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Volume 99B, number 1 PHYSICS LETTERS 5 February 1981


Institute for TheoreticalPhysics, Universityof California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA

Received 13 October 1980

The validity of the 1/N expansion in field theory is questioned from the point of view of graph counting. A simple an-
satz for the value of each graph in the QCD perturbation series makes it possible to estimate the sum with graph counting
techniques. It is found that the 1IN approximations are more accurate than might have been expected due to the emergence
of a new expansion parameter associated with the graph topology. However, essential non-perturbative features are missed
in any order of the expansion.

The 1IN expansion ,1,2, as used in field theories the 1IN approximation is very good - even when N
with SO(N) or SU(N) symmetries, consists o f group- is not large. This is due to the emergence of a new
ing graphs according to suppression factors o f 1IN. To parameter associated with the graph topology. The
first order, the approximation consists of retaining summed series has nonperturbative behavior that can-
only those graphs with the lowest power of 1IN. For not be seen in the 1IN expansion. It is conjectured
most sufficiently complex theories this is a very small that these features may occur for the QCD perturba-
subset o f the complete set of graphs. I show that the tion series as well.
graphs o f higher orders in 1/Nare so much more numer- We first dicuss the 1/N expansion from the point
ous that, no matter how large N becomes and dispite of view o f graph counting. As an example, consider
their suppression factors, one cannot immediately con- QCD with N colors, an SU(N) gauge group and no
clude that they can be neglected. The validity o f the 1IN quarks, although our considerations apply more gener-
approximation as an expansion in a small parameter is ally to any theory in which the fields are in the rotor
therefore not obvious. It depends on the detailed na- (adjoint) representation. In the notation o f 't Hooft
ture of the series in question. However, one can easily [1 ] the gluon propagators are drawn as two line (see fig.
find mechanisms that retain the validity o f the approxi- 1) that each carry color or anticolor. The fact that the
mation. I construct a numerical series that has some interaction is a color singlet means that color lines do
elementary features in c o m m o n with the perturbation not begin or end at vertices. In order that the 1/N lim-
series for an S U ( N ) gauge theory. In particular, the it may be defined, the coupling constant is chosen to
number o f leading terms in 1/N is small, and the extra
factors of 1/N in higher orders are unable to beat out
9 q ~
the increase in the number o f terms for those orders.
When the series is summed, however, it is found that

i Permanent address: Department of Physics, Massachusetts

Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
:~1 The large N limit of two dimensional QCD is discussed in
ref. [1 ]. g g
,2 The large N limit of the h4~4 vector model is investigated in -/-ff ,/-g ,N ,,N
ref. [2]. For excellent reviews of the large N expansion,
see ref. [3]. Fig. 1. Planar graphs.

Volume 99B, number 1 PHYSICS LETTERS 5 February 1981

g g
m=mj ~ ~

o >
o N
Fig. 3. m is the number of orders of the interaction included,
and N is the order of the invariance group. In region I the non-
Fig. 2. A nonplanar graph. planar diagrams outweigh the planar ones, and vice-versa in
region II. The asterisk represents QCD.
be g/x/N. The graphs o f lowest order in 1/N turn out
to be those where no color lines cross (see fig. 1). theory certainly is not) can be rearranged to converge
Since there is a factor of N that comes from summing to an arbitrary value. It is thus not obvious that the
over the internal color loop, these graphs are both 1/N expansion is good even for large finite N * 4.
O(1) in I/N, although they are different order in g. A It is instructive at this point to make a comparison
"non-planar" graph such as fig. 2 is suppressed by a with QED. Since the number of graphs of order a m
factor o f 1/N 2 because it has only one convoluted grows like m m, by these arguments we should turn off
loop. A general graph can be drawn with no propaga- our computers after we have calculated the first 137
tors crossing on a surface of genus (number o f han- orders, at which point the graphs become so numerous
dles) H. The genus of a graph means the minimum as to outweigh the extra factors of a. However, in the
genus o f a surface on which the graph can be drawn 1IN expansion this occurs at the first order and we
with non-intersecting propagators. A graph o f genus should not even plug in the computer.
H is suppressed by a factor o f ( 1 / N 2)H. This is often The 1/N approximations appear to be extremely
used to conclude (or suggest the ansatz) that as N good in some cases, so we expect that this objection
gets large only planar (genus 0) graphs remain. does not apply. A suspicious assumption I have m a d e
It has been shown + 3 that the number of ruth order is that a large number o f order m genus H graphs im-
planar diagrams, for any Green's function, is bounded plies a large term of order H in the 1IN expansion. In
from above by K m. K here is a large constant, and rn fact if we assume that the order H term is obtained by
is the order o f the interaction. This is a very slow summing a non-convergent series, the converse can be
growth rate. When we go from order m to m + 1, the true. In this case a large asymptotic value o f the terms
number o f graphs increases only b y a constant factor, o f this series suggests that the final sum may be small,
regardless of the value of m. I show later that the num- as can be seen for instance in the Borel expansion
ber o f genus 1 graphs of order m goes as m2K m-2. oo

