Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I faced difficulties to grasp why indefinite metric is introduced from no where in QED, after searching internet I found that this is a problem in QED, because one needs it to preserve theory's covariance, and to solve ultraviolet divergence problem, but in the same time it raise other different problems such as negative probabilities, and even from mathematical point of view that it's can't be introduced a proper topology for a Hilbert space with such metric. (those point I get from N. Nakanishi: Indefinite-Metric Quantum Field Theory. Progress of Theoretical Physics Supplement No.51 (1972) pp. 1-95, doi:10.1143/PTPS.51.1)

Thus those information may be old, I would like to know the official (main stream) position of this problem, and if it considered as solved, especially that there is some papers that refuses this kind of metric and some usual books on QED doesn't mention it all what makes me even more confused.

share|cite|improve this question
Do you mean this : ? – jjcale Oct 9 '13 at 19:41
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Warning: Students, stay away from antiquities. The aim to learn is to survive.

There's usually reasons that old materials are not cited. In this case, Nakanishi is obsolete.

Nakanishi is not wrong, but unsatisfactory in two points. First, what happened to the gauge symmetry? And it's limited to QED, and not applicable to non-Abelian symmetries.

The answer is known since late 70s, given by BRST. The gauge symmetry is conserved even after gauge fixing, where the seemingly lost symmetry lies in zero-norm or ghosts, and they're unphysical i.e. harmless. This also means the Lorentz covariance is preserved too in non-covariant gauges. You know, you definitely need ghosts (negative-norm states) for practical calculation for non-Abelian gauges, unlike QED where ghosts are detached.

I recommend Weinberg's QFT book, vol 2, sec 15.7 for BRST introduction. Even if you don't need non-Abelian gauge, the cited section of Weinberg is not difficult at all. (There you encounter the structure constant $C^{\alpha\beta\gamma}$. You can safely think of it as the Levi-Civita symbol $\epsilon^{ijk}$, and $t_{\alpha}$ as Pauli matrices.) Or rather, you'll be stricken to find how easy it is in the functional quantization, compared to Nakanishi's machinery, (Fourier expansion of the field and heavy use of $\delta(x)$ and its derivative.) - BRST wins also in pragmatism.

As a free material, see for example Sredinicki's QFT book, sec 74, but prerequisites sections may be a bit more cumbersome than Weinberg. Peskin & Schroeder doesn't help.

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.