Friday, June 23, 2017

Lattice 2017, Days Three and Four

Wednesday was the customary short day, with parallel sessions in the morning, and time for excursions in the afternoon. I took the "Historic Granada" walking tour, which included visits to the Capilla Real and the very impressive Cathedral of Granada.

The first plenary session of today had a slightly unusual format in that it was a kind of panel discussion on the topic of axions and QCD topology at finite temperature.

After a brief outline by Mikko Laine, the session chair, the session started off with a talk by Guy Moore on the role of axions in cosmology and the role of lattice simulations in this context. Axions arise in the Peccei-Quinn solution to the strong CP problem and are a potential dark matter candidate. Guy presented some of his own real-time lattice simulations in classical field theory for axion fields, which exhibit the annihilation of cosmic-string-like vortex defects and associated axion production, and pointed out the need for accurate lattice QCD determinations of the topological susceptibility in the temperature range of 500-1200 MeV in order to fix the mass of the axion more precisely from the dark matter density (assuming that dark matter consists of axions).

The following talks were all fairly short. Claudio Bonati presented algorithmic developments for simulations of the topological properties of high-temperature QCD. The long autocorrelations of the topological charge at small lattice spacing are a problem. Metadynamics, which bias the Monte Carlo evolution in a non-Markovian manner so as to more efficiently sample the configuration space, appear to be of help.

Hidenori Fukaya reviewed the question of whether U(1)A remains anomalous at high temperature, which he claimed (both on theoretical grounds and based on numerical simulation results) it doesn't. I didn't quite understand this, since as far as I understand the axial anomaly, it is an operator identity, which will remain true even if both sides of the identity were to happen to vanish at high enough temperature, which is all that seemed to be shown; but this may just be my ignorance showing.

Tamas Kovacs showed recent results on the temperature-dependence of the topological susceptibility of QCD. By a careful choice of algorithms based on physical considerations, he could measure the topological susceptibility over a wide range of temperatures, showing that it becomes tiny at large temperature.

Then the speakers all sat on the stage as a panel and fielded questions from the audience. Perhaps it might have been a good idea to somehow force the speakers to engage each other; as it was, the advantage of this format over simply giving each speaker a longer time for answering questions didn't immediately become apparent to me.

After the coffee break, things returned to the normal format. Boram Yoon gave a review of lattice determinations of the neutron electric dipole moment. Almost any BSM source of CP violation must show up as a contribution to the neutron EDM, which is therefore a very sensitive probe of new physics. The very strong experimental limits on any possible neutron EDM imply e.g. |θ|<10-10 in QCD through lattice measurements of the effects of a θ term on the neutron EDM. Similarly, limits can be put on any quark EDMs or quark chromoelectric dipole moments. The corresponding lattice simulations have to deal with sign problems, and the usual techniques (Taylor expansions, simulations at complex θ) are employed to get past this, and seem to be working very well.

The next plenary speaker was Phiala Shanahan, who showed recent results regarding the gluon structure of hadrons and nuclei. This line of research is motivated by the prospect of an electron-ion collider that would be particularly sensitive to the gluon content of nuclei. For gluonic contributions to the momentum and spin decomposition of the nucleon, there are some fresh results from different groups. For the gluonic transversity, Phiala and her collaborators have performed first studies in the φ system. The gluonic radii of small nuclei have also been looked at, with no deviation from the single-nucleon case visible at the present level of accuracy.

The 2017 Kenneth Wilson Award was awarded to Raúl Briceño for his groundbreaking contributions to the study of resonances in lattice QCD. Raúl has been deeply involved both in the theoretical developments behind extending the reach of the Lüscher formalism to more and more complicated situations, and in the numerical investigations of resonance properties rendered possible by those developments.

After the lunch break, there were once again parallel sessions, two of which were dedicated entirely to the topic of the hadronic vacuum polarization contribution to the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon, which has become one of the big topics in lattice QCD.

