Doubly special relativity

Doubly special relativity

Doubly special relativity (DSR)— also called deformed special relativity or, by some, extra-special relativity — is a modified theory of special relativity in which there is not only an observer-independent maximum velocity (the speed of light), but an observer-independent maximum energy scale and minimum length scale (the Planck energy and Planck length).[1]



Such a modification of special relativity was first proposed in a paper by Giovanni Amelino-Camelia in 2000[2], though it is at least implicit in a paper by Paul Merriam. Amelino-Camelia proposed a specific realization of preserving invariance of the Planck length. A different model, inspired by that of Amelino-Camelia, was proposed in 2001 by João Magueijo and Lee Smolin, who focused on the invariance of Planck energy.[3] It was quickly realized that there are indeed infinitely many deformations of special relativity that allow to achieve an invariance of the Planck energy, either as a maximum energy, as a maximal momentum, or both. It has been shownby whom? that theories are related to loop quantum gravity in 2+1 dimensions (two space, one time), and it has been conjecturedby whom? that a relation also exists in 3+1 dimensions.

The motivation to these proposals is mainly theoretical, based on the following observation: The Planck energy is expected to play a fundamental role in a theory of quantum gravity, setting the scale at which quantum gravity effects cannot be neglected and new phenomena might become important. If special relativity is to hold up exactly to this scale, different observers would observe quantum gravity effects at different scales, due to the Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction, in contradiction to the principle that all inertial observers should be able to describe phenomena by the same physical laws. This motivation has been criticized on the grounds that the result of a Lorentz-transformation does not itself constitute an observable.[4]

The model suffers from several inconsistencies in formulation that have yet to be resolved.[5][6] Most notably it is difficult to recover the standard transformation behavior for macroscopic bodies, known as the soccer-ball-problem. The other conceptual difficulty is that DSR is a priori formulated in momentum space. There is as yet no consistent formulation of the model in position space.


In principle, it seems difficult to incorporate an invariant length magnitude in a theory which preserves Lorentz invariance due to Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction, but in the same way that special relativity incorporates an invariant velocity by modifying the high-velocity behavior of Galilean transformations, DSR modifies Lorentz transformations at small distances (large energies) in such a way to admit a length invariant scale without destroying the principle of relativity. The postulates on which DSR theories are constructed are:

  1. The principle of relativity holds, i.e. equivalence of all inertial observers.
  2. There are two observer-independent scales: the speed of light, c, and a length (energy) scale λ (η = 1 / λ) in such a way that when λ → 0 (η → ∞), special relativity is recovered.

As noted by Jerzy Kowalski-Glikman, an immediate consequence of these postulates is that the symmetry group of DSR theories must be ten dimensional, corresponding to boosts, rotations and translations in 4 dimensions. Translations, however, cannot be the usual Poincaré generators as it would be in contradiction with postulate 2). As translation operators are expected to be modified, the usual dispersion relation

E2p2 = m2

is expected to be modified and, indeed, the presence of an energy scale, namely η, allows introducing η-suppressed terms of higher order in the dispersion relation. These higher momenta powers in the dispersion relation can be traced back as having their origin in higher dimensional (i.e. non-renormalizable) terms in the Lagrangian.

It was soon realized that by deforming the Poincaré (i.e. translation) sector of the Poincaré algebra, consistent DSR theories can be constructed. In accordance with postulate 1), the Lorentz sector of the algebra is not modified, but just non-linearly realized in their action on momenta coordinates. More precisely, the Lorentz Algebra

[M_i,M_j]=i\epsilon_{ijk} M_k
[N_i,N_j]=-i\epsilon_{ijk} M_k,
 [M_i,N_j]=-i\epsilon_{ijk} N_k
[M_i,p_j]=i\epsilon_{ijk} p_k
[Mi,p0] = 0

remains unmodified, while the most general modification on its action on momenta is

[Ni,p0] = Dpi

where A, B, C and D are arbitrary functions of pi,p0 and M,N are the rotation generators and boost generators, respectively. It can be shown that C must be zero and in order to satisfy the Jacobi identity, A, B and D must satisfy a non-linear first order differential equation. It was also shown by Kowalski-Glikman that these constraints are automatically satisfied by requiring that the boost and rotation generators N and M, act as usual on some coordinates ηA (A=0,...,4) that satisfy


i.e. that belong to de Sitter space. The physical momenta pμ are identified as coordinates in this space, i.e.

pμ = pμA,η)

and the dispersion relation that these momenta satisfy is given by the invariant


This way, different choices for the "physical momenta coordinates" in this space give rise to different modified dispersion relations, a corresponding modified Poincare algebra in the Poincaré sector and a preserved underlying Lorentz invariance.

One of the most common examples is the so-called Magueijo-Smolin basis (Also known as the DSR2 model), in which:


which implies, for instance,


showing explicitly the existence of the invariant energy scale P0 = η as [Ni,P0 = η] = 0.

The theory is highly speculative as of first publishing in 2002, as it relies on no experimental evidence so far. It would be fair to say that DSR is not considered a promising approach by a majority of members of the high-energy physics community, as it lacks experimental evidence and there's so far no guiding principle in the choice for the particular DSR model (i.e. basis in momenta de Sitter space) that should be realized in nature, if any.

