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The double smeared null energy condition

Jackson R. Fliss, Ben Freivogel, Eleni-Alexandra Kontou

SciPost Phys. 14, 024 (2023) · published 27 February 2023


The null energy condition (NEC), an important assumption of the Penrose singularity theorem, is violated by quantum fields. The natural generalization of the NEC in quantum field theory, the renormalized null energy averaged over a finite null segment, is known to be unbounded from below. Here, we propose an alternative, the double smeared null energy condition (DSNEC), stating that the null energy smeared over two null directions has a finite lower bound. We rigorously derive DSNEC from general worldvolume bounds for free quantum fields in Minkowski spacetime. Our method allows for future systematic inclusion of curvature corrections. As a further application of the techniques we develop, we prove additional lower bounds on the expectation values of various operators such as conserved higher spin currents. DSNEC provides a natural starting point for proving singularity theorems in semi-classical gravity.

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