The weighted ratio o f genus 1 to genus 0 graphs is 1 - ~ (-x) n , for large positive x .
1 +x n=0
Since even the leading term for the 1/N expansion
~enusO ~ Km - NK2- -+ O, as m ~ oo.
o f SU(N) gauge theories has not yet been found, de-
genus 1 (m2 /N2)Km-2 m finite statements about its nature are difficult to make.
This situation is depicted in fig. 3. In using the 1IN However, consideration of simpler series can elucidate
approximation to describe QCD, we are extrapolating some features. In the following, such a series is solved
from region I (planar dominance) to region II (non- and discussed.
planar dominance). Additionally Riemann's theorem We construct an example of a simple series that
tells us that by rearrangement of the terms any series retains some features of the SU(N) perturbation series.
that is not absolutely convergent (which perturbation
+3 The problem of graph counting was essentially solved in +4 Similar conclusions concerning the non-trivial nature of the
ref. [4]. It was done for field theories in the rotor represen- planar approximation are reached using functional methods
tation in ref. [5 ] and later very elegantly in ref. [6]. in ref. [7].

Volume 99B, number 1 PHYSICS LETTERS 5 February 1981

A crude but qualitatively correct estimate of the num- r'f', '
ber o f graphs with fixed m and H is derived. We then
assign to each graph a value o f g m N - 2 H , sum the series
and show that the vlanar approximation is the large N
We first derive an approximate expression for NH,m,
the number o f graphs with m vertices and genus H.
For large rn, and neglecting special symmetries, almost >
0 I 2 3 4 ,5 6 7 H
every genus 1 graph o f order rn + 2 can be uniquely ob-
tained from a planar graph b y the addition o f one prop- Fig. 4. All graphs have values ofm (order of the interaction),
agator and two vertices. Since the number o f propaga- H (genus) above the diagonal. Each column represents one
tors in the genus 0 graph is proportional to the num- term in the 1/N expansion.
ber of vertices it contains, there are about m(rn - 1)/2
m(m - 1) ways of attaching the additional propaga- that the 2 in [(m - 2//)!] - I is crucial; without it there
tor. The constant factors neglected here do not quali- would only be (constant) m graphs o f order m.
tatively affect the final answer. Hence We now weight each graph according to its order m
and genus H. The weighted contribution is * s :
Nm+2,1 = rn(m - 1)Nm, 0 = m ( m - 1)K m . _ 1 m!
WH,m X-2-Hgm(m - 214)! H! K m - z H '

Nm+4, 2 = (m + 2)(m + 1)(2!)-1Nm+2,1 for m ~> 2 H . (2)

= (m + 2)(rn + 1)(m)(m - 1 ) ( 2 ! ) - l K m , To generate the 1/N expansion we perform a formal

summation over m obtaining:
where the ( 2 ! ) - l c o m e s from the fact that each genus 2
graph is produced 2! ways by this construction. Con- WH - 1 ~ gm (m 2H)! K m - z H (3)
N 2 H H ! m =2H

(m + 2 H - 2)! K m (m + 2H)! = (gK)m rn!g!

Nm +2H,H = ( m ~ 2) V~-l~. -- ~ H! m! ' m=0

for large m ,
1 - g k H!
e - 2g/N(1 - gK),
m! H!Km_2H f o r m ~> 2 H
Nm'H = (m - 2H)! ' '
e is a small expansion parameter (for g = 1, N = 3, e 2
Nm, H = 0 , m <2H. (1) < 0.01). The series in H is asymptotic and is not well
defined for all values o f g and N. To define the sum,
The truncation o f N for 2 H > m (see fig. 4) is due to we look for an integral expression for W --=Z~= 0 WH.
the fact that for a given m, there is an upper limit to We notice
the genus o f the graph. It must be less than the num-
ber o f propagators and H < m / 2 seems reasonable. e-tdt f dte-t(l_at+~_T3(at)2_...)
Our series gives about the right total number o f graphs, f(1 + 2at) 1/2'- 0
m/2 (2H)!, ',~H
= ~--0 H!-t-~-~ •
Nm,H = O( mm ) ,
H=0 4:5 We could assume a random distribution of signs and say
that WmH grows like Nx/'NmHmH.Again, this would not qua-
which is the case for SU(N) gauge theories. Notice litively affect the final answer.

