No rescue for the no boundary proposal: Pointers to the future of quantum cosmology

Job Feldbrugge, Jean-Luc Lehners, Neil Turok

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In recent work [J. Feldbrugge et al. Phys. Rev. D 95, 103508 (2017). and J. Feldbrugge et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 171301 (2017).], we introduced Picard-Lefschetz theory as a tool for defining the Lorentzian path integral for quantum gravity in a systematic semiclassical expansion. This formulation avoids several pitfalls occurring in the Euclidean approach. Our method provides, in particular, a more precise formulation of the Hartle-Hawking no boundary proposal, as a sum over real Lorentzian four-geometries interpolating between an initial three-geometry of zero size, i.e., a point, and a final three-geometry. With this definition, we calculated the no boundary amplitude for a closed universe with a cosmological constant, assuming cosmological symmetry for the background and including linear perturbations. We found the opposite semiclassical exponent to that obtained by Hartle and Hawking for the creation of a de Sitter spacetime “from nothing.” Furthermore, we found the linearized perturbations to be governed by an inverse Gaussian distribution, meaning they are unsuppressed and out of control. Recently, Diaz Dorronsoro et al. [Phys. Rev. D 96, 043505 (2017)] followed our methods but attempted to rescue the no boundary proposal by integrating the lapse over a different, intrinsically complex contour. Here, we show that, in addition to the desired Hartle-Hawking saddle point contribution, their contour yields extra, nonperturbative corrections which again render the perturbations unsuppressed. We prove there is no choice of complex contour for the lapse which avoids this problem. We extend our discussion to include backreaction in the leading semiclassical approximation, fully nonlinearly for the lowest tensor harmonic and to second order for all higher modes. Implications for quantum de Sitter spacetime and for cosmic inflation are briefly discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number023509
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2018


  • hep-th
  • gr-qc


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