This time, we’re pushing up the complexity, going from three “loops” to four. In the past, I could have impressed you with the number of pages the formulas I’m calculating take up (eight hundred pages for the three-loop formula from that first Hexagon Functions paper). Now, though, I don’t have that number: putting my four-loop formula into a pdf-making program just crashes the program. Instead, I’ll have to impress you with file sizes: 2.6 MB for the three-loop formula, 96 MB for the four-loop one.
Calculating such a formula sounds like a pretty big task, and it was, the first time. But things got a lot simpler after a chat I had at Amplitudes.
We calculate these things using an ansatz, a guess for what the final answer should look like. The more vague our guess, the more parameters we need to fix, and the more work we have in general. If we can guess more precisely, we can start with fewer parameters and things are a lot easier.
Often, more precise guesses come from understanding the symmetries of the problem. If we can know that the final answer must be the same after making some change, we can rule out a lot of possibilities.
Sometimes, these symmetries are known features of the answer, things that someone proved had to be correct. Other times, though, they’re just observations, things that have been true in the past and might be true again.
We started out using an observation from three loops. That got us pretty far, but we still had a lot of work to do: 808 parameters, to be fixed by other means. Fixing them took months of work, and throughout we hoped that there was some deeper reason behind the symmetries we observed.
Finally, at Amplitudes, I ran into fellow amplitudeologist Simon Caron-Huot and asked him if he knew the source of our observed symmetry. In just a few days he was able to link it to supersymmetry, giving us justification for our jury rigged trick. However, we figured out that his explanation went further than any of us expected. In the end, rather than 808 parameters we only really needed to consider 34.
Thirty-four options to consider. Thirty-four possible contributions to a ~100 MB file. That might not sound like a big deal, but compared to eight hundred and eight it’s a huge deal. More symmetry means easier calculations, meaning we can go further. At this point going to the next step in complexity, to five loops rather than four, might be well within reach.