As I noted the other day, there were a number of interesting talks at String Math 2020. I would really like to write about them all, but as I am short on time I want to spend a brief moment thinking about one talk in particular. Robbert Dijkgraaf’s presentation, ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of String Theory in Mathematics‘, I found to be enjoyable even though it was not the most technical or substantive. In some sense, I received it more as a philosophical essay – a sort of status report to motivate. I share it here because, what Dijkgraaf generally encircles, especially toward the end, is very much the topic of my thesis and the focus of my forthcoming PhD years. Additionally, while it may have aimed to inspire and motivate string theorists, the structure of the talk is such that a general audience may also extract much wonder and stimulation.

One can see that, whilst, certainly in my view, mathematics is a platonic science, Dijkgraaf wants to establish early on the unavoidable and unmistakable connection between fundamental physics and pure mathematics. So he starts his presentation by ruminating on this deep relationship. Eugene Wigner’s ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences‘ comes to mind almost immediately (indeed inspiring the title of the talk) in addition to past reflections by many intellectual giants. The historical evidence and examples are overwhelming as to the power of mathematics to speak the language of reality; at the same time, physics exists in this large space of concepts. It is their overlap – the platonic nature and rigid structures of mathematics and the systematic intuition of physics with its ability to capture nature’s phenomena – that in fundamental science suggests deep ideas of unity and synthesis. On this point, Dijkgraaf uses the example of the basic and humble derivative, highlighting the many perspectives it fosters to show that the mathematical and physical use of the concept is broad. The point is to say that there exists a large space of interpretations about even such a basic conceptual tool. The derivative has both physical meaning and interpretation as well as purely mathematical meaning. These many perspectives – similar, I suppose, to Feynman’s notion of a hierarchy of concepts – offer in totality a wealth of insight.

A better example may be the dictionary between the formalism of gauge field terminology and that of bundle terminology. On the one hand, we have physicists studying Feynman diagrams and fundamental particles. On the other hand, we have mathematicians studying and calculating deep things in topology and index theory. Historically, for some time the two did not discuss or collaborate despite their connection. In fact, there was a time when maths generally turned inward and physics seemed to reject the intensifying need of higher mathematical requirements (it seems some in physics still express this rejection). As Dijkgraaf tells it, there was little to no interaction or cross-engagement, and thus there was no mathematical physics dictionary if you will. For those that absolutely despise the increasingly mathematical nature of frontier physics, one may have no problem with such separation or disconnection. But such an attitude is not good or healthy for science. We see progress in science when the two sides talk: for instance, when physicists finally realised the use of index theory. The examples are endless, to be sure, with analogies continuing in the case of the path integral formalism and category theory as Dijkgraaf highlights.

In addition to discussing the connection between maths and physics, there is a related discussion between truth and beauty. For Dijkgraaf, he wants to feature this idea (and rightly so): namely, the two kinds of beauty we may argue to exist in the language of fundamental mathematical physics, the universal and the exceptional. There is so much to be said here, but I will save that for another time!

I will not spoil any more of the talk, only to say that the concept of emergence once again appears as well as the technical idea of ‘doing geometry without geometry’. Readers of this blog will know that what Dijkgraaf is referring to is what we have discussed in the past as generalised geometry and non-geometry. As these concepts reside at the heart of my current research, we will talk about them a lot more.

To conclude, I want to leave the reader with the following playful thought with respect to the viewpoint Dijkgraaf shares. If, for a moment, we look at string theory as the synthesis between geometry and algebra, I was thinking playfully toward the end of the talk that there is something reminiscent of the Hegelian aufhebung in this picture – i.e., the unity of deeply important conceptual spaces in the form of quantum geometry, as he puts it. In the physical and purely mathematical sense, from whatever side one advances, the analogy is finely shaped. From a mathematical physics point of view, it sounded to me that Dijkgraaf was seeking some description of synthesis-as-unification-for-higher-conceptualisation. I suppose it depends on who you ask, but I take Dijkgraaf’s point that string theory would very much seem to motivate this idea.