DSR is based upon a generalization of symmetry to quantum groups. The Poincaré symmetry of ordinary special relativity is deformed into some noncommutative symmetry and Minkowski space is deformed into some noncommutative space. As explained before, this theory is not a violation of Poincaré symmetry as much as a deformation of it and there is an exact de Sitter symmetry. This deformation is scale dependent in the sense that the deformation is huge at the Planck scale but negligible at much larger length scales. It's been argued that models which are significantly Lorentz violating at the Planck scale are also significantly Lorentz violating in the infrared limit because of radiative corrections, unless a highly unnatural fine-tuning mechanism is implemented. Without any exact Lorentz symmetry to protect them, such Lorentz violating terms will be generated with abandon by quantum corrections. However, DSR models do not succumb to this difficulty since the deformed symmetry is exact and will protect the theory from unwanted radiative corrections — assuming the absence of quantum anomalies. Furthermore, models where a privileged rest frame exists can escape this difficulty due to other mechanisms.

Jafari and Shariati have constructed canonical transformations that relate both the doubly special relativity theories of Amelino-Camelia and of Magueijo and Smolin to ordinary special relativity. They claim that doubly special relativity is therefore only a complicated set of coordinates for an old and simple theory. However, all theories are related to free theories by canonical transformations. Therefore supporters of doubly special relativity may claim that while it is equivalent to ordinary relativity, the momentum and energy coordinates of doubly special relativity are those that appear in the usual form of the standard model interactions.


Experiments to date have not observed contradictions to special relativity (see Modern searches for Lorentz violation).

It was initially speculated that ordinary special relativity and doubly special relativity would make distinct physical predictions in high energy processes, and in particular the derivation of the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin limit would not be valid. However, it is now established that standard doubly special relativity does not predict any suppression of the GZK cutoff, contrary to the models where an absolute local rest frame exists, such as effective field theories like the Standard-Model Extension.

Since DSR generically (though not necessarily) implies an energy-dependence of the speed of light, it has further been predicted that, if there are modifications to first order in energy over the Planck mass, this energy-dependence would be observable in high energetic photons reaching Earth from distant gamma ray bursts. Depending on whether the now energy-dependent speed of light increases or decreases with energy (a model-dependent feature) highly energetic photons would be faster or slower than the lower energetic ones .[7] However, the Fermi-LAT experiment in 2009 measured a 31-GeV photon, which nearly simultaneously arrived with other photons from the same burst, which excluded such dispersion effects even above the Planck energy.[8] It has moreover been argued, that DSR with an energy-dependent speed of light is inconsistent and first order effects are ruled out already because they would lead to non-local particle interactions that would long have been observed in particle physics experiments.[9]

de Sitter relativity

Since the de Sitter group naturally incorporates an invariant length–parameter, de Sitter relativity can be interpreted as an example of doubly special relativity. There is a fundamental difference, though: whereas in all doubly special relativity models the Lorentz symmetry is violated, in de Sitter relativity it remains as a physical symmetry. A drawback of the usual doubly special relativity models is that they are valid only at the energy scales where ordinary special relativity is supposed to break down, giving rise to a patchwork relativity. On the other hand, de Sitter relativity is found to be invariant under a simultaneous re-scaling of mass, energy and momentum, and is consequently valid at all energy scales.

In-line notes and references

  1. ^ Amelino-Camelia, G. (2010). "Doubly-Special Relativity: Facts, Myths and Some Key Open Issues". Symmetry 2: 230–271. arXiv:1003.3942. 
  2. ^ Amelino-Camelia, G. (2000). "Relativity in space-times with short-distance structure governed by an observer-independent (Planckian) length scale". Int. J. Mod. Phys. D11: 35–60. arXiv:gr-qc/0012051. doi:10.1142/S0218271802001330. 
  3. ^ Magueijo, J.; Smolin, L (2001). "Lorentz invariance with an invariant energy scale". Physical Review Letters 88 (19): 190403. arXiv:hep-th/0112090. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.88.190403. 
  4. ^ Hossenfelder, S. (2006). "Interpretation of Quantum Field Theories with a Minimal Length Scale". Physical Review D 73: 105013. arXiv:hep-th/0603032. Bibcode 2006PhRvD..73j5013H. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.73.105013. 
  5. ^ Aloisio, R.; Galante, A.; Grillo, A.F.; Luzio, E.; Mendez, F. (2004). "Approaching Space Time Through Velocity in Doubly Special Relativity". Physical Review D 70: 125012. arXiv:gr-qc/0410020. Bibcode 2004PhRvD..70l5012A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.70.125012. 
  6. ^ Aloisio, R.; Galante, A.; Grillo, A.F.; Luzio, E.; Mendez, F. (2005). "A note on DSR-like approach to space-time". Physics Letters B 610: 101–106. arXiv:gr-qc/0501079. Bibcode 2005PhLB..610..101A. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2005.01.090. 
  7. ^ Amelino-Camelia, G.; Smolin, L. (2009). "Prospects for constraining quantum gravity dispersion with near term observations". Physical Review D 80: 084017. arXiv:0906.3731. Bibcode 2009PhRvD..80h4017A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.80.084017. 
  8. ^ Fermi LAT Collaboration (2009). "A limit on the variation of the speed of light arising from quantum gravity effects". Nature 462 (7271): 331–334. arXiv:0908.1832. doi:10.1038/nature08574. 
  9. ^ Hossenfelder, S. (2009). "The Box-Problem in Deformed Special Relativity". arXiv:0912.0090. Bibcode 2009arXiv0912.0090H. 

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