Recent theorems

Recent Papers

Quantum gravity

The “fakeon” is a fake degree of freedom, i.e. a degree of freedom that does not belong to the physical spectrum, but propagates inside the Feynman diagrams. Fakeons can be used to make higher-derivative theories unitary. Moreover, they help us clarify how the Lee-Wick models work. In this paper we study the fakeon models, that is to say the theories that contain fake and physical degrees of freedom. We formulate them by (nonanalytically) Wick rotating their Euclidean versions. We investigate the properties of arbitrary Feynman diagrams and, among other things, prove that the fakeon models are perturbatively unitary to all orders. If standard power counting constraints are fulfilled, the models are also renormalizable. The S matrix is regionwise analytic. The amplitudes can be continued from the Euclidean region to the other regions by means of an unambiguous, but nonanalytic, operation, called average continuation. We compute the average continuation of typical amplitudes in four, three and two dimensions and show that its predictions agree with those of the nonanalytic Wick rotation. By reconciling renormalizability and unitarity in higher-derivative theories, the fakeon models are good candidates to explain quantum gravity.


arXiv: 1801.00915 [hep-th]

We study the main options for a unitary and renormalizable, local quantum field theory of the gravitational interactions. The first model is a Lee-Wick superrenormalizable higher-derivative gravity, formulated as a nonanalytically Wick rotated Euclidean theory. We show that, under certain conditions, the $S$ matrix is unitary when the cosmological constant vanishes. The model is the simplest of its class. However, infinitely many similar options are allowed, which raises the issue of uniqueness. To deal with this problem, we propose a new quantization prescription, by doubling the unphysical poles of the higher-derivative propagators and turning them into Lee-Wick poles. The Lagrangian of the simplest theory of quantum gravity based on this idea is the linear combination of $R$, $R_{\mu \nu}R^{\mu \nu }$, $R^{2}$ and the cosmological term. Only the graviton propagates in the cutting equations and, when the cosmological constant vanishes, the $S$ matrix is unitary. The theory satisfies the locality of counterterms and is renormalizable by power counting. It is unique in the sense that it is the only one with a dimensionless gauge coupling.


J. High Energy Phys. 06 (2017) 086 | DOI: doi:10.1007/JHEP06(2017)086

arXiv: 1704.07728 [hep-th]

We show that Minkowski higher-derivative quantum field theories are generically inconsistent, because they generate nonlocal, non-Hermitian ultraviolet divergences, which cannot be removed by means of standard renormalization procedures. By “Minkowski theories” we mean theories that are defined directly in Minkowski spacetime. The problems occur when the propagators have complex poles, so that the correlation functions cannot be obtained as the analytic continuations of their Euclidean versions. The usual power counting rules fail and are replaced by much weaker ones. Self-energies generate complex divergences proportional to inverse powers of D’Alembertians. Three-point functions give more involved nonlocal divergences, which couple to infrared effects. The violations of the locality and Hermiticity of counterterms are illustrated by means of explicit computations in scalar models and higher-derivative gravity.


Eur. Phys. J. C 77 (2017) 84 | DOI: 10.1140/epjc/s10052-017-4646-7

arXiv: 1612.06510 [hep-th]

We reconsider perturbative unitarity in quantum field theory and upgrade several arguments and results. The minimum assumptions that lead to the largest time equation, the cutting equations and the unitarity equation are identified. Using this knowledge and a special gauge, we give a new, simpler proof of perturbative unitarity in gauge theories and generalize it to quantum gravity, in four and higher dimensions. The special gauge interpolates between the Feynman gauge and the Coulomb gauge without double poles. When the Coulomb limit is approached, the unphysical particles drop out of the cuts and the cutting equations are consistently projected onto the physical subspace. The proof does not extend to nonlocal quantum field theories of gauge fields and gravity, whose unitarity remains uncertain.


Phys. Rev. D 94 (2016) 025028 | DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.94.025028

arXiv: 1606.06348 [hep-th]

The properties of quantum gravity are reviewed from the point of view of renormalization. Various attempts to overcome the problem of nonrenormalizability are presented, and the reasons why most of them fail for quantum gravity are discussed. Interesting possibilities come from relaxing the locality assumption, which can inspire the investigation of a largely unexplored sector of quantum field theory. Another possibility is to work with infinitely many independent couplings, and search for physical quantities that only depend on a finite subset of them. In this spirit, it is useful to organize the classical action of quantum gravity, determined by renormalization, in a convenient way. Taking advantage of perturbative local field redefinitions, we write the action as the sum of the Hilbert term, the cosmological term, a peculiar scalar that is important only in higher dimensions, plus invariants constructed with at least three Weyl tensors. We show that the FRLW configurations, and many other locally conformally flat metrics, are exact solutions of the field equations in arbitrary dimensions $d>3$. If the metric is expanded around such configurations the quadratic part of the action is free of higher-time derivatives. Other well-known metrics, such as those of black holes, are instead affected in nontrivial ways by the classical corrections of quantum origin.


Mod. Phys. Lett. A 30 (2015) 1540004 | DOI: 10.1142/S0217732315400040

Course on renormalization, taught in Pisa in 2015. (More chapters will be added later.)

