Monday, September 24, 2007
M-Theory Through the Looking Glass
A new paper by Horava and Keeler came out a few days ago, with the whimsical title M-Theory Through the Looking Glass: Tachyon Condensation in the E_8 Heterotic String. Luboš Motl gave it a thumbs up, as do I for the use of only one copy of E8. The abstract is as follows:
We study the spacetime decay to nothing in string theory and M-theory. First we recall a nonsupersymmetric version of heterotic M-theory, in which bubbles of nothing -- connecting the two E_8 boundaries by a throat -- are expected to be nucleated. We argue that the fate of this system should be addressed at weak string coupling, where the nonperturbative instanton instability is expected to turn into a perturbative tachyonic one. We identify the unique string theory that could describe this process: The heterotic model with one E_8 gauge group and a singlet tachyon. We then use worldsheet methods to study the tachyon condensation in the NSR formulation of this model, and show that it induces a worldsheet super-Higgs effect. The main theme of our analysis is the possibility of making meaningful alternative gauge choices for worldsheet supersymmetry, in place of the conventional superconformal gauge. We show in a version of unitary gauge how the worldsheet gravitino assimilates the goldstino and becomes dynamical. This picture clarifies recent results of Hellerman and Swanson. We also present analogs of R_\xi gauges, and note the importance of logarithmic CFT in the context of tachyon condensation.