Tag Archives: Quantum gravity

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.
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Group field theories generating polyhedral complexes by Thürigen

This week I have been studying recent developments in  Group Field Theories. Group field theories are a generalization of matrix models which provide both a second quantized reformulation of loop quantum gravity as well as generating functions for spin foam models. Other posts looking at this include:

While states in canonical loop quantum gravity are based on graphs with vertices of arbitrary valence, group field theories have been defined so far in a simplicial setting such that states have support only on graphs of fixed valency. This has led to the question whether group field theory can indeed cover the whole state space of loop quantum gravity.

The paper discusses  the combinatorial structure of the complexes generated by the group field theory partition function. These new group field theories strengthen the links between the various quantum gravity approaches and  might also prove useful in the investigation of renormalizability.

The combinatorial structure of group field theory
The common notion of GFT is that of a quantum field theory on group manifolds with a particular kind of non-local interaction vertices. A group field is a function of a Lie group G and the GFT is defined by a partition function


the action is of the form:


The evaluation of expectation values of quantum observables O[φ], leads to a series of Gaussian integrals evaluated
through Wick contraction which are catalogued by Feynman diagrams Γ,


where sym(Γ) are the combinatorial factors related to the automorphism group of the Feynman diagram Γ:

The specific non-locality of each vertex is captured by a boundary graph. In the interaction term in each group field term  can be represented by a graph consisting of a k-valent vertex connected to k univalent vertices. One may further understand the graph as
the boundary  of a two-dimensional complex a with a single internal vertex v. Such a one-vertex two-complex a is called a spin foam atom.


The GFT Feynman diagrams in the perturbative sum have the structure of two complexes because Wick contractions effect bondings of such atoms along patches. The combinatorial
structure of a term in the perturbative sum is then a collection of spin foam atoms, one for each vertex kernel, quotiented by a set of bonding maps, one for each Wick contraction. Because of this construction such a two-complex will be called a spin foam molecule.


The crucial idea to create arbitrary boundary graphs in a more efficient way is to distinguish between virtual and real edges and obtain arbitrary graphs from regular ones by contraction of the
virtual edges.


In terms of these contractions, any spin foam molecule can be obtained from a molecule constructed from labelled regular graphs.


This paper has aimed to  generalization of GFT to be compatible with LQG. It has clarified the combinatorial structure underlying the amplitudes of perturbative GFT using the notion of spin foam atoms and molecules and discussed their possible spacetime interpretation.

Related articles



GFT Condensates and Cosmology

This week I have been studying some papers and a seminar by Lorenzo Sindoni and Daniele Oriti on Spacetime as a Bose-Einstein Condensate. I have also been reading a great book ‘The Universe in a Helium Droplet’ by Volovik and a really good PhD Thesis, ‘Appearing Out of Nowhere: The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Gravity‘ by Karen Crowther – I be posting about these next time.

Spacetime as a Bose-Einstein Condensate has been discussed in a number of other posts including:

Simple condensates

Within the context of  Group Field Theory (GFT), which is a field theory on an auxiliary group manifold. It incorporates many ideas and structures from LQG and spinfoam models in a second quantized language. Spacetime should emerge from the collective dynamics of the microscopic degrees of freedom. Within Condensates all the quanta are in the same state. These simple quantum states of the full theory, can be put in correspondence with Bianchi cosmologies via symmetry reduction at the quantum level. This leads to an effective dynamics for cosmology which makes  contact with LQC and Friedmann  equations.

Group Field Theories the second quantization language for discrete geometry

Group field theories are quantum field theories over a group manifold. The basic defintiion of a GFT is


which can denoted as:


The theory is formulated in terms of a Fock space and Bosonic statistics is used.


Gauge invariance on the right is required, that is:


GFT quanta: spin network vertices  and quantum tetrahedra

Considering D=4 with group G=SU(2). These quanta have a natural interpretation in terms of 4-valent spin-network vertices.



Via a noncommutative Fourier transform it can be formulated in group variables. Considering  SU(2), we have:



We now  have a second quantized theory that creates quantum tetrahedra

gftfig3 represented as gftequ6.

 Correlation functions of GFT and spinfoams

When computing the correlation functions between boundary states the Feynman rules glue tetrahedra into 4-simplices. This is controlled by the combinatorics of the interaction term. This amplitude is designed to match spinfoam amplitudes. For example,
the interaction kernel can be chosen to be the EPRL vertex in a group representation.