Last update: May 9th 2015, 230 pages



1. Functional integral

  • 1.1 Path integral
    • Schroedinger equation
    • Free particle
  • 1.2 Free field theory
  • 1.3 Perturbative expansion
    • Feynman rules
  • 1.4 Generating functionals, Schwinger-Dyson equations
  • 1.5 Advanced generating functionals
  • 1.6 Massive vector fields
  • 1.7 Fermions

2. Renormalization

  • 2.1 Dimensional regularization
    • 2.1.1 Limits and other operations in $D$ dimensions
    • 2.1.2 Functional integration measure
    • 2.1.3 Dimensional regularization for vectors and fermions
  • 2.2 Divergences and counterterms
  • 2.3 Renormalization to all orders
  • 2.4 Locality of counterterms
  • 2.5 Power counting
  • 2.6 Renormalizable theories
  • 2.7 Composite fields
  • 2.8 Maximum poles of diagrams
  • 2.9 Subtraction prescription
  • 2.10 Regularization prescription
  • 2.11 Comments about the dimensional regularization
  • 2.12 About the series resummation

3. Renormalization group

  • 3.1 The Callan-Symanzik equation
  • 3.2 Finiteness of the beta function and the anomalous dimensions
  • 3.3 Fixed points of the RG flow
  • 3.4 Scheme (in)dependence
  • 3.5 A deeper look into the renormalization group

4. Gauge symmetry

  • 4.1 Abelian gauge symmetry
  • 4.2 Gauge fixing
  • 4.3 Non-Abelian global symmetry
  • 4.4 Non-Abelian gauge symmetry

5. Canonical gauge formalism

  • 5.1 General idea behind the canonical gauge formalism
  • 5.2 Systematics of the canonical gauge formalism
  • 5.3 Canonical transformations
  • 5.4 Gauge fixing
  • 5.5 Generating functionals
  • 5.6 Ward identities

6. Quantum electrodynamics

  • 6.1 Ward identities
  • 6.2 Renormalizability of QED to all orders

7 Non-Abelian gauge field theories

  • 7.1 Renormalizability of non-Abelian gauge theories to all orders
    • Raw subtraction

A. Notation and useful formulas

Read in flash format


I prove that classical gravity coupled with quantized matter can be renormalized with a finite number of independent couplings, plus field redefinitions, without introducing higher-derivative kinetic terms in the gravitational sector, but adding vertices that couple the matter stress-tensor with the Ricci tensor. The theory is called “acausal gravity”, because it predicts the violation of causality at high energies. Renormalizability is proved by means of a map M that relates acausal gravity with higher-derivative gravity. The causality violations are governed by two parameters, a and b, that are mapped by M into higher-derivative couplings. At the tree level causal prescriptions exist, but they are spoiled by the one-loop corrections. Some ideas are inspired by the usual treatments of the Abraham-Lorentz force in classical electrodynamics.


JHEP 0701 (2007) 062 | DOI: 10.1088/1126-6708/2007/01/062


In flat space, $\gamma_5$ and the epsilon tensor break the dimensionally continued Lorentz symmetry, but propagators have fully Lorentz invariant denominators. When the Standard Model is coupled with quantum gravity $\gamma_5$ breaks the continued local Lorentz symmetry. I show how to deform the Einstein lagrangian and gauge-fix the residual local Lorentz symmetry so that the propagators of the graviton, the ghosts and the BRST auxiliary fields have fully Lorentz invariant denominators. This makes the calculation of Feynman diagrams more efficient.


Phys.Lett. B596 (2004) 90-95 | DOI: 10.1016/j.physletb.2004.06.089


As it stands, quantum gravity coupled with matter in three spacetime dimensions is not finite. In this paper I show that an algorithmic procedure that makes it finite exists, under certain conditions. To achieve this result, gravity is coupled with an interacting conformal field theory $C$. The Newton constant and the marginal parameters of $C$ are taken as independent couplings. The values of the other irrelevant couplings are determined iteratively in the loop- and energy-expansions, imposing that their beta functions vanish. The finiteness equations are solvable thanks to the following properties: the beta functions of the irrelevant couplings have a simple structure; the irrelevant terms made with the Riemann tensor can be reabsorbed by means of field redefinitions; the other irrelevant terms have, generically, non-vanishing anomalous dimensions. The perturbative expansion is governed by an effective Planck mass that takes care of the interactions in the matter sector. As an example, I study gravity coupled with Chern-Simons $U(1)$ gauge theory with massless fermions, solve the finiteness equations and determine the four-fermion couplings to two-loop order. The construction of this paper does not immediately apply to four-dimensional quantum gravity.


Nucl.Phys. B687 (2004) 124-142 | DOI: 10.1016/j.nuclphysb.2004.03.024


In three spacetime dimensions, where no graviton propagates, pure gravity is known to be finite. It is natural to inquire whether finiteness survives the coupling with matter. Standard arguments ensure that there exists a subtraction scheme where no Lorentz-Chern-Simons term is generated by radiative corrections, but are not sufficiently powerful to ensure finiteness. Therefore, it is necessary to perform an explicit (two-loop) computation in a specific model. I consider quantum gravity coupled with Chern-Simons U(1) gauge theory and massless fermions and show that renormalization originates four-fermion divergent vertices at the second loop order. I conclude that quantum gravity coupled with matter, as it stands, is not finite in three spacetime dimensions.


Nucl.Phys. B687 (2004) 143-160 | DOI: 10.1016/j.nuclphysb.2004.03.023


Search this site

Support Renormalization

If you want to support you can spread the word on social media or make a small donation


14B1 D. Anselmi

Read in flash format


Last update: May 9th 2015, 230 pages

Contents: Preface | 1. Functional integral | 2. Renormalization | 3. Renormalization group | 4. Gauge symmetry | 5. Canonical formalism | 6. Quantum electrodynamics | 7. Non-Abelian gauge field theories | Notation and useful formulas | References

Course on renormalization, taught in Pisa in 2015. (More chapters will be added later.)