Physics:Effective field theory

From HandWiki
Short description: Type of approximation to an underlying physical theory

In physics, an effective field theory is a type of approximation, or effective theory, for an underlying physical theory, such as a quantum field theory or a statistical mechanics model. An effective field theory includes the appropriate degrees of freedom to describe physical phenomena occurring at a chosen length scale or energy scale, while ignoring substructure and degrees of freedom at shorter distances (or, equivalently, at higher energies). Intuitively, one averages over the behavior of the underlying theory at shorter length scales to derive what is hoped to be a simplified model at longer length scales. Effective field theories typically work best when there is a large separation between length scale of interest and the length scale of the underlying dynamics. Effective field theories have found use in particle physics, statistical mechanics, condensed matter physics, general relativity, and hydrodynamics. They simplify calculations, and allow treatment of dissipation and radiation effects.[1][2]

The renormalization group

Presently, effective field theories are discussed in the context of the renormalization group (RG) where the process of integrating out short distance degrees of freedom is made systematic. Although this method is not sufficiently concrete to allow the actual construction of effective field theories, the gross understanding of their usefulness becomes clear through an RG analysis. This method also lends credence to the main technique of constructing effective field theories, through the analysis of symmetries. If there is a single mass scale M in the microscopic theory, then the effective field theory can be seen as an expansion in 1/M. The construction of an effective field theory accurate to some power of 1/M requires a new set of free parameters at each order of the expansion in 1/M. This technique is useful for scattering or other processes where the maximum momentum scale k satisfies the condition k/M≪1. Since effective field theories are not valid at small length scales, they need not be renormalizable. Indeed, the ever expanding number of parameters at each order in 1/M required for an effective field theory means that they are generally not renormalizable in the same sense as quantum electrodynamics which requires only the renormalization of two parameters.

Renormalization contradicts the demand called the naturalness paradigm. This has some evidence in the Scale invariance. It is on the other perspective a consequence of the problems beyond the ability to calculate solutions of many-particle problems found by N-body problem, Three-body problem. There are proximate enhancements to the three-body problem like stability region that provide evidence for new solutions. It is a strict limit to the Standard Model that many particles are not included.

There is a blog on the internet by Peter Woit called "not even wrong" that offers some insight into the critics. Or for example, look at publications from Lee Smolin. He published a monograph called The trouble with Physics that dealt with some of the major flaws especially with effective fields in models for describing experimental results. Models are not theories but are often mistaken for that.

Renormalization is different from being a theory in many ways it is just a perturbation approximation. The main problem this has called it a theory is falsifiability. It is made for the purpose to model certain experimental results. So it fits these results and is not a generalization other than that mathematical methodologies are used that pose a wider range of representative overshot over the first application. Compare for example with Scientific theory.

Examples of effective field theories

Fermi theory of beta decay

The best-known example of an effective field theory is the Fermi theory of beta decay. This theory was developed during the early study of weak decays of nuclei when only the hadrons and leptons undergoing weak decay were known. The typical reactions studied were:

[math]\displaystyle{ \begin{align} n & \to p+e^-+\overline\nu_e \\ \mu^- & \to e^-+\overline\nu_e+\nu_\mu. \end{align} }[/math]

This theory posited a pointlike interaction between the four fermions involved in these reactions. The theory had great phenomenological success and was eventually understood to arise from the gauge theory of electroweak interactions, which forms a part of the standard model of particle physics. In this more fundamental theory, the interactions are mediated by a flavour-changing gauge boson, the W±. The immense success of the Fermi theory was because the W particle has mass of about 80 GeV, whereas the early experiments were all done at an energy scale of less than 10 MeV. Such a separation of scales, by over 3 orders of magnitude, has not been met in any other situation as yet.

BCS theory of superconductivity

Another famous example is the BCS theory of superconductivity. Here the underlying theory is the theory of electrons in a metal interacting with lattice vibrations called phonons. The phonons cause attractive interactions between some electrons, causing them to form Cooper pairs. The length scale of these pairs is much larger than the wavelength of phonons, making it possible to neglect the dynamics of phonons and construct a theory in which two electrons effectively interact at a point. This theory has had remarkable success in describing and predicting the results of experiments on superconductivity.