The dynamics can be designed to give rise to the transition amplitudes with sum over 4d geometries included using a discrete path integral for gravity.

By  proceeding as in condensed matter physics and we can design
trial states, parametrised by relatively few variables, and deduce from the dynamics of the fundamental model the optimal induced dynamics.

Now we select some trial states to getthe  effective continuum dynamics. We choose trial states that contain the relevant information about the regime that we want to explore. Fock space suggests several interesting possibilities such as field coherent states;


This is a simple state, but not a state with an exact finite number of particles. It is  inspired by the idea that spacetime is a sort of condensate and can be generalized to other states  such assqueezed, and multimode.

The condensates can be naturally interpreted as homogeneous cosmologies:


Elementary quanta possessing the same wavefunction so that  the metric tensor in the frame of the tetrahedron is the same everywhere. This Vertex or wavefunction homogeneity can be interpreted in terms of homogeneous cosmologies, once a
reconstruction procedure into a 3D group manifold has been specified.The reconstruction procedure is based on the idea that each of these tetrahedra is embedded into a background manifold: the edges are aligned with a basis of left invariant vector fields.

Tensorial methods and renormalization in Group Field Theories by Sylvain Carrozza

This week I am going to look at a the PhD thesis, Tensorial methods and renormalization in Group Field Theories by  Sylvain Carrozza .

The thesis looks at the two main ways of understanding the construction of GFT models. One way stems from the quantization program for quantum gravity, in the form of loop quantum gravity and spin foam models. Here GFTs are generating functionals for spin foam amplitudes, in the same way as quantum field theories are generating functionals for Feynman amplitudes. They complete the definition of spin foam models by assigning canonical weights to the different foams contributing to a same transition between boundary
states i.e. spin networks. See the post

A second route for GFTs is given by  discrete approaches to quantum gravity. Starting from  matrix models, which allowed us to define random two dimensional surfaces, and so achieve a quantization of two-dimensional quantum gravity. The natural extensions of matrix models are tensor models. From this perspective GFTs appear as enriched tensor models, which allow to the definition of  finer notions of discrete quantum geometries such as the emergence of the continuum.

The thesis then looks at recent aspects of GFTs and tensor models, particularly those following the introduction of colored models. The main results and tools include the combinatorial and topological properties of coloured graphs.

The thesis has two main results, the first set of results concerns the so-called 1/N expansion of topological GFT models. This applies to GFTs with cut-off, given by the parameter N, in which a particular scaling of the coupling constant allows them to reach an asymptotic many-particle regime at large N. The second set of results concerns full-fledge renormalization. Tensorial Group Field Theories (TGFTs), are refined versions of the cut-off models with new non trivial propagators. They have a built-in notion of scale, which generates a well-defined renormalization group flow, and gives rise to dynamical versions of the 1/N expansions.

The thesis looks at a renormalizable TGFT based on the group SU(2) in three dimensions, and incorporating the closure constraint of spin foam models. This TGFT can be considered a field theory realization of the original Boulatov model for three-dimensional
quantum gravity .

Let’s look at the relationship between  the quantum tetrahedron, GFT and the Boulatov model. If the GFT field ϕ is assumed to represent an elementary building block of geometry, then the geometric data should refer to this building block.The Boulatov model generates Ponzano-Regge amplitudes. In its simplicial version, the boundary states of the Ponzano-Regge model are labeled byclosed graphs with three-valent vertices, whose analogue in the field theory formalism are convolutions of the fields ϕ. Following general QFT procedure, we encode the boundary states of the model into functionals of  a single scalar field ϕ. Using the Boulatov model as an example ϕ(g1, g2, g3) is to be interpreted as a flat triangle, and the variables gi label its edges. It is the role of the constraint to introduce an SU(2) flat discrete connection at the level of the amplitudes, encoded in the elementary line holonomies hℓ. The natural interpretation of the variable gi is as the holonomy from a reference point inside the triangle, to the center of the edge i. Thanks to the flatness assumption, this holonomy is independent of the path one chooses to compute gi. The constraint  encodes the freedom in the choice of reference point. From the discrete geometric perspective, the Boulatov model can therefore naturally be called a second quantization of a flat triangle: the GFT field ϕ is the wave-function of a quantized flat triangle, and the path integral provides an interacting theory for such quantum geometric degrees of freedom.


