We formulate a new quantization principle for perturbative quantum field theory, based on a minimally non time-ordered product, and show that it gives the theories of physical particles and purely virtual particles. Given a classical Lagrangian, the quantization proceeds as usual, guided by the time-ordered product, up to the common scattering matrix $S$, which satisfies a unitarity or a pseudounitarity equation. The physical scattering matrix $S_{\text{ph}}$ is built from $S$, by gluing $S$ diagrams together into new diagrams, through non time-ordered propagators. We classify the most general way to gain unitarity by means of such operations, and point out that a special solution “minimizes” the time-ordering violation. We show that the scattering matrix $S_{\text{ph}}$ given by this solution coincides with the one obtained by turning the would-be ghosts (and possibly some would-be physical particles) into purely virtual particles (fakeons). We study tricks to descend and ascend in a unique way among diagrams, and illustrate them in several examples: the ascending chain from the bubble to the hexagon, at one loop; the box with diagonal, at two loops; other diagrams, with more loops.

Quantum field theory is extended to include purely virtual “cloud sectors”, which allow us to define point-dependent observables, including a gauge invariant metric and gauge invariant matter fields, and calculate their off-shell correlation functions perturbatively in quantum gravity. Each extra sector is made of a cloud field, its anticommuting partner, a cloud function and a cloud Faddeev-Popov determinant. Thanks to certain cloud symmetries, the ordinary correlation functions and S matrix elements are unmodified. The clouds are rendered purely virtual, to ensure that they do not propagate unwanted degrees of freedom. So doing, the off-shell, diagrammatic version of the optical theorem holds and the extended theory is unitary. Every insertion in a correlation function can be dressed with its own cloud. The one-loop two-point functions of dressed scalars, vectors and gravitons are calculated. Their absorptive parts are positive, cloud independent and gauge independent, while they are unphysical if non purely virtual clouds are used. Renormalizability is proved to all orders by means of an extended Batalin-Vilkovisky formalism and its Zinn-Justin master equations. The purely virtual approach is compared to other approaches available in the literature.

We extend quantum field theory by including purely virtual “cloud” sectors, which allow us to define physical off-shell correlation functions of gauge invariant quark and gluon fields. Thanks to certain “cloud symmetries”, the new sectors do not change the fundamental physics. In particular, the ordinary correlation functions and the S matrix amplitudes remain the same. Each cloud sector is made of a cloud field, its anticommuting partner, a cloud function and a cloud Faddeev-Popov determinant. Every field insertion in a correlation function can be made gauge invariant by dressing it with an independent cloud. The cloud sectors are rendered purely virtual, to ensure that they do not propagate extra degrees of freedom. The off-shell, diagrammatic version of the optical theorem holds, and the extended theory is unitary. The one-loop two-point functions of the dressed quarks and gluons are calculated. Their absorptive parts are gauge independent, cloud independent and positive (while they are cloud dependent and possibly negative, if the clouds are defined by means of the Feynman prescription). A gauge/cloud duality simplifies the computations and shows that the gauge choice is just a particular cloud. Renormalizability is proved to all orders by means of an extended Batalin-Vilkovisky formalism and its Zinn-Justin master equations. We compare the purely virtual approach with the Coulomb nonlocal dressing of Dirac for QED, and the one of Lavelle and McMullan for non-Abelian gauge theories. We also comment on the use of Wilson lines and ‘t Hooft composite fields.

