Quantum Field Theory and Strings for Mathematicians

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Quantum Field Theory and Strings for Mathematicians

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EDWARD WITTEN

In this second part of lecture II-8, we discuss abelian duality in four dimensions, and

give an application to an Sl(2; Z) symmetry of the free U (1) theory in four dimensions.

We postpone discussion of Sl(2; Z) symmetries of non-free theories to a later lecture,

since all known examples of that involve supersymmetry.

We work with a U (1) bundle L on a 4-manifold M , and a connection A on L, whose

curvature is F =FA. The gauge theory Lagrangian (in Euclidean signature) including the

topological term is

L(A) = 4e2 d x gFmnF + 162 d4x pgmnpq F mnF pq

p i

Z Z

1 4 mn

1 Z

i Z (1.1)

= 2e2 FA ^ FA + 42 FA ^ FA:

We have used the standard normalization on the kinetic term, and have normalized the

topological term so that replacing by +2 does not changeR the physics. (This property

of the topological term derives from the fact that c1(L)2 = (FA=2)^(FA=2) is always

an integer. Notice that on a spin manifold, c1(L)2 is always an even integer, and we

gain an additional equivalence under replacement of by + .)

Let = + 2ei2 2 h. As we have just observed, 7! + 2 is a symmetry of this

theory, and 7! + 1 is a symmetry when working on a spin manifold. To extend this

to an Sl(2; Z) action (in the spin manifold case) we also need a symmetry which maps

to 1= ; this will be given by a duality transformation FA $ FC (with C being a new

\dual" connection).

The computations for this duality transformation are similar to those in lecture II-7.

We begin by dening F = 12 (FA FA), and rewriting our Lagrangian (1.1) as

i Z

i Z

L(A) = 4 F+ ^ F+ + 4 F ^ F

(1.2)

= 4i kF+k2 4i kF k2:

Z Z

Notes by David R. Morrison.

1

2

Letting G denote the gauge group associated to A, the partition function for this theory

can be written as

XZ

Z ( ) = vol(1 G )

R R

DA e 4i kF+ k2+ 4i kF k2 : (1.3)

L

Our earlier examples of duality began with a theory of a scalar eld which entered

into the Lagrangian only through its derivative d so that the theory had a symmetry

under 7! + c (with c constant); the rst step in the duality transformation was to

gauge this symmetry, introducing also an appropriate Lagrange multiplier eld.

The present theory is already a gauge theory, being a theory of a connection A which

enters into the Lagrangian only through its curvature FA, so that there is a symmetry

under A 7! A + B (with B a
at connection). We want to do the analogue of gauging

this symmetry, by allowing B to be an arbitary connection on an arbitrary bundle,

introducing a kind of \exotic gauge eld" G which is a 2-form eld, and extending the

symmetry to

A!A+B

G ! G + FB : (1.4)

Then F := FA G plays the role of the \gauge-invariant" quantity, analogous to the

covariant derivative of a scalar eld. It is to be stressed that two G elds will be

considered gauge-equivalent if they dier by G ! G + FB for FB the curvature of any

connection on any line bundle. In our analysis, we will assume for simplicity that there

is no torsion in H 2(M ).

We need a \gauge-invariant" extension of our Lagrangian. We might try

L(A; G) = 4i kF+ k2 4i kF k2;

Z Z

(1.5)

but this is too simple (because, for example, we could gauge F to zero). To improve this,

we introduce a new connection C on a line bundle N, with curvature FC , and consider

the Lagrangian

L(A; G; C ) = 4i kF+k2 4i kF k2 2i FC ^ G:

Z Z Z

(1.6)

The partition function for this new theory can be represented as a path integral, which

includes sectors associated to all choices of bundles L and N:

1 1 1 X Z DA DG DC e 4i R kF+k2+ 4i R kF k2+ 2i R FC ^G ;

vol(Ge) vol(G ) vol(GC ) L;N (1.7)

where G and GC denote the gauge groups associated to A and C , respectively, and Ge

denotes the \exotic" gauge group.