Volume 99B, number 1 PHYSICS LETTERS 5 February 1981

Making the identification - a = ~e 2 , we obtain the def- mation has been observed in many instances. The
inition p-co mass difference is zero in the planar approxima-
tion, and the corrections are naively expected to be of
1 fo dte-t order 1IN 2 = 1/9 [2,3]. Experimentally the mass differ-
W= 1 -gK (1 - e2t) 1/2 (4a) ence is less than 1%. For a more quantitative example,
the large g limit of the ground state energy of the
_ i x~_ e_l/e2 erfc(_i/e) (4b) U(N) invariant matrix anharmonic oscillator has been
e(1 - g K ) calculated by Brezin and Parisi [8]. They find

_~ i ~/Tr e_l/e2 lira E(N, g) = N2g1/30.58993

1-gK e g---~ oo

1 2 e - l/e2
? eX2 dx (4c)
× [1 + 0.1179/N 2 + 0.0064/N 4 + O(1/N6)] ,

E(1, g) = gl/30.6633, (5)

Expression (a) has a branch point at e = 0. Expression
(c) defines which branch we choose. One sees clearly whereas the exact answer for N = 1 is known numeri-
here how an imaginary term (possibly signalling in- cally to be E(1, g) = 0.6679. The coefficients in eq.
stantons or vacuum instability) can arise in the full (5) show that the 1IN expansion is good even at N = 1.
summation of perturbation series. The series we have summed has similar structure to
We now see why the series in H (the 1/N expansion) the sum of graphs for QCD. It is reasonable to conjec-
is not well defined for real e, even in the Borel sense. ture that a final perturbative solution of QCD will re-
In expanding the QCD functional integral in powers of tain the feature of our model that the real expansion
g to obtain the set of vacuum graphs we may be ex- parameter is not 1/N = 7,1 but 1/K2N 2 ~ 10 -3, and
panding around a branch point. So we do not necessar- that 1/K 2 in QCD wiil be analogous to 1/4rr in QED.
ily expect a well defined series.
Nevertheless, the 1IN expansion still provides a very I would like to tlmnk Sidney Coleman, Roman
good approximation to the integral form for 14/. For e Jackiw, Joe Lykken, Nick Manton, Paolo Rossi, and
small the branch point in the integrand gets pushed off Rhys Scott for numerous and invaluable suggestions
to infinite t and the imaginary part of W goes to zero. and criticisms. This material is based upon work sup-
The e -+ 0 limit of W is exactly (1 - gK) -1, the planar ported by the National Science Foundation under
term. However, we have seen there are essential non- Grant No. PHY-7727084 and US Department of Ener-
perturbative features of W that are missed entirely in gy (DOE) Contract No. EY-76-C-02-3069.
the 1IN expansion.
Further, and somewhat surprisingly we notice the References
emergence of a new expansion parameter, 1/K, or
more precisely [1] G. 't Hooft, Nucl. Phys. B72 (1974) 461.
[2] S. Coleman, R. Jackiw and H.D. Politzer, Phys. Rev. D10
[2g/N(1 - gK) ] 2 ~ (2INK)2. (1974) 2491.
[3] E. Witten, Baryons in thel/Nexpansion, ICTP Trieste
Inspection of eq. (3) reveals that the second order
Summer Workshop (1979);
term is down by a factor of (2gZ/N2)(1 - g K ) -2 rel- S. Coleman, 1/N, SLAC-PUB-2484 (March 1980).
ative to the first. Thus it does not matter i f g is large [4] W.T. Tutte, Can. J. Math. 4 (1962) 21.
and N is not large. For SU(N) gauge theories K is at [5] J. Koplik, A. Neveu and S. Nussinov, Nucl. Phys. B123
least 10 [ 4 - 6 ] . K is determined by the asymptotic (1977) 109.
[6] E. Brezin, C. Itzykson, G. Parisi and J.B. Zuber, Commun.
behavior of the number of planar graphs, and is a
Math. Phys. 59 (19278) 35.
topological characteristic of the graph theory. [7] C. Itzykson and J.B. Zuber, J. Math. Phys. 21 (1980) 411.
Indeed, unexpected accuracy of the 1IN approxi- [8] E. Brezin, private communication.