|Quantum field theory|
In the terminology of quantum field theory, a ghost, ghost field, or gauge ghost is an unphysical state in a gauge theory. Ghosts are necessary to keep gauge invariance in theories where the local fields exceed a number of physical degrees of freedom.
For example in electrodynamics, in order to maintain manifest Lorentz invariance, one uses a four component vector potential , whereas the photon has only two polarizations. Thus, one needs a suitable mechanism in order to get rid of the unphysical degrees of freedom. Introducing fictitious fields, the ghosts, is one way of achieving this goal.
Faddeev–Popov ghosts are sometimes referred to as "good ghosts".
Goldstone bosons are sometimes referred to as ghosts. Mainly, when speaking about the vanishing bosons of the spontaneous symmetry breaking of the electroweak symmetry through the Higgs mechanism. These good ghosts are artefacts of gauge fixing. The longitudinal polarization components of the W and Z bosons correspond to the Goldstone bosons of the spontaneously broken part of the electroweak symmetry SU(2)⊗U(1), which, however, are not observable. Because this symmetry is gauged, the three would-be Goldstone bosons, or ghosts, are "eaten" by the three gauge bosons (W± and Z) corresponding to the three broken generators; this gives these three gauge bosons a mass, and the associated necessary third polarization degree of freedom.
"Bad ghosts" represent another, more general meaning of the word "ghost" in theoretical physics: states of negative norm, or fields with the wrong sign of the kinetic term, such as Pauli–Villars ghosts, whose existence allows the probabilities to be negative thus violating unitarity.
Ghost particles could obtain the symmetry or break it in gauge fields. The "good ghost" particles actually obtain the symmetry by unchanging the "gauge fixing Lagrangian" in a gauge transformation, while bad ghost particles break the symmetry by bringing in the non-abelian G-matrix which does change the symmetry, and this was the main reason to introduce the gauge covariant and contravariant derivatives.
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A ghost condensate is a speculative proposal in which a ghost, an excitation of a field with a wrong sign of the kinetic term, acquires a vacuum expectation value. This phenomenon breaks Lorentz invariance spontaneously. Around the new vacuum state, all excitations have a positive norm, and therefore the probabilities are positive definite.
We have a real scalar field φ with the following action
where a and b are positive constants and
Unfortunately, this theory allows for superluminal propagation of information in some cases and has no lower bound on its energy. This model doesn't admit a Hamiltonian formulation (the Legendre transform is multi-valued because the momentum function isn't convex) because it is acausal. Quantizing this theory leads to problems.
The Landau pole is sometimes referred as the Landau ghost. Named after Lev Landau, this ghost is an inconsistency in the renormalization procedure in which there is no asymptotic freedom at large energy scales.
- No-ghost theorem, related to bad ghosts
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