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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Vacuum Condensate Picture of Quantum Gravity

  • Author(s): Hamber, Herbert W
  • et al.

In quantum gravity perturbation theory in Newton’s constant G is known to be badly divergent, and as a result not very useful. Nevertheless, some of the most interesting phenomena in physics are often associated with non-analytic behavior in the coupling constant and the existence of nontrivial quantum condensates. It is therefore possible that pathologies encountered in the case of gravity are more likely the result of inadequate analytical treatment, and not necessarily a reflection of some intrinsic insurmountable problem. The nonperturbative treatment of quantum gravity via the Regge–Wheeler lattice path integral formulation reveals the existence of a new phase involving a nontrivial gravitational vacuum condensate, and a new set of scaling exponents characterizing both the running of G and the long-distance behavior of invariant correlation functions. The appearance of such a gravitational condensate is viewed as analogous to the (equally nonperturbative) gluon and chiral condensates known to describe the physical vacuum of QCD. The resulting quantum theory of gravity is highly constrained, and its physical predictions are found to depend only on one adjustable parameter, a genuinely nonperturbative scale ξ in many ways analogous to the scaling violation parameter Λ M ¯ S of QCD. Recent results point to significant deviations from classical gravity on distance scales approaching the effective infrared cutoff set by the observed cosmological constant. Such subtle quantum effects are expected to be initially small on current cosmological scales, but could become detectable in future high precision satellite experiments.

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