Tag Archives: Condensed matter physics

Ising Spin Network States for Loop Quantum Gravity by Feller and Livine

This week I have been studying a great paper by Feller and Livine on Ising Spin Network States for Loop Quantum Gravity. In the context of loop quantum gravity, quantum states of geometry are defined as
spin networks. These are graphs decorated with spin and intertwiners, which represent quantized excitations of areas and volumes of the space geometry. In this paper the authors develop the condensed matter point of view on extracting the physical and geometrical information out of spin network states: they
introduce  Ising spin network states, both in 2d on a square lattice and in 3d on a hexagonal lattice, whose correlations map onto the usual Ising model in statistical physics. They construct these states from the basic holonomy operators of loop gravity and derive a set of local Hamiltonian constraints which entirely characterize the states. By studying their phase diagram distance can be reconstructed from the correlations in the various phases.

The line of research pursued in this paper is at the interface between condensed matter and quantum information and quantum gravity on the other: the aim is to understand how the distance can be recovered from correlation and entanglement between sub-systems of the quantum gravity state. The core of the investigation is the correlations and entanglement entropy on spin network states. Correlations and especially entropy are of special importance
for the understanding of black holes dynamics. Understanding the microscopic origin of black holes entropy is one the major test of any attempt to quantify gravity and entanglement between the horizon and its environment degrees of freedom appears crucial

A spin network state is defined on a graph, dressed
with spins on the edge and intertwiners at the vertices.
A spin on an edge e is a half-integer je 2 N=2 giving an
irreducible representation of SU(2) while an intertwiner
at a vertex v is an invariant tensor, or singlet state, between
the representations living on the edges attached
to that vertex. Spins and intertwiners respectively carry
the basic quanta of area and volume. The authors build the spin
network states based on three clear simplifications:

  1.  Use a fixed graph, discarding graph superposition and graph changing dynamics and  work with a fixed regular
  2. Freeze all the spins on all the graph edges. Fix to smallest possible value, ½, which correspond to the most basic excitation of geometry in loop quantum gravity, thus representing a quantum geometry directly at the Planck scale.
  3. Restricted  to 4-valent vertices, which represent the basic quanta of volume in loop quantum gravity, dual to quantum tetrahedra.

These simplifications provide us with the perfect setting to map spin network states, describing the Planck scale quantum geometry, to qubit-based condensed matter models. Such models have been extensively studied in statistical physics and much is known on their phase diagrams and correlation functions, and we hope to be able to import these results to the context of loop quantum gravity. One of the most useful model is the Ising model whose relevance goes from modeling binary mixture to the magnetism of matter. We thus naturally propose to construct and investigate Ising spin
network states.

The paper reviews the definition of spin network and analyzes the structure of 4-valent intertwiners between spins ½ leading to the
effective two-state systems used to define the Ising spin network states. Different equivalent definitions are given in terms of the high and low temperature expansions of the Ising model. The loop representation of the spin network is then obtained and studied as well as the associated density which gives information about
parallel transport in the classical limit. Section III introduces

It then  introduces a set of local Hamiltonian constraints for which
the Ising state is a unique solution and elaborates on their usefulness for understanding the coarse-graining of
spin network  and the dynamic of loop quantum gravity.

After this, it discusses the phase diagram of the Ising
states and their continuum limit as well as the distance
from correlation point of view.


Ising Spin Network State

Spin network basis states  define the basic excitations of the quantum geometry and they are provided with a natural interpretation in terms of discrete geometry with the spins giving the quanta of area and the intertwiners giving the quanta of volume.


These 4-valent vertices will be organized along a regular lattice. The 3d diamond lattice and the 2d square lattice are considered . Looking initially at the 2d square the square lattice: in this setting, the space of 4-valent interwiners between four spins ½ is two dimensional – it can be decomposed into spin 0 and spin 1 states by combining the spins by pairs, as


Different such decompositions exist and are shown as  a graphical representation below. There are three such decompositions, depending on which spins are paired together, the  s, t and u channels.


The spin 0 and 1 states in the s channel  can be explicitly written in terms of the up and down states of the four spins:


Those two states form a basis of the intertwiner space.  There transformation matrices between this basis and the two other channels:


Let’s look at the  intertwiner basis  defined in terms of the square volume operator U of loop quantum gravity. Since the spins, and the area quanta, are fixed, the only freedom left in the spin network states are the volume quanta defined by the intertwiners. This will provide the geometrical interpretation of our spin network states as
excitations of volumes located at each lattice node. For a 4-valent vertex, this operator is defined as:



where J are the spin operators acting on the i link.

