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An invitation to the principal series

Tarek Anous, Jim Skulte

SciPost Phys. 9, 028 (2020) · published 1 September 2020


Scalar unitary representations of the isometry group of $d$-dimensional de Sitter space $SO(1,d)$ are labeled by their conformal weights $\Delta$. A salient feature of de Sitter space is that scalar fields with sufficiently large mass compared to the de Sitter scale $1/\ell$ have complex conformal weights, and physical modes of these fields fall into the unitary continuous principal series representation of $SO(1,d)$. Our goal is to study these representations in $d=2$, where the relevant group is $SL(2,\mathbb{R})$. We show that the generators of the isometry group of dS$_2$ acting on a massive scalar field reproduce the quantum mechanical model introduced by de Alfaro, Fubini and Furlan (DFF) in the early/late time limit. Motivated by the ambient dS$_2$ construction, we review in detail how the DFF model must be altered in order to accommodate the principal series representation. We point out a difficulty in writing down a classical Lagrangian for this model, whereas the canonical Hamiltonian formulation avoids any problem. We speculate on the meaning of the various de Sitter invariant vacua from the point of view of this toy model and discuss some potential generalizations.

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