My ‘Part III’ Talk


One highlight of this past term has been the opportunity to give a seminar talk on a topic of one’s choice. The purpose of this ‘Part III seminar series‘ is for students to develop skills necessary for presenting ideas in an academic talk. The general suggestion was to take an idea related to a course and develop it a bit further for a 30-minutes (+ 15 minute Q&A) presentation to a group of peers. Students could invite professors from whom they requested letters of recommenation, as this would be the only chance a faculty member would have to evaluate a student’s work before the deadline for American universities. (Admissions in Europe are based more on test results rather than research and letters of recommendation.)

Anyway, I chose to give a fun talk on low energy/low curvature graviton physics. Perhaps I strayed a bit further from the usual course content, but I learned quite a bit and would have otherwise been bored to rehash ideas that I knew everyone else had already seen. Adam took a video of my presentation and is currently trying to figure out how to chop it up and place it on Youtube.

In retrospect, graviton physics was an ideal choice of topic because it allowed me to make a few connections between GR and QFT as well as to review the quantization procedure that was a major part of our QFT course. In the back of my mind I’d like to get around to attempting to canonically quantize the graviton field in language that I can understand, but this may have to wait as I begin work on my Part III essay on the ‘Phenomenology of Extra Dimensions.’

Below is a copy of my abstract.

Graviton Physics for Fun and Profit
From Part3Wiki

MR2, 11:30am – 12:15pm, 30 November 2006

Speaker: [Flip Tomato]

Do photons gravitate? Low energy graviton physics provides a playground in which we can apply topics from the Part III courses on quantum field theory and general relativity. I will provide a heuristic introduction to weak-field gravity as a spin-2 gauge theory. One can construct a low-energy effective field theory of gravity by quantizing the Einstein-Hilbert action and coupling it to matter. By examining graviton scattering processes we can rederive common features of macroscopic gravity, such as universal attraction, a 1/r potential, and the weak principle of equivalence. I will also provide a brief discussion of the Tolman-Ehrenfest-Podolsky effect describing the long-range, low-energy gravitational interaction of two photons. Finally, what goes wrong at high energies and why a consistent theory of quantum gravity is the greatest discovery yet-to-be-made.

Prerequisites: Part III Quantum Field Theory, Useful: Part III General Relativity

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