Lecture Notes in Physics Volume 631, 2003, pp 41-135

Lectures on Loop Quantum Gravity

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Abstract

Quantum General Relativity (QGR), sometimes called Loop Quantum Gravity, has matured over the past fifteen years to a mathematically rigorous candidate quantum field theory of the gravitational field. The features that distinguish it from other quantum gravity theories are 1) background independence and 2) minimality of structures.

Background independence means that this is a non-perturbative approach in which one does not perturb around a given, distinguished, classical background metric, rather arbitrary fluctuations are allowed, thus precisely encoding the quantum version of Einstein’s radical perception that gravity is geometry.

Minimality here means that one explores the logical consequences of bringing together the two fundamental principles of modern physics, namely general covariance and quantum theory, without adding any experimentally unverified additional structures such as extra dimensions, extra symmetries or extra particle content beyond the standard model. While this is a very conservative approach and thus maybe not very attractive to many researchers, it has the advantage that pushing the theory to its logical frontiers will undoubtedly either result in a successful theory or derive exactly which extra structures are required, if necessary. Or put even more radically, it may show which basic principles of physics have to be given up and must be replaced by more fundamental ones.

QGR therefore is, by definition, not a unified theory of all interactions in the standard sense, since such a theory would require a new symmetry principle. However, it unifies all presently known interactions in a new sense by quantum mechanically implementing their common symmetry group, the four-dimensional diffeomorphism group, which is almost completely broken in perturbative approaches.