Transport properties of the quark-gluon plasma
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- Meyer, H.B. Eur. Phys. J. A (2011) 47: 86. doi:10.1140/epja/i2011-11086-3
Transport properties of a thermal medium determine how its conserved charge densities (for instance the electric charge, energy or momentum) evolve as a function of time and eventually relax back to their equilibrium values. Here the transport properties of the quark-gluon plasma are reviewed from a theoretical perspective. The latter play a key role in the description of heavy-ion collisions, and are an important ingredient in constraining particle production processes in the early universe. We place particular emphasis on lattice QCD calculations of conserved current correlators. These Euclidean correlators are related by an integral transform to spectral functions, whose small-frequency form determines the transport properties via Kubo formulae. The universal hydrodynamic predictions for the small-frequency pole structure of spectral functions are summarized. The viability of a quasiparticle description implies the presence of additional characteristic features in the spectral functions. These features are in stark contrast with the functional form that is found in strongly coupled plasmas via the gauge/gravity duality. A central goal is therefore to determine which of these dynamical regimes the quark-gluon plasma is qualitatively closer to as a function of temperature. We review the analysis of lattice correlators in relation to transport properties, and tentatively estimate what computational effort is required to make decisive progress in this field.