Spontaneous symmetry probing

  • Alberto Nicolis
  • Federico Piazza


For relativistic quantum field theories, we consider Lorentz breaking, spatially homogeneous field configurations or states that evolve in time along a symmetry direction. We dub this situation “spontaneous symmetry probing” (SSP). We mainly focus on internal symmetries, i.e. on symmetries that commute with the Poincaré group. We prove that the fluctuations around SSP states have a Lagrangian that is explicitly time independent, and we provide the field space parameterization that makes this manifest. We show that there is always a gapless Goldstone excitation that perturbs the system in the direction of motion in field space. Perhaps more interestingly, we show that if such a direction is part of a non-Abelian group of symmetries, the Goldstone bosons associated with spontaneously broken generators that do not commute with the SSP one acquire a gap, proportional to the SSP state’s “speed”. We outline possible applications of this formalism to inflationary cosmology.


Global Symmetries Space-Time Symmetries Sigma Models 


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Copyright information

© SISSA, Trieste, Italy 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics and ISCAPColumbia UniversityNew YorkU.S.A.
  2. 2.Paris Center for Cosmological Physics and Laboratoire APCUniversité Paris 7ParisFrance

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