In four dimensions, the correspondence between group and Lie algebra representation can also be put to use. There, the GFT field represents a quantum tetrahedron, and Lie algebra elements correspond to bivectors associated to its boundary triangles. In addition to the closure constraint – equivalent to the Gauss constraint in group space, additional geometricity conditions have to be imposed to guarantee that the bivectors are built from edge vectors of a geometric tetrahedron. These additional constraints are nothing but the simplicity constraints, and non-commutative δ-functions can be used to implement them.

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The tetrahedron and its Regge conjugate

This week I have been reading the PhD thesis ‘Single and collective dynamics of discretized geometries’ by Dimitri Marinelli. In this post I’ll look at a small portion about Regge calculus, the  tetrahedron and its Regge conjugate.

Regge Calculus is a dynamical theory of space-time introduced in 1961 by Regge as a discrete approximation for the Einstein theory of gravity. The basic idea is to replace a smooth space-time with a collection of simplices. The collective dynamics of these geometric objects is driven by the Regge action and the dynamical variables are their edge lengths – which play the role of the metric tensor of General Relativity. Simplices are the n-dimensional generalization of triangles and tetrahedra. Regge Calculus inspired and is at the base of almost all the present discretized models for a quantum theory of gravity for at least two reasons:

  • It is a discretized model, so it represents a possible atomistic system typical of quantum systems
  • There is a deep connection between the Regge action, the asymptotic of the 6j symbol and a path integral formulation of gravity.

Let’s see  how the Regge transformation acts on a tetrahedral shape. The formulas


and the association between 6j symbol and an Euclidean tetrahedron tell us that any Regge transformation acts on four edges of a tetrahedron keeping a pair of opposite edges unchanged. The Regge-transformed tetrahedra is called `conjugate’.

Using the Ponzano-Regge formula for the 6j,

reggeequ2.18we can immediately say that the volume of a tetrahedron and that of a Regge transformed one must coincide.



The volume of a tetrahedron is also invariant under the Regge transformation of four consecutive edges.

The volume of a tetrahedron, being a function of six parameters, can be expressed in several ways. For the tetrahedron below:

tetrahedron with dihedral angleThe ‘orientated’ volume reads, 


where AABC and AACD are respectively the areas of the triangles ABC and ACD, lAC is the length of the common edge and β is the dihedral angle between these two faces.

The importance of the Regge symmetry is that it constrains the shape dynamics of a single tetrahedron,  it relates different tetrahedra equating their quantum representations and it is the key tool to understand the classical motion of a four-bar linkage mechanical systems and its link to the the quantum dynamics of tetrahedra.

This thesis also contains a section on the Askey scheme which I’ll be following up in future posts:

askey scheme





Group field theory as the 2nd quantization of Loop Quantum Gravity by Daniele Oriti

This week I have been reviewing Daniele Oriti’s work, reading his Frontiers of Fundamental Physics 14 conference  paper – Group field theory: A quantum field theory for the atoms of space  and making notes on an earlier paper, Group field theory as the 2nd quantization of Loop Quantum Gravity. I’m quite interested in Oriti’s work as can be seen in the posts:


We know that there exist a one-to-one correspondence between spin foam models and group field theories, in the sense that for any assignment of a spin foam amplitude for a given cellular complex,
there exist a group field theory, specified by a choice of field and action, that reproduces the same amplitude for the GFT Feynman diagram dual to the given cellular complex. Conversely, any given group field theory is also a definition of a spin foam model in that it specifies uniquely the Feynman amplitudes associated to the cellular complexes appearing in its perturbative expansion. Thus group field theories encode the same information and thus
define the same dynamics of quantum geometry as spin foam models.

That group field theories are a second quantized version of loop quantum gravity is shown to be  the result of a straightforward second quantization of spin networks kinematics and dynamics, which allows to map any definition of a canonical
dynamics of spin networks, thus of loop quantum gravity, to a specific group field theory encoding the same content in field-theoretic language. This map is very general and exact, on top of being rather simple. It puts in one-to-one correspondence the Hilbert space of the canonical theory and its associated algebra of quantum observables, including any operator defining the quantum dynamics, with a GFT Fock space of states and algebra of operators  and its dynamics, defined in terms of a classical action and quantum equations for its n-point functions.

GFT is often presented as the 2nd quantized version of LQG. This is true in a precise sense: reformulation of LQG as GFT very general correspondence both kinematical and dynamical. Do not need to pass through Spin Foams . The LQG Spinfoam correspondence is  obtained via GFT. This reformulation provides powerful new tools to address open issues in LQG, including GFT renormalization  and Effective quantum cosmology from GFT condensates.