Stringy Things

Literature: Duality Symmetric String and the Doubled Formalism

When it comes to a T-duality invariant formulation of string theory, there are two primary actions that are useful to study as a point of entry. The first is Tseytlin’s non-covariant action. It is found in his formulation of the duality symmetric string, which presents a stringy extension of the Floreanini-Jackiw Lagrangians for chiral fields. In fact, for the sigma model action in this formulation, one can directly reproduce the Floreanini-Jackiw Lagrangians for antichiral and chiral scalar fields. The caveat is that, although we have explicit O(D,D) invariance, which is important because ultimately we want T-duality to be a manifest symmetry, we lose manifest Lorentz covariance on the string worldsheet. What one finds is that we must impose local Lorentz invariance on-shell, and from this there are some interesting things to observe about the constraints imposed at the operator level.

The main papers to study are Tseytlin’s 1990/91 works listed below. Unfortunately there is no pre-print available, so these now classic string papers remain buried behind a paywall:
1) Tseytlin, ‘Duality Symmetric Formulation of String World Sheet Dynamics
2) Tseytlin, ‘Duality Symmetric Closed String Theory and Interacting Chiral Scalars

For Hull’s doubled formalism, on the other hand, we have manifest 2-dimensional invariance. In both cases the worldsheet action is formulated such that both the string coordinates and their duals are on equal footing, hence one thinks of the coordinates being doubled. However, one advantage in Hull’s formulation is that there is a priori doubling of the string coordinates in the target space. Here, O(D,D) invariance is effectively built in as a principle of construction. This is because for the covariant double sigma model action, the target space may be written as R^{1, d-1} \otimes T^{2D}, in which we have a non-compact spacetime and a doubled torus. From the torus identifications we have manifest GL(2D; Z) symmetry. Then after imposing what we define as the self-duality constraint of the theory, which contains an O(D,D) metric, invariance of the theory reduces directly to O(D,D; \mathbb{Z}).

    1. Hull, ‘Doubled Geometry and T-Folds
    2. Hull, ‘Geometry for Non-geometric Backgrounds
    3. Hull and Reid-Edwards, ‘Non-geometric backgrounds, doubled geometry and generalised T-duality

What is neat about the two formulations is that, turning off interactions, they are found to be equivalent on a classical and quantum level. It is quite fun to work through them both and prove their equivalence, as it comes down to the constraints we must impose in both formulations.

I think the doubled formalism (following Hull) for sigma models is most interesting on a general level. I’m still not comfortable with different subtleties in the construction, for example the doubled torus fibration background or choice of polarisation from T-duality. The latter is especially curious. But, in the course of the last two weeks, things are finally beginning to clarify and I look forward to writing more about it in time.

Related to the above, I thought I’d share three other supplementary papers that I’ve found to be generally helpful:

1) Berman, Blair, Malek, and Perry, ‘O(D,D) Geometry of String Theory
2) Berman and Thompson, ‘Duality Symmetric String and M-theory
3) Thompson, ‘T-duality Invariant Approaches to String Theory

There are of course many other papers, including stuff I’ve been studying on general double sigma models and relatedly the Pasti, Sorokin and Tonin method. But those listed above should be a good start for anyone with an itch of curiosity.

Stringy Things

Thinking About the Strong Constraint in Double Field Theory

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the strong (or section) constraint in Double Field Theory. In this post, I want to talk a bit about this constraint.

Before doing so, perhaps a lightning review of some other aspects of DFT might be beneficial, particularly in contextualising why the condition appears in the process of developing the formalism.

One of the important facets of DFT is the unification of B-field gauge transformations and diffeomorphisms acting on the spacetime manifold {M}. The result is a generalisation of diffeomorphisms acting on the doubled space {P} [1]. This doubled space is not too difficult to conceptualise from the outset. Think, for instance, how from the perspective of a fully constructed closed string theory, the closed string field theory on a torus is naturally doubled. But in DFT, as we advance the formalism, things of course become more complicated.