To see that this new theory is equivalent to the original one, we rst do the C -integral

in (1.7): write C = C0 + C 0, for C0 a xed connection on the line bundle N. Then the

3

C 0 integral is

1 Z DC 0 e 2i R C0 ^dG = (dG): (1.8)

vol GC

Thus, when we sum over N we nd

1 X Z DCe 2i R FC ^G = X ei(x;G)(dG) = ( G 2 Z)(dG):

vol GC N x2H 2 (M ) 2 (1.9)

The conditions that dG = 0 and that [G=2] is an integral class precisely mean that G is

of the form FB for some connection on some line bundle and hence that G can be gauged

to zero. After doing this, it follows that the partition function (1.7) coincides with Z ( ),

and we recover the original theory.

Alternatively, we can evaluate the partition function (1.7) by gauging A to 0, using

the \exotic" gauge invariance (which has an ordinary gauge invariance as an ambiguity).

This leaves the path integral

1 X Z DG Z DC e 4i R kG+k2+ 4i R kG k2+ 2i R FC ^G : (1.10)

vol GC N

To evaluate the G integral, we complete the square, bearing in mind that

Z Z

FC ^ G = (FC + ^ G+ FC ^ G ): (1.11)

In fact, if we dene G0 = G 1F

C+ + 1 FC , then we can write the exponent from

eq. (1.10) as

i Z kG0 k2 + i Z kG0 k2 + i Z kF k2 i Z kF k2:

C+ C

4 + 4 4 4 (1.12)

When we carry out the G0 integral, the rst two terms give a Gaussian integral which

contributes to the overall normalization; integrating out G0 leaves the path integral

1 X Z DC e 4i R kFC + k2 4i R kFC k2 : (1.13)

vol GC N

This is the same as the original path integral, but with replaced by 1= , precisely

what we wanted to show.

As we did in the case of two dimensions, it is possible to analyze the -dependence of

the normalization of the path-integral, and obtain further interesting results. Some hint

of the
avor of the results to be obtained this way is seen if we evaluate the Gaussian

integral indicated above, which yields

!n2+ !n2

p2 p 2 ; (1.14)

i i

where n2 denote the numbers of self-dual and anti-self-dual 2-forms. Of course, these

numbers are innite, so there must be some cancellation against other normalization

4

Z ( ) = +4 4 Z ( 1= ); (1.15)

where and are the Euler number and signature of M , respectively. Thus, the partition

function Z ( ) is actually a modular form for Sl(2; Z) (or for a subgroup, when the

manifold is not spin) of weight ( +4 ; 4 ).

We can also follow certain operator insertions through the duality transformation, as

we did in lower dimensions. An insertion of F in the original theory can be realized by

inserting F = F G in the extended theory, which can be written

F = F G0 1 F ; or F = F G0 + 1 F ;

+ + + C+

C (1.16)

respectively, after making the change of variables to G0. Thus, when we gauge A to zero,

and integrate out G0, we are left with operator insertions proportional to FC , namely:

F+ 7! ( 1= )FC +; and F 7! (1= )FC : (1.17)

Notice that as a consequence of the -dependence of these mappings, a correlation func-

tion involving insertions of F+ and F will have a dierent modular weight than that of

the partition function.

2. The Hamiltonian formalism

Returning to the case that the gauge group is U (1), let us brie y discuss abelian four-

dimensional duality in a Hamiltonian framework. Take a 4-manifold of the form M3 R,

where R is a timelike direction. Note that this is a spin manifold, so we expect full

Sl(2; Z) symmetry. For simplicity we suppose that there is no torsion in H1(M3). Each

class x 2 H 2(M3) determines a complex line bundle Lx on the 3-manifold M3 (satisfying

c1(Lx) = x). The Hilbert space for our theory on the 3-manifold M3 can be written in

the form

M

H ( M3 ) = Hx ; (2.1)

x2H 2(M3 ;Z)

where Hx is the Hilbert space which comes from quantizing connections on Lx. (On

the left, we have explicitly indicated the dependence on the coupling constant .) To

construct Hx, write an arbitrary connection in the form A = A0 + , where A0 is a

harmonic connection (a connection whose curvature is a harmonic two-form) and is

a 1-form which is co-closed. Let Tx be the space of harmonic connections on the line

bundle Lx. Then the quantization yields

Hx = H

L2(Tx): (2.2)

Here H is a Hilbert space obtained by quantizing the space of 's, and L2(Tx) is just

the space of L2 functions on Tx.

