19S1 D. Anselmi
Theories of gravitation




D. Anselmi
From Physics To Life

A journey to the infinitesimally small and back

In English and Italian

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Recent Papers

Unitarity of quantum field theory

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.


J. High Energy Phys. 12 (2022) 088 | DOI: 10.1007/JHEP12(2022)088

arXiv: 2210.14240 [hep-th]

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.


arXiv: 2207.12401 [hep-th]

We extend quantum field theory by including purely virtual “cloud” sectors, to define physical off-shell correlation functions of gauge invariant quark and gluon fields, without affecting the $S$ matrix amplitudes. The extension is made of certain cloud bosons, plus their anticommuting partners. Both are quantized as purely virtual, to ensure that they do not propagate ghosts. The extended theory is renormalizable and unitary. In particular, the off-shell, diagrammatic version of the optical theorem holds. We calculate the one-loop two-point functions of dressed quarks and gluons, and show that their absorptive parts are gauge independent, cloud independent and positive (while they are generically unphysical if the cloud sectors are not purely virtual). A gauge/cloud duality simplifies the computations and shows that the gauge choice is just a particular cloud. It is possible to dress every field insertion with a different cloud. We compare the purely virtual extension to previous approaches to similar problems.


Eur. Phys. J. C 83 (2023) 544 | DOI: 10.1140/epjc/s10052-023-11717-2

arXiv: 2207.11271 [hep-ph]

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

arXiv: 2203.02516 [hep-th]

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

arXiv: 2202.10483 [hep-th]

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

arXiv: 2201.00832 [hep-ph]

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:

arXiv: 2109.06889 [hep-th]

The search for purely virtual quanta has attracted interest in the past. We consider various proposals and compare them to the concept of fake particle, or “fakeon”. In particular, the Feynman-Wheeler propagator, which amounts to using the Cauchy principal value inside Feynman diagrams, violates renormalizability, unitarity and stability, due to the coexistence of the prescriptions $\pm i\epsilon $. We contrast the Feynman, fakeon and Feynman-Wheeler prescriptions in ordinary as well as cut diagrams. The fakeon does not have the problems of the Feynman-Wheeler propagator and emerges as the correct concept of purely virtual quantum. It allows us to make sense of quantum gravity at the fundamental level, and places it on an equal footing with the standard model. The resulting theory of quantum gravity is perturbative up to an incredibly high energy.


J. High Energ. Phys. 03 (2020) 142 | DOI: 10.1007/JHEP03(2020)142

arXiv: 2001.01942 [hep-th]

Talk given at Penn State University, Dec 17, 2019

A new quantization prescription is able to endow quantum field theory with a new type of “particle”, the fakeon (fake particle), which mediates interactions, but cannot be observed. A massive fakeon of spin 2 (together with a scalar field) allows us to build a theory of quantum gravity that is both renormalizable and unitary, and to some extent unique. The theory predicts that causality is lost at sufficiently small distances, where time makes no longer sense. After presenting the general formulation of the theory, I explain its nontrivial classical limit, the modifications of the FLRW metric and the role of the cosmological constant. Finally, I discuss the possibility that the Higgs boson might be a fakeon.


The correspondence principle made of unitarity, locality and renormalizability has been very successful in quantum field theory. Among the other things, it helped us build the standard model. However, it also showed important limitations. For example, it failed to restrict the gauge group and the matter sector in a powerful way. After discussing its effectiveness, we upgrade it to make room for quantum gravity. The unitarity assumption is better understood, since it allows for the presence of physical particles as well as fake particles (fakeons). The locality assumption is applied to an interim classical action, since the true classical action is nonlocal and emerges from the quantization and a later process of classicization. The renormalizability assumption is refined to single out the special role of the gauge couplings. We show that the upgraded principle leads to an essentially unique theory of quantum gravity. In particular, in four dimensions, a fakeon of spin 2, together with a scalar field, is able to make the theory renormalizable while preserving unitarity. We offer an overview of quantum field theories of particles and fakeons in various dimensions, with and without gravity.

Proceedings of the conference Progress and Visions in Quantum Theory in View of Gravity: Bridging foundations of physics and mathematics, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, Leipzig, October 2018


arXiv: 1911.10343 [hep-th]

OSF preprints | DOI: 10.31219/

Philpapers ANSFQG

Preprints 2019, 2019110321

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14B1 D. Anselmi

Course on renormalization, taught in 2015.

Last update: September 15th 2023, 242 pages

The final (2023) edition is vaibable on Amazon:


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

The pdf file of the 2015 Edition is available here: PDF