Simply put, from a first principle construction of DFT, two motivations are present from the start: 1) to make T-duality manifest and 2), extend the spacetime action for massless fields. For 2), the low-energy effective action that we want to extend is famously,

\displaystyle  S_{MS} =  \int d^{D}x \sqrt{-g}e^{-2\phi}[R + 4(\partial \phi)^{2} - \frac{1}{12}H^{ijk}H_{ijk} + \frac{1}{4} \alpha^{\prime} R^{ijkl}R_{ijkl} + ...] \ (1)

In reformulating the low-energy effective action, the tools we use begin with the fact that the coordinates in DFT are doubled such that {X^{M} = (\tilde{x}_{i}, x^{i})}. Given that the full closed string theory is rather complicated – i.e., the field arguments are doubled and we would have infinite fields, so Lagrangian wouldn’t be trivial – this motivates from the start to restrict our focus to a subset of fields. Naturally, we choose the massless sector, with the motivation to obtain a description of spacetime where the gravity-field {g_{ij}}, Kalb-Ramond field {b_{ij}} and the dilaton {\phi} are manifest. We also work with a generalised metric which rediscovers the Buscher rules such that we write, mixing {g} and {b}-fields,

\displaystyle \mathcal{H}_{MN}(E) = \begin{pmatrix} g^{ij} & -g^{ik}b_{kj} \\ b_{ik}g^{kj} & g_{ij}-b_{ik}g^{kl}b_{lj} \\ \end{pmatrix} \in O(D,D) \ (2)

Here we define {E = g_{ij} + b_{ij}}.

Most importantly, to find the analogue for {S_{MS}} formulated in an O(D,D) covariant fashion (O(D,D) is the T-duality group), a lot of the problems we need to solve and the issues we generally face are deeply suggestive of constructions in generalised geometry. We will talk a little bit about generalised geometry later.

1. The Strong Constraint

Where does the strong constraint enter into this picture? From the cursory introduction provided above, one of the quickest and most direct ways to reaching a discussion about the strong constraint follows [1]. Relative to the discussion in this paper, beginning with the standard sigma model action, where the general background metric {g_{ij}} and the Kalb-Ramond field {b_{ij}} are manifest, our entry point proceeds from the author’s review of the first quantised theory of the string and the obtaining of the oscillator expansion for the zero modes. Important for this post is what turns out to be the definition of the derivatives from the oscillator expansions,

\displaystyle  D_{i} = \partial_{i} - E_{ik}\bar{\partial}^{k}, \\ D \equiv g^{ij}D_{j}

\displaystyle  \bar{D}_{i} = \partial_{i} + E_{ki}\bar{\partial}^{k}, \\ \bar{D} \equiv g^{ij}\bar{D}_{j} \ (3)

Famously, as can be reviewed in any standard string theory textbook (for instance, see [2]), in the first quantised theory we find the Virasoro operators with zero mode quantum numbers,

\displaystyle  L_{0} = \frac{1}{2}\alpha^{i}_{0}g_{ij} \alpha^{j}_{0} + (N-1)

\displaystyle \bar{L}_{0} = \frac{1}{2}\bar{\alpha}^{i}_{0}g_{ij}\bar{\alpha}^{j}_{0} + (\bar{N} - 1) \ (4)

In (2) {N} and {\bar{N}} are the number operators. Importantly, in string theory, from the Virasoro operators we come to find the level matching constraint that matches left and right-moving excitations. This is an unavoidable constraint in closed string theory that demands the following,

\displaystyle  L_{0} - \bar{L}_{0} = 0 \ (5)

As this is one of the fundamental constraints of string theory, it follows that all states in the closed string spectrum must satisfy the condition defined in (5). The complete derivation can be found in [2].

So far everything discussed can be reviewed from the view of standard string theory. What we now want to do is use the definition of the derivatives in (3) and express (5) as,

\displaystyle  L_{0} - \bar{L}_{0} = N - \bar{N} - \frac{1}{4}(D^{i}G_{ij}D^{j} - \bar{D}^{i}G_{ij}\bar{D}^{j})

\displaystyle  = N - \bar{N} - \frac{1}{4}(D^{i}D_{i} - \bar{D}^{i}\bar{D}_{i}) \ (6)

After some working, using in particular the derivative definitions and the definitions of the background fields (see an earlier discussion in [1]), one can show that

\displaystyle  \frac{1}{2}(D^{i}D_{i} - \bar{D}^{i}\bar{D}_{i}) = -2\partial^{i}\tilde{\partial}_{i} \ (7)

In (7) we use the convention as established in [1] to denote ~ as relating to the dual coordinates. Notice, then, that what remains is a relatively simple contraction between normal and dual derivatives. What is significant about (7) is that we can now express the fundamental string theory constraint (5) as a constraint on the number operators. Since {L_{0} - \bar{L}_{0} = 0} for all states of the theory we find,