1 E. Witten, On S -duality in abelian gauge theory, Selecta Math (N.S.) 1 (1995), 383{410.

5

Note that the factor H is independent of x, since the space of co-closed one-forms

is dened with no reference to x. Duality maps H to itself while acting separately on

H0 = xL2(Tx). The duality action on H follows from the operator mapping in (1.17).

The action of duality on H0 can be described as follows. Note that the Tx's are all

principal homogeneous spaces acted on by the torus H 1(M3; R=Z), which parametrizes

at line bundles on M3; the action is dened by tensoring any given line bundle with

connection by a
at line bundle determined by a point in H 1(M3; R=Z). Let y denote a

character of the abelian group H 1(M3; R=Z). There is a decomposition L2(Tx) = y Tx;y ,

where Tx;y is the subspace of L2(Tx) transforming in the character y. Each Tx;y is one-

dimensional. Hence

H0 = x;y Tx;y (2.3)

Note that, by Poincare and Pontryagin duality, the character group of H 1(M3; R=Z) is

H 2(M3; Z). Thus, x and y take values in the same space. It is hence possible to exchange

them, and this is what the ! 1= transformation does (more precisely, it acts by

(x; y) ! ( y; x)). Thus duality exchanges a classical notion { the decomposition with

respect to x { with a quantum notion { the decomposition with respect to y. The claim

about how the duality acts will be justied below where we introduce the operators QE

and QM .

Upon quantization|and suppressing for a moment|one writes the four-dimensional

curvature as FA0 + e2Adt, where FA0 is a two-form on M3 and A|a one-form on M3|is

the momentum conjugate to the connection A. The Hamiltonian becomes

Z

1

H = 2e2 FA20 + e2 rA0 + H ( ):

2

(2.4)

Here H ( ) is the part of the Hamiltonian that acts on H . The other terms act on H0.

The rst term is the magnetic energy of the harmonic connection R

A0; it comes from the

part of the Lagrangian quadratic in FA and is a multiple of M3 x^ x. The second term,

0

which comes from the part of the Lagrangian

R

quadratic in A, is the electric energy, the

Laplacian on Tx; it is a multiple of M3 y^ y.

Including the term shifts the quantization. In fact, the canonical momentum FA_ =

A as determined from the original Lagrangian (1.1) is

FA_ = 2i FS = 2i F F (2.5)

A e2 A A

At non-zero , one has not H0 = xL2(Tx) but H0 = x L2 (Tx; S ), where S is a certain

at line bundle over Tx and L2 is the space of L2 sections. I leave it as an exercise to

the reader to identify S . Of course, S is trivial at = 0 and only depends on modulo

2 .

Rewriting the formula for FA_ in terms of , we can determine how this operator

transforms under ! 1= . Indeed, under the operator mapping (1.17) one gets

FA_ = F+ + F 7! FC + + FC = FC : (2.6)

6

FA = F+ + F 7! ( 1= )FC + ( 1= )FC = FC_: (2.7)

In the Hamiltonian formalism, for any 2-cycle M3 we can dene associated \elec-

tric" and \magnetic" operators on the Hilbert space H (M3) for any 2-cycle M3,

by

Z

F _ Z FC

QE () = 2 = 2

A

Z

F Z

F _ (2.8)

A

QM () = 2 = 2 : C

(These operators only depend on the class of in H2(M3; Z).) Clearly, under ! 1= ,

that is under A ! C , one has QE ! QM , QM ! QE . Since x and y are the eigenvalues

of QM and QE , this means that ! 1= acts by (x; y) ! ( y; x). Moreover, from the

explicit formula (2.5) for FA_, one sees that when is increased by 2 (an operation which

leaves the Hilbert space unchanged), the operator QM is unaltered, but the operator QE

maps to QE + QM .

The statements made in the last paragraph can be combined to the following: Sl(2; Z)

acts on H0 via the natural action of Sl(2; Z) on the pair (x; y).

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