No smooth beginning for spacetime

Job Feldbrugge, Jean-Luc Lehners, Neil Turok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We identify a fundamental obstruction to any theory of the beginning of the universe, formulated as a semiclassical path integral. Hartle and Hawking's no boundary proposal and Vilenkin's tunneling proposal are examples of such theories. Each may be formulated as the quantum amplitude for obtaining a final 3-geometry by integrating over 4-geometries. We introduce a new mathematical tool - Picard-Lefschetz theory - for defining the semiclassical path integral for gravity. The Lorentzian path integral for quantum cosmology with a positive cosmological constant is meaningful in this approach, but the Euclidean version is not. Framed in this way, the resulting framework and predictions are unique. Unfortunately, the outcome is that primordial tensor (gravitational wave) fluctuations are unsuppressed. We prove a general theorem to this effect, in a wide class of theories.
Original languageEnglish
Article number171301
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2017


  • hep-th
  • gr-qc


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