The volume itself can then obtained by taking the square root of the absolute value of U . Geometrically, 4-valent intertwiners are interpreted as representing quantum tetrahedron, which becomes the building block of the quantum geometry in loop quantum gravity  and spinfoam models. U takes the following form in the s channel basis:


The smallest  possible value of a chunk of space is the square volume ±√3/4 in Plank units.

The two oriented volume states of û,  | u ↑,↓〉 , can be considered as
the two levels of an effective qubit. Let’s now define a pure spin network state which maps its quantum fluctuations on the thermal fluctuations of a given classical statistical model such as the Ising model by


This state represents a particular configuration of the spin network and the full state is a quantum superposition of them all. Defined as such, the state is unnormalized but its norm is easily computed using the Ising partition function ZIsing:


The intertwiner states living at each vertex are now entangled and carry non-trivial correlations. More precisely this state exhibits Ising correlations between two vertex i, j:


Those correlations are between two volume operators at different vertex which are in fact components of the 2- point function of the gravitational field. So understanding how those correlations can behave in a non-trivial way is a first step toward understanding the behavior of the full 2-point gravity correlations and for instance recover the inverse square law of the propagator.

The generalization to 3d is straightforward. Keeping the requirement that the lattice be 4-valent the natural
regular lattice is the diamond lattice



Using the usual geometrical interpretation of loop quantum gravity, this lattice can be seen as dual to a triangulation of the 3d space in terms of tetrahedra dual to each vertex. This can be seen as an extension of the more used cubic lattice better suited to loop quantum gravity. The Ising spin network state and the whole
set of results which followed are then identical :

  • The wave function


  • The Hamiltonian constraints and their algebra  are the same.


In 3d, the Ising model also exhibits a phase transition

Information about the 2-points correlation functionssuch as long distance behavior at the phase transition or near it can be obtained using methods of quantum field theory. In d dimensions we have


where K(r) are modified Bessel functions and ξ is the
correlation length. For the three-dimensional case, we
have the simple and exact expression



In this paper, the authors have introduced a class of spin network
states for loop quantum gravity on 4-valent graph. Such 4-valent graph allows for a natural geometrical interpretation in terms of quantum tetrahedra glued together into a 3d triangulation of space, but it also allows them to be map the degrees of freedom of those states to effective qubits. Then we can define spin network states corresponding to known statistical spin models, such as the Ising model, so that the correlations living on the spin network are exactly the same as those models.
Related articles

Quantum cosmology of loop quantum gravity condensates: An example by Gielen

This week I have mainly been studying the work done during the Google Summer of Code workshops, in particular that on sagemath knot theory at:

This work looks great and I’ll be using the results in some of my calculations later in the summer.

Another topic I’ve been reviewing is the idea of spacetime as a Bose -Einstein condensate. This together with emergent, entropic and  thermodynamic gravitation seem to be an area into which the quantum tetrahedron approach could naturally fit via statistical mechanics.

In the paper, Quantum cosmology of loop quantum gravity condensates, the author reviews the idea that spatially homogeneous universes can be described in loop quantum gravity as condensates of elementary excitations of space. Their treatment by second-quantised group field theory formalism allows the adaptation of techniques from the description of Bose–Einstein condensates in condensed matter physics. Dynamical equations for the states can be derived directly from the underlying quantum gravity dynamics. The analogue of the Gross–Pitaevskii equation defines an anisotropic  quantum cosmology model, in which the condensate wavefunction becomes a quantum cosmology wavefunction on minisuperspace.

The spacetimes relevant for cosmology are to a very good approximation spatially homogeneous. One can use this fact and perform a symmetry reduction of the classical theory – general relativity coupled to a scalar field or other matter – assuming spatial
homogeneity, followed by a quantisation of the reduced system. Inhomogeneities are usually added perturbatively. This leads to models of quantum cosmology which can be studied  without the need for a full theory of quantum gravity.

Loop quantum gravity (LQG) has some of the structures one would expect in a full theory of quantum gravity: kinematical states corresponding to functionals of the Ashtekar–Barbero connection can be rigorously defined, and geometric observables such
as areas and volumes exist as well-defined operators, typically with discrete spectrum. The use of the LQG formalism in quantising symmetry-reduced gravity leads to loop quantum cosmology (LQC).