In the evening, the conference dinner took place. The food was excellent, and the Flamenco dancers who arrived at midnight (we are in Spain after all, where it seems dinner never starts before 9pm) were quite impressive.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lattice 2017, Day Two

Welcome back to our blog coverage of the Lattics 2017 conference in Granada.

Today's first plenary session started with an experimental talk by Arantza Oyanguren of the LHCb collaboration on B decay anomalies at LHCb. LHCb have amassed a huge number of b-bbar pairs, which allow them to search for and study in some detail even the rarest of decay modes, and they are of course still collecting more integrated luminosity. Readers of this blog will likely recall the Bs → μ+μ- branching ratio result from LHCb, which agreed with the Standard Model prediction. In the meantime, there are many similar results for branching ratios that do not agree with Standard Model predictions at the 2-3σ level, e.g. the ratios of branching fractions like Br(B+→K+μ+μ-)/Br(B+→K+e+e-), in which lepton flavour universality appears to be violated. Global fits to data in these channels appear to favour the new physics hypothesis, but one should be cautious because of the "look-elsewhere" effect: when studying a very large number of channels, some will show an apparently significant deviation simply by statistical chance. On the other hand, it is very interesting that all the evidence indicating potential new physics (including the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon and the discrepancy between the muonic and electronic determinations of the proton electric charge radius) involve differences between processes involving muons and analogous processes involving electrons, an observation I'm sure model-builders have made a long time ago.

This was followed by a talk on flavour physics anomalies by Damir Bečirević. Expanding on the theoretical interpretation of the anomalies discussed in the previous talk, he explained how the data seem to indicate a violation of lepton flavour universality at the level where the Wilson coefficient C9 in the effective Hamiltonian is around zero for electrons, and around -1 for muons. Experimental data seem to favour the situation where C10=-C9, which can be accommodated is certain models with a Z' boson coupling preferentially to muons, or in certain special leptoquark models with corrections at the loop level only. Since I have little (or rather no) expertise in phenomenological model-building, I have no idea how likely these explanations are.

The next speaker was Xu Feng, who presented recent progress in kaon physics simulations on the lattice. The "standard" kaon quantities, such as the kaon decay constant or f+(0), are by now very well-determined from the lattice, with overall errors at the sub-percent level, but beyond that there are many important quantities, such as the CP-violating amplitudes in K → ππ decays, that are still poorly known and very challenging. RBC/UKQCD have been leading the attack on many of these observables, and have presented a possible solution to the ΔI=1/2 rule, which consists in non-perturbative effects making the amplitude A0 much larger relative to A2 than what would be expected from naive colour counting. Making further progress on long-distance contributions to the KL-KS mass difference or εK will require working at the physical pion mass and treating the charm quark with good control of discretization effects. For some processes, such as KL→π0+-, even the sign of the coefficient would be desirable.

After the coffee break, Luigi Del Debbio talked about parton distributions in the LHC era. The LHC data reduce the error on the NNLO PDFs by around a factor of two in the intermediate-x region. Conversely, the theory errors coming from the PDFs are a significant part of the total error from the LHC on Higgs physics and BSM searches. In particular the small-x and large-x regions remain quite uncertain. On the lattice, PDFs can be determined via quasi-PDFs, in which the Wilson line inside the non-local bilinear is along a spatial direction rather than in a light-like direction. However, there are still theoretical issues to be settled in order to ensure that the renormalization and matching the the continuum really lead to the determination of continuum PDFs in the end.

Next was a talk about chiral perturbation theory results on the multi-hadron state contamination of nucleon observables by Oliver Bär. It is well known that until very recently, lattice calculations of the nucleon axial charge underestimated its value relative to experiment, and this has been widely attributed to excited-state effects. Now, Oliver has calculated the corrections from nucleon-pion states on the extraction of the axial charge in chiral perturbation theory, and has found that they actually should lead to an overestimation of the axial charge from the plateau method, at least for source-sink separations above 2 fm, where ChPT is applicable. Similarly, other nucleon charges should be overestimated by 5-10%. Of course, nobody is currently measuring in that distance regime, and so it is quite possible that higher-order corrections or effects not captured by ChPT overcompensate this and lead to an underestimation, which would however mean that there is some instermediate source-sink separation for which one gets the experimental result by accident, as it were.

