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Quantum Field Theory


The most popular formulations of quantum field theory are

Canonical quantum field theory can be summarized as follows:

Classical Field Theory
canonical quantization
Canonical Quantum Field Theory calculation of transition amplitudes probabilities for scatter processes or decays

The main components of quantum field theory are:

  1. Theory of free fields. Here we neglect any interaction terms and only calculate what different fields do when they are on their own.
  2. Theory of interacting fields. Here we derive the correct terms in our equations that describe interactions using gauge symmetry. Unfortunately, it turns out that we can't solve these equations in closed form but only approximately. There is a powerful mathematical machinery that allows us to calculate results approximately. At the heart of this machinery are the famous Feynman diagrams. In addition, an important trick (the interaction picture) allows us to reuse most of the things we derived for free fields.
  3. Renormalization. The main problem in quantum field theory is that calulcations are technically extremely challenging. One reason for this is that when we calculate things naively we end always end up with the result "infinity". This is physically nonsensical and we need to take greater care. The mathematical machinery that allows us to tame these infinities is known as renormalization.

Recommended Resources


Serious QFT by Tom Banks

The standard modern textbook is An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory, by Peskin and Schroeder [33]. I recommend especially their wonderful Chapter 5, and all of the calculational sections between 16.5 and 18.5, as well as Chapters 20 and 21. Every serious student of QFT should work out the final project on the Coleman–Weinberg potential, which can be found on page 469. Another standard is Weinberg’s three-volume opus [131]. Here I recommend the marvelous sections on symmetries and anomalies in Volume II. The technical discussions of perturbative effective field theory are invaluable. The section on the Batalin–Vilkovisky treatment of general gauge equivalences is also useful. Volume I should probably be read after completing a first course on the subject. It presents an interesting but idiosyncratic approach to the logical structure of the field. Volume III on supersymmetry is full of gems. In my opinion, it is flawed by an idiosyncratic notation and a tendency to obscure relatively simple ideas in an attempt to give absolutely general discussions. Finally, let me mention a relatively new book by M. Srednicki [168]. I have not gone through it thoroughly, and I do not agree with the author’s ordering of topics, but the pedagogical style of the sections I have read is wonderful. It is clear that everyone in the field will turn to this book for all those nasty little details about minus signs and spinor conventions. I think there is also a chance that it will replace Peskin and Schroeder as a standard textbook.

I have also enjoyed using the books by Bailin and Love [169] and Ramond [170] in my many years of teaching the subject. The books by Itzykson and Zuber [171] and Zinn-Justin [111] are more monographs/encyclopediae than textbooks, but they contain a wealth of detail on specific subjects in field theory that can be found nowhere else.

I mention especially Zinn-Justin’s discussions of the large-order behavior of perturbation theory, of the use of field theory for calculating critical exponents, and of instantons. Other treatments of the field theory/statistical physics interface can be found in the book by Drouffe and Itzykson [172], the marvelous book by Parisi [173], and the book by Ma [174]. Schwinger’s source theory books [175] also belong in the category of non-textbooks, which contain scads of invaluable information about field theory. Among older field-theory books, the second volume of Bjorken and Drell [176] contains lots of useful information, like explicit forms for the spectral representations for higher spin. The books of Nishijima [177] (Chapters 7 and 8), Bogoliubov and Shirkov [178], and even Schweber [179] will reward the really serious student of the subject.

Finally, I want to mention various shorter documents that I think are essential reading for students of quantum field theory. The most important is Kogut and Wilson [126], still the best introduction I know of to Wilson’s profound ideas about renormalization. Next is the 1975 Les Houches lecture-note volume Methods in Field Theory [180], every chapter of which is a gem. Coleman’s book [138] is a collection of lectures on a variety of topics in field theory. I’ve drawn on it heavily for the material about instantons and solitons, but the other lectures are also worth reading.

The contributions of Adler, Weinberg, Zimmermann, and Zumino to the 1970 Brandeis Summer School Lectures, 1 and of Weinberg to the 1964 Brandeis volume, are also worth read- ing [181]. Much of Weinberg’s material reappears in his textbook [131]. Finally, let me mention the reprint volume Selected Papers on Quantum Electrodynamics [182] edited by Schwinger. The contributions of Feynman and Schwinger in particular should be read by every student of field theory.Modern Quantum Field Theory by Banks

How to get started learning QFT as an undergraduate by Flip Tanedo
Classical Solutions in Quantum Field Theory
Solitons General overview, why should we care about classical solutions?
scalar_1plus1 Kink solution, stability of the kink, boundary conditions, topological charge
Sine-Gordon and Thirring Model Duality
Abelian 2+1 Higgs Model Vortex solution, solitons in gauge theories
QCD Vacuum
Lifecycle of a Quantum Field Theorist
  1. Write down a Lagrangian density $L$. This is a polynomial in fields $\psi$ and their derivatives. For example $$L[\psi] = \partial_\mu\psi\partial^\mu\psi - m^2\psi^2 + \lambda\psi^4$$
  2. Write down the Feynman path integral. Roughly speaking this is $$\int e^{i\int L[\psi]} D\psi$$ The value of this integral can be used to compute "cross sections" for various processes.
  3. Calculate the Feynman path integral by expanding as a formal power series in the "coupling constant" $\lambda$. $$a_0 + a_1\lambda + a_2\lambda + \cdots$$ The $a_i$ are finite sums over Feynman diagrams. Feynman diagrams are a graphical shorthand for finite dimensional integrals.
  4. Work out the integrals and add everything up.
  5. Realise that the finite dimensional integrals do not converge.
  6. Regularise the integrals by introducing a ``cutoff'' $\epsilon$ (there is usually an infinite dimensional space of possible regularisations). For example $$\int_\mathcal{R} {1\over x^2} dx \longrightarrow \int_{|x|>\epsilon} {1\over x^2} dx$$
  7. Now we have the series $$a_0(\epsilon) + a_1(\epsilon)\lambda + \cdots$$ Amazing Idea: Make $\lambda$, $m$ and other parameters of the Lagrangian depend on $\epsilon$ in such a way that terms of the series are independent of $\epsilon$.
  8. Realise that the new sum still diverges even though we have made all the individual $a_i$'s finite. No good way of fixing this is known. It appears that the resulting series is in some sense an asymptotic expansion.
  9. Ignore step 8, take only the first few terms and compare with experiment.
  10. Depending on the results to step 9: Collect a Nobel prize or return to step 1.

There are many problems that arise in the above steps

  • [Problem 1] The Feynman integral is an integral over an infinite dimensional space and there is no analogue of Lebesgue measure.
  • [Solution] Take what the physicists do to evaluate the integral as its definition.
  • [Problem 2] There are many possible cutoffs. This means the value of the integral depends not only on the Lagrangian but also on the choice of cutoff.
  • [Solution] There is a group $G$ called the group of finite renormalizations which acts on both Lagrangians and cutoffs.

QFT is unchanged by the action of $G$ and $G$ acts transitively on the space of cutoffs. So, we only have to worry about the space of Lagrangians.

  • [Problem 3] The resulting formal power series (even after renormalization) does not converge.
  • [Solution] Work in a formal power series ring.

Lectures on Quantum Field Theory by R. E. Borcherds, A. Barnard

theories/quantum_field_theory.txt · Last modified: 2018/05/05 17:09 by jakobadmin