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Goldstone modes and photonization for higher form symmetries

Diego M. Hofman, Nabil Iqbal

SciPost Phys. 6, 006 (2019) · published 14 January 2019


We discuss generalized global symmetries and their breaking. We extend Goldstone's theorem to higher form symmetries by showing that a perimeter law for an extended $p$-dimensional defect operator charged under a continuous $p$-form generalized global symmetry necessarily results in a gapless mode in the spectrum. We also show that a $p$-form symmetry in a conformal theory in $2(p+1)$ dimensions has a free realization. In four dimensions this means any 1-form symmetry in a $CFT_4$ can be realized by free Maxwell electrodynamics, i.e. the current can be photonized. The photonized theory has infinitely many conserved 0-form charges that are constructed by integrating the symmetry currents against suitable 1-forms. We study these charges by developing a twistor-based formalism that is a 4d analogue of the usual holomorphic complex analysis familiar in $CFT_2$. The charges are shown to obey an algebra with central extension, which is an analogue of the 2d Abelian Kac-Moody algebra for higher form symmetries.

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Conformal field theory (CFT) Goldstone modes

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