The physics of fundamental interactions is going through a concerning, prolonged period of stagnation. The incredible success of the standard model of particle physics and the lack of new experimental data have frustrated our hopes in the future. On top of that, the scientific community shattered into a large number of isolated groups. Many mainstreams have consolidated, leaving not much room for the advancement of bright, original proposals. In frontier domains, like quantum gravity, most mainstreams have disavowed the inheritance of the glowing past and embarked on uncertain routes (string theory, loop quantum gravity and many others). It is time to make room for approaches that are really out of the box and can truly trigger a renaissance of particle physics. Yet, they can only be believable if they are solidly rooted in the successes of the past. This ERC project pursues a research line that does stem from the achievements of the past, but is radically new and has the potential to take us out of this dark period. It is based on the notion of purely virtual particle, which upgrades in a crucial way our understanding of fundamental interactions through quantum field theory. One of its key predictions in primordial cosmology could be confirmed experimentally within a decade. Nevertheless, the scientific community cannot afford another decade like the past ones, so it is imperative to act now. The new idea opens the door to unthinkable scenarios and has a huge amount of ramifications and applications to all areas of fundamental physics, with the potential to build bridges between quantum gravity, primordial cosmology and the phenomenology of particle physics beyond the standard model. More key predictions are expected to follow, together with crucial ideas for future colliders. Hopefully, they will trigger the breakthroughs that we need to make a U turn, activate a virtuous circle, reunite the scientific community and lead to the renaissance of particle physics.

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We review the concept of purely virtual particle and its uses in quantum gravity, primordial cosmology and collider physics. The fake particle, or “fakeon”, which mediates interactions without appearing among the incoming and outgoing states, can be introduced by means of a new diagrammatics. The renormalization coincides with one of the parent Euclidean diagrammatics, while unitarity follows from spectral optical identities, which can be derived by means of algebraic operations. The classical limit of a theory of physical particles and fakeons is described by an ordinary Lagrangian plus Hermitian, micro acausal and micro nonlocal self-interactions. Quantum gravity propagates the graviton, a massive scalar field (the inflaton) and a massive spin-2 fakeon, and leads to a constrained primordial cosmology, which predicts the tensor-to-scalar ratio r in the window 0.4≲1000r≲3.5. The interpretation of inflation as a cosmic RG flow allows us to calculate the perturbation spectra to high orders in the presence of the Weyl squared term. In models of new physics beyond the standard model, fakeons evade various phenomenological bounds, because they are less constrained than normal particles. The resummation of self-energies reveals that it is impossible to get too close to the fakeon peak. The related peak uncertainty, equal to the fakeon width divided by 2, is expected to be observable.

Symmetry 2022, 14(3), 521 | DOI: 10.3390/sym14030521

We reconsider the Lee-Wick (LW) models and compare their properties to the properties of the models that contain purely virtual particles. We argue against the LW premise that unstable particles can be removed from the sets of incoming and outgoing states in scattering processes. The removal leads to a non-Hermitian classical limit, besides clashing with the observation of the muon. If, on the other hand, all the states are included, the LW models have a Hamiltonian unbounded from below or negative norms. Purely virtual particles, on the contrary, lead to a Hermitian classical limit and are absent from the sets of incoming and outgoing states without implications on the observation of long-lived unstable particles. We give a *vademecum* to summarize the properties of most options to treat abnormal particles. We study a method to remove the LW ghosts only partially, by saving the physical particles they contain. Specifically, we replace a LW ghost with a certain superposition of a purely virtual particle and an ordinary particle, and drop only the former from the sets of the external states. The trick can be used to make the Pauli-Villars fields consistent and observable, without sending their masses to infinity, or to build a finite QED, by tweaking the original Lee-Wick construction. However, it has issues with general covariance, so it cannot be applied as is to quantum gravity, where a manifestly covariant decomposition requires the introduction of a massive spin-2 multiplet.

