gravity: Renormalization vs. Effective Field Theory

  1. Oct 9, 2017 #1
    In quantum gravity, I get 'mixed signals' as regards renormalizability. My state of confusion is being caused, I suspect, by an incomplete understanding of what is covered under t'Hooft's 1972 proof that non-Abelian gauge theories are renormalizable. ( = Nobel Prize 1999).

    Specifically, some say that GR can be formulated as a non-Abelian gauge theory (see Moshe Carmeli, 'Group Theory and General Relativity', or his book 'Classical Fields: General Relativity and Gauge Theory'). Carmeli, in his classical GR developments makes a comment to the effect that t'Hooft's work implies that GR should be renormalizable. (his work is from the 1970s).

    Yet, I am not aware of any work (over the past 40 years) that extends this 'GR as a non-Abelian gauge theory' into the quantum realm, as a renormalizable gauge theory. This leads me to think that there are finer points to the whole framework of renormalization of non-Abelian gauge theories that I don't fully understand: certain caveats, perhaps, in t'Hooft's proof that disqualify GR from renormalization. For example, Carmeli expresses things in terms of the group GL(2,C) in place of SU(2) (standard Yang Mills). GR imposes other issues (nature of the observer, four dimensions etc).

    Fast forward to 2017 and quantum GR is considered a good candidate for an effective field theory, which reinforces the notion that renormalization is an impossibility, non-Abelian gauge theory or no.

    Does anyone have insight into how we make ends meet here?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2017 #2
  4. Oct 9, 2017 #3

    king vitamin

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    't Hooft and Veltman proved that Yang-Mills and spontaneously broken Yang-Mills are renormalizable; gravity can't be interpreted as a Yang-Mills-like gauge theory. A few years later they tried their regularization scheme out on gravity and found that pure gravity is actually finite to first order, but when coupled to matter it becomes divergent (and even pure gravity is non-renormalizable past first-order iirc).
  5. Oct 10, 2017 #4
    Many thanks to both of you.

    I was not previously familiar with Woodward's article linked by romsofia. The info about adding fourth derivatives to eliminate perturbative divergences is interesting. So is that minor detail that doing so causes the universe to expand without bound. Matter coupling (if I read correctly) was the occasion for adding the fourth derivatives in the first place. If t'Hooft and Veltman ran into problems with this coupling as well, I am satisfied that this coupling leads to a major snag.

    I have indeed seen literature in which first order is handled correctly (iirc, Feynman actually illustrated this in his 1960s work compiled in 'Feynman Lectures in Gravitation') . Perturbation theory quickly leads to three-graviton vertices arising from non-linearities in the GR field. There are of course then rapidly accumulating multi-graviton vertices that lead to renormalization requiring an infinite number of counterterms.
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