Because of the well-defined structures of LQG, LQC allows a rigorous analysis of issues that could not be addressed within the Wheeler– DeWitt quantisation used in conventional quantum cosmology, such as a definition of the physical inner product. More recently, LQC has made closer contact with CMB observations, and the usual inflationary scenario is now discussed within LQC.

A new approach towards addressing the issue of how to describe cosmologically relevant universes in loop quantum gravity uses the group field theory (GFT) formalism, itself a second quantisation formulation of the kinematics and dynamics of LQG: one has a Fock space of LQG spin network vertices or tetrahedra, as building blocks of a simplicial complex, annihilated and created by the field operator ϕ and its Hermitian conjugate ϕ†, respectively. The advantage of using this reformulation is that field-theoretic techniques are available, as a GFT is a standard quantum field theory on a curved group manifold. In particular, one can define coherent or squeezed states for the GFT field, analogous to states used in the physics of Bose– Einstein condensates or in quantum optics; these represent quantum gravity condensates. They describe a large number of degrees of freedom of quantum geometry in the same microscopic quantum state, which is the analogue of homogeneity for a differentiable metric geometry. After embedding a condensate of tetrahedra into a smooth manifold representing a spatial hypersurface, one shows that the spatial metric in a fixed frame reconstructed from the quantum state is compatible with spatial homogeneity. As the number of tetrahedra is taken to infinity, a continuum homogeneous metric can be approximated to a better and better degree.

At this stage, the condensate states defined in this way are kinematical. They are gauge-invariant by construction, and represent geometric data invariant under spatial diffeomorphisms. The strategy followed for extracting information about the dynamics of these states is the use of Schwinger–Dyson equations of a given GFT model. These give constraints on the n point functions of the theory evaluated in a given condensate state – approximating a non-perturbative vacuum, which can be translated into differential equations for the condensate wavefunction used in the definition of the state. This is analogous to condensate states in many-body quantum physics, where such an expectation value gives, in the simplest case, the Gross–Pitaevskii equation for the condensate
wavefunction. The truncation of the infinite tower of such equations to the simplest ones is part of the approximations made. The effective dynamical equations obtained can be viewed as defining a quantum cosmology model, with the condensate wavefunction interpreted as a quantum cosmology wavefunction. This provides a general procedure for deriving an effective cosmological dynamics directly from the underlying theory of quantum gravity. It canbe shown that  a particular quantum cosmology equation of this type, in a semiclassical WKB limit and for isotropic universes, reduces to the classical Friedmann equation of homogeneous,
isotropic universes in general relativity.

See posts:

Let’s  analyse more carefully the quantum cosmological models derived from quantum gravity condensate states in GFT. In particular, the formalism identifies the gauge-invariant configuration space of a tetrahedron with the minisuperspace of homogeneous generally anisotropic geometries.

Using a convenient set of variables the gauge-invariant geometric data, can be mapped to the variables of a general anisotropic Bianchi model it is possible to  find simple solutions to the full quantum equation, corresponding to isotropic universes.

They can only satisfy the condition of rapid oscillation of the WKB approximation for large positive values of the coupling μ in the GFT model. For μ < 0, states are sharply peaked on small values for the curvature, describing a condensate of near-flat building blocks, but these do not oscillate. This supports the view that rather than requiring semiclassical behaviour at the Planck scale, semiclassicality should be imposed only on large-scale observables.

 From quantum gravity condensates to quantum cosmology

Review the relevant steps in the construction of effective quantum cosmology equations for quantum gravity condensates. Use group field theory (GFT) formalism, which is a second quantisation formulation of loop quantum gravity spin networks of fixed valency, or their dual interpretation as simplicial geometries.

The basic structures of the GFT formalism in four dimensions are a complex-valued field ϕ : G⁴ → C, satisfying a gauge invariance property


and the basic non-relativistic commutation relations imposed in the quantum theory


These relations  are analogous to those of non-relativistic scalar field theory, where the mode expansion of the field operator defines annihilation operators.

In GFT, the domain of the field is four copies of a Lie group G, interpreted as the local gauge group of gravity, which can be taken to be G = Spin(4) for Riemannian and G = SL(2,C) for Lorentzian models. In loop quantum gravity, the gauge group is the one given by the classical Ashtekar–Barbero formulation, G = SU(2). This property encodes invariance under gauge transformations acting on spin network vertices.