Phys. Rev. D 105 (2022) 125017 | DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.105.125017

We study the resummation of self-energy diagrams into dressed propagators in the case of purely virtual particles and compare the results with those obtained for physical particles and ghosts. The three geometric series differ by infinitely many contact terms, which do not admit well-defined sums. The peak region, which is outside the convergence domain, can only be reached in the case of physical particles, thanks to analyticity. In the other cases, nonperturbative effects become important. To clarify the matter, we introduce the energy resolution $\Delta E$ around the peak and argue that a “peak uncertainty” $\Delta E\gtrsim \Delta E_{\text{min}}\simeq \Gamma _{\text{f}}/2$ around energies $E\simeq m_{\text{f}}$ expresses the impossibility to approach the fakeon too closely, $m_{\text{f}}$ being the fakeon mass and $\Gamma _{\text{f}}$ being the fakeon width. The introduction of $\Delta E$ is also crucial to explain the observation of unstable long-lived particles, like the muon. Indeed, by the common energy-time uncertainty relation, such particles are also affected by ill-defined sums at $\Delta E=0$, whenever we separate their observation from the observation of their decay products. We study the regime of large $\Gamma _{\text{f}}$, which applies to collider physics (and situations like the one of the $Z$ boson), and the regime of small $\Gamma _{\text{f}}$, which applies to quantum gravity (and situations like the one of the muon).

J. High Energy Phys. 06 (2022) 058 | DOI: 10.1007/JHEP06(2022)058

We prove spectral optical identities in quantum field theories of physical particles (defined by the Feynman $i\epsilon $ prescription) and purely virtual particles (defined by the fakeon prescription). The identities are derived by means of purely algebraic operations and hold for every (multi)threshold separately and for arbitrary frequencies. Their major significance is that they offer a deeper understanding on the problem of unitarity in quantum field theory. In particular, they apply to “skeleton” diagrams, before integrating on the space components of the loop momenta and the phase spaces. In turn, the skeleton diagrams obey a spectral optical theorem, which gives the usual optical theorem for amplitudes, once the integrals on the space components of the loop momenta and the phase spaces are restored. The fakeon

prescription/projection is implemented by dropping the thresholds that involve fakeon frequencies. We give examples at one loop (bubble, triangle, box, pentagon and hexagon), two loops (triangle with “diagonal”, box with diagonal) and arbitrarily many loops. We also derive formulas for the loop integrals with fakeons and relate them to the known formulas for the loop integrals with physical particles.

J. High Energy Phys. 11 (2021) 030 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/JHEP11(2021)030

Extensions to the Standard Model that use strictly off-shell degrees of freedom – the fakeons – allow for new measurable interactions at energy scales usually precluded by the constraints that target the on-shell propagation of new particles. Here we employ the interactions between a new fake scalar doublet and the muon to explain the recent Fermilab measurement of its anomalous magnetic moment. Remarkably, unlike in the case of usual particles, the experimental result can be matched for fakeon masses below the electroweak scale without contradicting the stringent precision data and collider bounds on new light degrees of freedom. Our analysis, therefore, demonstrates that the fakeon approach offers unexpected viable possibilities to model new physics naturally at low scales.

Phys. Rev. D 104 (2021) 035009 | DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.104.035009

We introduce a new way of modeling the physics beyond the Standard Model by considering fake, strictly off-shell degrees of freedom: the fakeons. To demonstrate the approach and exemplify its reach, we re-analyze the phenomenology of the Inert Doublet Model under the assumption that the second doublet is a fakeon. Remarkably, the fake doublet avoids the most stringent $Z$-pole constraints regardless of the chosen mass scale, thereby allowing for the presence of new effects well below the electroweak scale. Furthermore, the absence of on-shell propagation prevents fakeons from inducing missing energy signatures in collider experiments. The distinguishing features of the model appear at the loop level, where fakeons modify the Higgs boson $h\rightarrow\gamma\gamma$ decay width and the Higgs trilinear coupling. The running of Standard Model parameters proceeds as in the usual Inert Doublet Model case. Therefore, the fake doublet can also ensure the stability of the Standard Model vacuum. Our work shows that fakeons are a valid alternative to the usual tools of particle physics model building, with the potential to shape a new paradigm, where the significance of the existing experimental constraints towards new physics must necessarily be reconsidered.

J. High Energy Phys. 10 (2021) 132 | DOI: 10.1007/JHEP10(2021)132