Group field theory from the Loop Quantum Gravity perspective:a QFT of spin networks

Lets look at the second quantization of spin networks states and the correspondence between loop quantum gravity and group field theory. LQG states or spin network states can be understood as many-particle states analogously to those found in particle physics and condensed matter theory.

As an example consider the tetrahedral graph formed by four vertices and six links joining them pairwise


The group elements Gij are assigned to each link of the graph, with Gij=Gij-1. Assume  gauge invariance at each vertex i of the graph. The basic point is that any loop quantum gravity state can be seen as a linear combination of states describing disconnected open spin network vertices, of arbitrary number, with additional conditions enforcing gluing conditions and encoding the connectivity of the graph.

Spin networks in 2nd quantization

A Fock vacuum is the no-space” (“emptiest”) state |0〉 , this is the LQG vacuum –  the natural background independent, diffeo-invariant vacuum state.

The  2nd quantization of LQG kinematics leads to a definition of quantum fields that is very close to the standard non-relativistic one used in condensed matter theory, and that is fully compatible
with the kinematical scalar product of the canonical theory. In turn, this can be seen as coming directly from the definition of the Hilbert space of a single tetrahedron or more generally a quantum polyhedron.

The single field  quantum is the spin network vertex or tetrahedron – the so called building block of space.


A generic quantum state is anarbitrary collection of spin network vertices including glued ones or tetrahedra including glued ones.

gftfig5The natural quanta of space in the 2nd quantized language are open spin network vertices. We know from the canonical theory that they carry area and volume information, and know their pre geometric properties  from results in quantum simplicial geometry.

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Quanta in a Quantum Spacetime

The Frontiers of Fundamental Physics 14 conference again captures my interest this week and I’ve been looking at a paper, ‘ How Many Quanta are there in a Quantum Spacetime?

In this paper the authors develop a technique for describing quantum states of the gravitational field in terms of coarse grained spin networks. They show that the number of nodes and links and the values of the spin depend on the observables chosen for the description of the state. So in order to say how many quanta are in a quantum spacetime further information about what has been measured has to be given.


The electromagnetic field can be viewed as formed by individual photons. This is a consequence of quantum theory. Similarly, quantum theory is likely to imply a granularity of the gravitational field, and therefore a granularity of space.

How many quanta form a macroscopic region of space? This question has implications for the quantum physics of black holes, scattering calculations in non perturbative quantum gravity and quantum cosmology. It is related to the question of the number of nodes representing a macroscopic geometry in a spin network state in loop gravity. In this context, it takes the following form: what is the relation between a state with many nodes and small spins, and a state with few nodes but large spins?

Quanta of space

A quanta of space may be  a quanta of energy from the excitation of the gravitational field. In loop quantum gravity, each quanta is a  quantum polyhedron. The geometry of quantum polyhedron defined by graph. We associate a state or element of Hilbert space for each quanta of space. The basis which spanned this Hilbert space is the spin network basis.

A quantum tetrahedron and its dual space geometry: the graph 

quantum tetrahedron

A graph γ is a finite set N of element n called nodes and a set of L of oriented couples called links l = (n, n’). Each node corresponds to one quantum tetrahedron. Four links pointing out from the node correspond to each triangle of the tetrahedron.

How many quanta in a field?

Consider a free scalar field in a finite box, in a classical configuration φ(x,t). The standard quantum-field-theoretical number operator, which sums the number the quanta on each mode, has a well defined classical limit. The number operator is

quantaequ1where an and an are the annihilation and creation operators for the mode n of the field and the sum is over the modes, namely the Fourier components, of the field. Since the energy can be expressed as a sum over modes as


where ωn is the angular frequency and En its energy of the mode n, it follows that the number of particles is given


which is a well defined classical expression that can be directly obtained from φ(x,t) by computing the energy in each mode. Therefore each classical configuration defines a total particle-number N and a distribution of these particles over the modes


Subset graphs

The state space of loop quantum gravity contains subspaces Hγ associated to abstract graphs γ. A graph γ is defined by a finite set N of |N| elements n called nodes and a set L of |L| oriented couples l = (n, n’) called links.

A pure state |ψ〉 determines the density matrix ργ= |ψ〉〈ψ|. A generic state can be written in the form


In the loop gravity the operators defined on Hγ can be interpreted as the description of the geometry of |N| quantum polyhedra connected to one another when there is a link between the corresponding nodes.

