Thursday, Feb 24th: How Many Degrees of Freedom Can Fit in a Quantum Field?

Event Date: 

Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 4:00pm

Event Location: 

  • KITP Auditorium (1403 Kohn Hall)
  • Special Physics Colloquium

Quantum field theory (QFT) is a unified language that describes many diverse phenomena in particle and condensed matter physics, cosmology, quantum gravity, and string theory. Much past and recent progress in QFT has been catalyzed by a simple question: what is the right way to count the number of degrees of freedom described by a given quantum field theory? In this talk, I will explain the challenges involved in constructing a physically acceptable counting function and describe some of its uses. A crucial role is played by the intuitive idea that the effective number of degrees of freedom should decrease as we examine a physical system at longer and longer distances. While such a counting function has long been known for QFTs in two spacetime dimensions, progress in higher dimensions has been much more recent. I will review these developments and highlight open problems as well as avenues of current research. This talk should be accessible to beginning graduate students — no background in quantum field theory is assumed.