Effective field theories in gravity

General relativity itself is expected to be the low energy effective field theory of a full theory of quantum gravity, such as string theory or Loop Quantum Gravity. The expansion scale is the Planck mass. Effective field theories have also been used to simplify problems in General Relativity, in particular in calculating the gravitational wave signature of inspiralling finite-sized objects.[3] The most common EFT in GR is "Non-Relativistic General Relativity" (NRGR),[4][5][6] which is similar to the post-Newtonian expansion.[7] Another common GR EFT is the Extreme Mass Ratio (EMR), which in the context of the inspiralling problem is called EMRI.

Other examples

Presently, effective field theories are written for many situations.

See also


  1. Galley, Chad R. (2013). "Classical Mechanics of Nonconservative Systems". Physical Review Letters 110 (17): 174301. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.174301. PMID 23679733. Bibcode2013PhRvL.110q4301G. 
  2. Birnholtz, Ofek; Hadar, Shahar; Kol, Barak (2014). "Radiation reaction at the level of the action". International Journal of Modern Physics A 29 (24): 1450132–1450190. doi:10.1142/S0217751X14501322. Bibcode2014IJMPA..2950132B. 
  3. Goldberger, Walter; Rothstein, Ira (2004). "An Effective Field Theory of Gravity for Extended Objects". Physical Review D 73 (10). doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.73.104029. 
  4. Template:Bare URL PDF
  5. Kol, Barak; Smolkin, Lee (2008). "Non-Relativistic Gravitation: From Newton to Einstein and Back". Classical and Quantum Gravity 25 (14): 145011. doi:10.1088/0264-9381/25/14/145011. Bibcode2008CQGra..25n5011K. 
  6. Porto, Rafael A (2006). "Post-Newtonian corrections to the motion of spinning bodies in NRGR". Physical Review D 73 (104031): 104031. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.73.104031. 
  7. Birnholtz, Ofek; Hadar, Shahar; Kol, Barak (2013). "Theory of post-Newtonian radiation and reaction". Physical Review D 88 (10): 104037. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.88.104037. Bibcode2013PhRvD..88j4037B. 
  8. Leutwyler, H (1994). "On the Foundations of Chiral Perturbation Theory". Annals of Physics 235 (1): 165–203. doi:10.1006/aphy.1994.1094. Bibcode1994AnPhy.235..165L. 
  9. Endlich, Solomon; Nicolis, Alberto; Porto, Rafael; Wang, Junpu (2013). "Dissipation in the effective field theory for hydrodynamics: First order effects". Physical Review D 88 (10): 105001. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.88.105001. Bibcode2013PhRvD..88j5001E. 


  • A.A. Petrov and A. Blechman, ‘’Effective Field Theories,’’ Singapore: World Scientific (2016). ISBN:978-981-4434-92-8
  • C.P. Burgess, ‘’Introduction to Effective Field Theory,‘’ Cambridge University Press (2020). ISBN:978-052-1195-47-8

External links

  • Birnholtz, Ofek; Hadar, Shahar; Kol, Barak (1998). "Effective Field Theory". arXiv:hep-ph/9806303.
  • Hartmann, Stephan (2001). "Effective Field Theories, Reductionism and Scientific Explanation". Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (2): 267–304. doi:10.1016/S1355-2198(01)00005-3. Bibcode2001SHPMP..32..267H. 
  • Birnholtz, Ofek; Hadar, Shahar; Kol, Barak (1997). "Aspects of Heavy Quark Theory". Annual Review of Nuclear and Particle Science 47: 591–661. doi:10.1146/annurev.nucl.47.1.591. Bibcode1997ARNPS..47..591B. 
  • Effective field theory (Interactions, Symmetry Breaking and Effective Fields - from Quarks to Nuclei. an Internet Lecture by Jacek Dobaczewski)