The Fock vacuum |Ø〉 is analogous to the diffeomorphism-invariant Ashtekar–Lewandowski vacuum of LQG, with zero expectation value for all area or volume operators. The conjugate  ϕ acting on the Fock vacuum |Ø〉  creates a GFT particle, interpreted as a 4-valent spin network vertex or a dual tetrahedron:


The geometric data attached to this tetrahedron, four group elements gI ∈ G, is interpreted as parallel transports of a gravitational connection along links dual to the four faces. The LQG interpretation of this is that of a state that fixes the parallel transports of the Ashtekar–Barbero connection to be gI along the four links given by the spin network, while they are undetermined everywhere else.

In the canonical formalism of Ashtekar and Barbero, the canonically conjugate variable to the connection is a densitised inverse triad, with dimensions of area, that encodes the spatial metric. The GFT formalism can be translated into this momentum space formulation by use of a non-commutative Fourier transform


The geometric interpretation of the variables B ∈ g is as geometric bivectors associated to a spatial triad e, defined by the integral triadover a face △ of the tetrahedron. Hence, the one-particle state


Defines a tetrahedron with minimal uncertainty in the fluxes, that is the oriented area elementstriad given by B . In the LQG interpretation this state completely determines the metric variables for one tetrahedron, while being independent of all other degrees of freedom of geometry in a spatial hypersurface.

The idea of quantum gravity condensates is to use many excitations over the Fock space vacuum all in the same microscopic configuration, to better and better approximate a smooth homogeneous metric or connection, as a many-particle state can contain information about the connection and the metric at many different points in space. Choosing this information such that it is compatible with a spatially homogeneous metric while leaving the particle number N free, the limit N → ∞ corresponds to a continuum limit in which a homogeneous metric geometry is recovered.

In the simplest case, the definition for GFT condensate states is


where N(σ) is a normalisation factor. The exponential creates a coherent configuration of many building blocks of geometry. At fixed particle number N, a state of the form σⁿ|Ø〉 would be interpreted as defining a metric (or connection) that looks spatially homogeneous when measured at the N positions of the tetrahedra, given an embedding into space usually there is a sum over all possible particle numbers. The condensate picture does not use a fixed graph or discretisation of space.

The GFT condensate is defined in terms of a wavefunction on G⁴
invariant under separate left and right actions of G on G⁴ . The strategy is then to demand that the condensate solves the GFT quantum dynamics, expressed in terms of the Schwinger–Dyson equations which relate different n-point functions for the condensate. An important approximation is to only consider the simplest Schwinger– Dyson equations, which will give equations of the form


This is analogous to the case of the Bose–Einstein condensate where the simplest equation of this typegives the Gross–Pitaevskii equation.

In the case of a real condensate, the condensate wavefunction Ψ (x), corresponding to a nonzero expectation value of the field operator, has a direct physical interpretation: expressing it in terms of amplitude and phase, psi one can rewrite the
Gross–Pitaevskii equation to discover that ρ(x) and v(x) = ∇θ(x) satisfy hydrodynamic equations in which they correspond to the density and the velocity of the quantum fluid defined by the condensate. Microscopic quantum variables and macroscopic classical variables are directly related.

The wavefunction σ or ξ of the GFT condensate should play a similar role. It is not just a function of the geometric data for a single tetrahedron, but equivalently a function on a minisuperspace of spatially homogeneous universes. The effective dynamics for it, extracted from the fundamental quantum gravity dynamics given by a GFT model, can then be interpreted as a quantum cosmology model.

Minisuperspace – gauge-invariant configuration space of a tetrahedron

Condensate states are determined by a wavefunction σ, which is
a complex-valued function on the space of four group elements for given gauge group G which is invariant under


is a function on G\G⁴/G. This quotient space is a smooth manifold
with boundary, without a group structure. It is the gauge-invariant configuration space of the geometric data associated to a tetrahedron. When the effective quantum dynamics of GFT condensate states is reinterpreted as quantum cosmology equations, G\G⁴/G becomes a minisuperspace of spatially homogeneous geometries.

Condensate states in group field theory can be used to derive effective quantum cosmology models directly from the dynamics of a quantum theory of discrete geometries. This can be illustrated by the interpretation of the configuration space of gauge-invariant geometric data of a tetrahedron, the domain of the condensate
wavefunction, as a minisuperspace of spatially homogeneous 3-metrics.

I’ll also looking at the calculations behind this paper in more detail in a later post.