The final plenary speaker of the morning was Chia-Cheng Chang, who discussed progress towards a precise lattice determination of the nucleon axial charge, presenting the results of the CalLAT collaboration from using what they refer to as the Feynman-Hellmann method, a novel way of implementing what is essentially the summation method through ideas based in the Feynman-Hellmann theorem (but which doesn't involve simulating with a modified action, as a straightforward applicaiton of the Feynman-Hellmann theorem would demand).

After the lunch break, there were parallel sessions, and in the evening, the poster session took place. A particular interesting and entertaining contribution was a quiz about women's contributions to physics and computer science, the winner of which will win a bottle of wine and a book.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Lattice 2017, Day One

Hello from Granada and welcome to our coverage of the 2017 lattice conference.

After welcome addresses by the conference chair, a representative of the government agency in charge of fundamental research, and the rector of the university, the conference started off in a somewhat sombre mood with a commemoration of Roberto Petronzio, a pioneer of lattice QCD, who passed away last year. Giorgio Parisi gave a memorial talk summarizing Roberto's many contributions to the development of the field, from his early work on perturbative QCD and the parton model, through his pioneering contributions to lattice QCD back in the days of small quenched lattices, to his recent work on partially twisted boundary conditions and on isospin breaking effects, which is very much at the forefront of the field at the moment, not to omit Roberto's role as director of the Italian INFN in politically turbulent times.

This was followed by a talk by Martin Lüscher on stochastic locality and master-field simulations of very large lattices. The idea of a master-field simulation is based on the observation of volume self-averaging, i.e. that the variance of volume-averaged quantities is much smaller on large lattices (intuitively, this would be because an infinitely-extended properly thermalized lattice configuration would have to contain any possible finite sub-configuration with a frequency corresponding to its weight in the path integral, and that thus a large enough typical lattice configuration is itself a sort of ensemble). A master field is then a huge (e.g. 2564) lattice configuration, on which volume averages of quantities are computed, which have an expectation value equal to the QCD expectation value of the quantity in question, and a variance which can be estimated using a double volume sum that is doable using an FFT. To generate such huge lattice, algorithms with global accept-reject steps (like HMC) are unsuitable, because ΔH grows with the square root of the volume, but stochastic molecular dynamics (SMD) can be used, and it has been rigorously shown that for short-enough trajectory lengths SMD converges to a unique stationary state even without an accept-reject step.

After the coffee break, yet another novel simulation method was discussed by Ignacio Cirac, who presented techniques to perform quantum simulations of QED and QCD on alattice. While quantum computers of the kind that would render RSA-based public-key cryptography irrelevant remain elusive at the moment, the idea of a quantum simulator (which is essentially an analogue quantum computer), which goes back to Richard Feynman, can already be realized in practice: optical lattices allow trapping atoms on lattice sites while fine-tuning their interactions so as to model the couplings of some other physical system, which can thus be simulated. The models that are typically simulated in this way are solid-state models such as the Hubbard model, but it is of course also possible to setup a quantum simulator for a lattice field theory that has been formulated in the Hamiltonian framework. In order to model a gauge theory, it is necessary to model the gauge symmetry by some atomic symmetry such as angular momentum conservation, and this has been done at least in theory for QED and QCD. The Schwinger model has been studied in some detail. The plaquette action for d>1+1 additionally requires a four-point interaction between the atoms modelling the link variables, which can be realized using additional auxiliary variables, and non-abelian gauge groups can be encoded using multiple species of bosonic atoms. A related theoretical tool that is still in its infancy, but shows significant promise, is the use of tensor networks. This is based on the observation that for local Hamiltonians the entanglement between a region and its complement grows only as the surface of the region, not its volume, so only a small corner of the total Hilbert space is relevant; this allows one to write the coefficients of the wavefunction in a basis of local states as a contraction of tensors, from where classical algorithms that scale much better than the exponential growth in the number of variables that would naively be expected can be derived. Again, the method has been successfully applied to the Schwinger model, but higher dimensions are still challenging, because the scaling, while not exponential, still becomes very bad.

