Amplitudes for the New Year

Ah, the new year, time of new year’s resolutions. While some people resolve to go to the gym or take up online dating, physicists resolve to finally get that paper out.

At least, that’s the impression I get, given the number of papers posted to arXiv in the last month. Since a lot of them were amplitudes-related, I figured I’d go over some highlights.

Everyone once in a while people ask me for the latest news on the amplituhedron. While I don’t know what Nima is working on right now, I can point to what others have been doing. Zvi Bern, Jaroslav Trnka, and collaborators have continued to make progress towards generalizing the amplituhedron to non-planar amplitudes. Meanwhile, a group in Europe has been working on solving an issue I’ve glossed over to some extent. While the amplituhedron is often described as calculating an amplitude as the volume of a geometrical object, in fact there is a somewhat more indirect procedure involved in going from the geometrical object to the amplitude. It would be much simpler if the amplitude was actually the volume of some (different) geometrical object, and that’s what these folks are working towards. Finally, Daniele Galloni has made progress on solving a technical issue: the amplituhedron gives a mathematical recipe for the amplitude, but it doesn’t tell you how to carry out that recipe, and Galloni provides an algorithm for part of this process.

With this new algorithm, is the amplituhedron finally as efficient as older methods? Typically, the way to show that is to do a calculation with the amplituhedron that wasn’t possible before. It doesn’t look like that’s happening soon though, as Jake Bourjaily and collaborators compute an eight-loop integrand using one of the more successful of the older methods. Their paper provides a good answer to the perennial question, “why more loops?” What they find is that some of the assumptions that people made at lower loops fail to hold at this high loop order, and it becomes increasingly important to keep track of exactly how far your symmetries can take you.

Back when I visited Brown, I talked to folks there about some ongoing work. Now that they’ve published, I can talk about it. A while back, Juan Maldacena resurrected an old technique of Landau’s to solve a problem in AdS/CFT. In that paper, he suggested that Landau’s trick might help prove some of the impressive simplifications in N=4 super Yang-Mills that underlie my work and the work of those at Brown. In their new paper, the Brown group finds that, while useful, Landau’s trick doesn’t seem to fully explain the simplicity they’ve discovered. To get a little partisan, I have to say that this was largely the result I expected, and that it felt a bit condescending for Maldacena to assume that an old trick like that from the Feynman diagram era could really be enough to explain one of the big discoveries of amplitudeology.

There was also a paper by Freddy Cachazo and collaborators on an interesting trick to extend their CHY string to one-loop, and one by Bo Feng and collaborators on an intriguing new method called Q-cuts that I will probably say more about in future, but I’ll sign off for now. I’ve got my own new years’ physics resolutions, and I ought to get back to work!

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