Probing the small distance structure of canonical quantum gravity using the conformal group

Gerard ‘t Hooft

In canonical quantum gravity, the formal functional integral includes an integration over the local conformal factor, and we propose to perform the functional integral over this factor before doing any of the other functional integrals. By construction, the resulting effective theory would be expected to be conformally invariant and therefore finite. However, also the conformal integral itself diverges, and the effects of a renormalization counter term are considered. It generates problems such as unitarity violation, due to a Landau-like ghost, and conformal anomalies. Adding (massive or massless) matter fields does not change the picture. Various alternative ideas are offered, including a more daring speculation, which is that no counter term should be allowed for at all. This has far-reaching and important consequences, which we discuss. A surprising picture emerges of quantized elementary particles interacting with a gravitational field, in particular gravitons, which are “partly classical”. This approach was inspired by a search towards the reconciliation of Hawking radiation with unitarity and locality, and it offers basic new insights there.
Comments: 22 pages (incl. title page), 1 figure. Substantial changes in the discussion sections, minor errors corrected, and references added
General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc); High Energy Physics – Theory (hep-th)

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