Given a graph , define a subset graph Γ which partitions N into subsets N such that each N is a set of nodes connected among themselves by sequences of links entirely formed by nodes in N.

quantafig1 We define the area of the big link by


and the volume of the big node by


where we recall that v is the expression for the classical volume of a polyhedron. The operators AL and VN commute, so they can be diagonalized together. The quantum numbers of the big areas are half integers JL and the quantum numbers of the volume are VN.

Course graining spin networks

Coarse-graining the entire graph into a graph Γ formed by a single node N with legs b

quantafig2A  set of small links l that are contained in a single large link L.

quantafig3Any general coarse-graining is a combination of collecting nodes and summing links


The geometry of the subset graph

The geometrical interpretation of the coarse grained states in HΓ is that these describe the geometry of connected polyhedra. The partition that defines the subset graph Γ is a coarse-graining of the polyhedra into larger chunks of space. The surfaces that separate these larger chunks of space are labelled by the big links L and are formed by joining the individual faces labelled by the links l in L.

In general, it is clearly not the case that the area AL is equal to the sum of the areas Al of all l in L. However, this is the case if all these faces are parallel and have the same orientation. Similarly, in general, it is clearly not the case that the volume VN is equal to the sum of the volumes Vn for the n in N. However, this is true if in gluing n polyhedra one obtains a at polyhedron with flat faces.

The two operators,


provide a good measure of the failure of the geometry that the state associates to Γto be flat.

To have a good visualization of the coarse-grained geometries, it is helpful to consider the classical picture. In the 4-dimensional theory, the graph is defined at the boundary of a 3-dimensional hypersurface, the spin operator on the links is related to the area operator byquantaequ48a

Given a 3-valent graph with spins operators Jla, Jlb , and Jlc on each link, the dihedral angle between Jlb and Jlc can be obtained from the angle operator, defined by


Applying this operator to the spin network state gives the dihedral angle between Jland Jlc on the internal links lb and lc.


The Regge intrinsic curvature of a discretized manifold is given by the deficit angle on the hinges, the (n -2) dimensional simplices of the n-dimensional simplex. Thus, given a loopgraph with n-external links, the deficit angle for a general n-polytope (n-valent loop graph) is:


Coarse grained area

The boundary of spacetime is a 3-dimensional space. Triangulation on the boundary is defined using flat polyhedra. Every closed, flat, n polyhedron satisfies the closure relation on the node given by


Consider the net of a polyhedron:


Since the interior of polyhedron is at, the closure relation can be written as


Then the area operator on the base is


and we can define the coarse-grained area as:


Thus, for a 2-dimensional surface, we can always think the coarse grained area AL as the area of the base of a polyhedron, while the total sum of area Al is the area around the hat – the area of n triangle which form the net of the polyhedron.

The differences between the coarse-grained and the fine-grained area gives a good measurement on how the space deviates from being flat. It is possible to obtain the explicit relation between the Regge curvature with these area differences in some special cases.

The Regge curvature for a 2-dimensional surface is defined as 2 minus the sum of all dihedral angle surrounding a point of the triangulation, which is n. The Regge curvature as a function of the coarse-grained and the fine-grained area is:


In the classical limit, it is clear that there can be states where ε = 0 or AL = 0. These correspond to geometries where the normals to the facets forming the large surface L are parallel. However, this is only true in the classical limit, namely disregarding Planck scale effects. If we take Planck-scale effects into account, we have the  result that


quantaequ63where n + 1 is the number of facets. Therefore the fine grained area is always strictly larger than the coarse grained area. There is a Planck length square contribution for each additional facet. It is as if there was an irreducible Planck-scale fluctuation in the orientation of the facets.

 Coarse-grained volume


In the same manner as the surface’s coarse-graining, we triangulate a 3-dimensional chunk of space using n symmetric tetrahedra. The Regge curvature is defined by the dihedral angle on the bones of the tetrahedra. Using the volume of one tetrahedron,



we obtain the fine-grained volume, which is


The coarse-grained volume is the volume of the 3-dimensional base, which is the volume of the n-diamond:


so the Regge curvature is


Notice that this is just a classical example. In the quantum picture, adding two quantum tetrahedra does not gives only a triangular bipyramid, it could give other possible geometries which have 6 facets, i.e., a parallelepiped, or a pentagonal-pyramid.


The number of quanta is not an absolute property of a quantum state: it depends on the basis on which the state is expanded. In turn, this depends on the way we are interacting with the system. The quanta of the gravitational field we interact with, are those described by the quantum numbers of coarse-grained operators like AL and V, not the maximally fine-grained ones.

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