Staying with the topic of advanced simulation techniques, the next talk was Leonardo Giusti speaking about the block factorization of fermion determinants into local actions for multi-boson fields. By decomposing the lattice into three pieces, of which the middle one separates the other by a distance Δ large enough to render e-MπΔ small, and by applying a domain decomposition similar to the one used in Lüscher's DD-HMC algorithm to the Dirac operator, Leonardo and collaborators have been able to derive a multi-boson algorithm that allows to perform multilevel integration with dynamical fermions. For hadronic observables, the quark propagator also needs to be factorized, which Leonardo et al. also have achieved, making a significant decrease in statistical error possible.

After the lunch break there were parallel sessions, in one of which I gave my own talk and another one of which I chaired, thus finishing all of my duties other than listening (and blogging) on day one.

In the evening, there was a reception followed by a special guided tour of the truly stunning Alhambra (which incidentally contains a great many colourful - and very tasteful - lattices in the form of ornamental patterns).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

If you speak German ...

... you might find this video amusing.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: "Lattice QCD — Practical Essentials"

There is a new book about Lattice QCD, Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics: Practical Essentials by Francesco Knechtli, Michael Günther and Mike Peardon. At a 140 pages, this is a pretty slim volume, so it is obvious that it does not aim to displace time-honoured introductory textbooks like Montvay and Münster, or the newer books by Gattringer and Lang or DeGrand and DeTar. Instead, as suggested by the subtitle "Practical Essentials", and as said explicitly by the authors in their preface, this book aims to prepare beginning graduate students for their practical work in generating gauge configurations and measuring and analysing correlators.

In line with this aim, the authors spend relatively little time on the physical or field theoretic background; while some more advanced topics such as the Nielson-Ninomiya theorem and the Symanzik effective theory or touched upon, the treatment of foundational topics is generally quite brief, and some topics, such as lattice perturbation theory or non-perturbative renormalization, are altogether omitted. The focus of the book is on Monte Carlo simulations, for which both the basic ideas and practically relevant algorithms — heatbath and overrelaxation fro pure gauge fields, and hybrid Monte Carlo for dynamical fermions — are described in some detail, including the RHMC algorithm and advanced techniques such as determinant factorizations, higher-order symplectic integrators, and multiple-timescale integration. The techniques from linear algebra required to deal with fermions are also covered in some detail, from the basic ideas of Krylov space methods through concrete descriptions of the GMRES and CG algorithms, along with such important preconditioners as even-odd and domain decomposition, to the ideas of algebraic multigrid methods. Stochastic estimation of all-to-all propagators with dilution, the one-end trick and low-mode averaging and explained, as are techniques for building interpolating operators with specific quantum numbers, gauge link and quark field smearing, and the use of the variational method to extract hadronic mass spectra. Scale setting, the Wilson flow, and Lüscher's method for extracting scattering phase shifts are also discussed briefly, as are the basic statistical techniques for data analysis. Each chapter contains a list of references to the literature covering both original research articles and reviews and textbooks for further study.

Overall, I feel that the authors succeed very well at their stated aim of giving a quick introduction to the methods most relevant to current research in lattice QCD in order to let graduate students hit the ground running and get to perform research as quickly as possible. In fact, I am slightly worried that they may turn out to be too successful, since a graduate student having studied only this book could well start performing research, while having only a very limited understanding of the underlying field-theoretical ideas and problems (a problem that already exists in our field in any case). While this in no way detracts from the authors' achievement, and while I feel I can recommend this book to beginners, I nevertheless have to add that it should be complemented by a more field-theoretically oriented traditional textbook for completeness.

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Note that I have deliberately not linked to the Amazon page for this book. Please support your local bookstore — nowadays, you can usually order online on their websites, and many bookstores are more than happy to ship books by post.