\displaystyle  N - \bar{N} = \frac{1}{2}(-2\partial_{i}\tilde{\partial}^{i} = -\partial^{i}\tilde{\partial}_{i} \equiv \partial \cdot \bar{\partial} = p_{i}\omega^{i} \ (8)

So we see that from the number operators we have constraints involving differential operators. But what is this telling us? In short, it basically depends on the fields we use for the closed string theory. The fields that are arguably most natural to include are of a first quantised state expressed in the sum,

\displaystyle  \sum_{p,\omega} e_{ij}(p,\omega) \alpha^{i}_{-1}\bar{\alpha}^{j}_{-1}c_{1}\bar{c}_{1} |p, \omega \rangle

\displaystyle  \sum_{p,\omega} d (p,\omega) (c_{1}C_{-1} - \bar{c}_{1}\bar{c}_{-1}) |p, \omega \rangle \ (9)

Where we have momentum space wavefunctions {e_{ij}} and {d (p,\omega)}. Furthermore, in the first line, {e_{ij}} denotes the fluctuating field {h_{ij} + b_{ij}}. The {c} terms are ghosts. So what we observe in (9) is matter and ghost fields acting on a a vacuum with momentum and winding.

Here comes the crucial part: given {N = \bar{N} = 0} it follows that the fields, which, to make explicit depend on normal and dual coordinates, {e_{ij}(x, \tilde{x})} and {d(x,\tilde{x})} are required to satisfy,

\displaystyle  \partial \cdot \tilde{\partial} e_{ij} (x, \tilde{x}) = \partial \cdot \tilde{\partial} d(x, \tilde{x}) = 0 \ (10)

This is weak version of the strong or section constraint, a fundamental constraint in DFT for which we can go on to define an action. What it says is that every field of the massless sector must be annihilated by the differential operator {\partial \cdot \tilde{\partial}}.

This constraint (10), when developed further, turns out to actually be very strong. When we proceed to further generalise in our first principle construction of DFT, first with the study of {O(D,D)} transformations and then eventually the construction of {O(D,D)} invariant actions, we come to see that not only all fields and gauge parameters must satisfy the constraint {\partial \cdot \tilde{\partial}}. But this constraint is deepened, in a sense, to an even stronger version that includes the product of two fields.

The argument is detailed and something we’ll discuss in length another time, with the updated definition that {\partial \cdot \tilde{\partial}} annihilates all fields and all products of fields. That is, if we let {A_{i}(x, \tilde{x})} be in general fields or gauge parameters annihilated by the constraint {\partial^{M}\partial_{M}}, we now require all products {A_{i}A_{j}} are killed such that,

\displaystyle  \partial_{M}A_{i}\partial^{M}A_{j} = 0, \forall i,j \ (11)

Here {\partial_{M}A_{i}\partial^{M}} is an {O(D,D)} scalar. Formally, the result (11) is the strong {O(D,D)} constraint. What, finally, makes this condition so strong is that, from one perspective, it kills half of the fields of the theory and we in fact lose a lot of physics! In full string theory the doubled coordinates are physical. Effectively, however, the above statement ultimately implies that our fields only depend on the real space-time coordinates, due to a theorem in {O(D,D)} in which there is always some duality frame {(\tilde{x}^{\prime}_{i},\tilde{x}^{\prime})} in which the fields do not depend on {\tilde{x}^{\prime}_{i}}. So we only have dependence on half of the coordinates.

There is maybe another way to understand or motivate these statements. In the standard formulation of DFT, what we come to find is the appearance of the generalised Lie derivative. It is essentially unavoidable. The basic reason has to do with how, in pursuing the construction of the {O(D,D)} invariant action as highlighted at start, which includes the generalised metric {\mathcal{H}}, we find that the conventional Lie derivative is not applicable. It is not applicable in this set-up because, even when using trivial gauge parameters, we find that it simply does not vanish. In other words, as can be reviewed in [1], {\mathcal{L}_{\xi} \neq 0}. So the definition of the Lie derivative becomes modified using what we define as the neutral metric {\eta}. Why this is relevant has to do with how, interestingly, from the generalised Lie derivative (or Dorfman bracket) we may then define an infinitesimal transformation that, in general, does not integrate to a group action [3-5]. This means that it does not generate closed transformations.

The convention, as one may anticipate, is to place quite a strong restriction on the space of vector fields and tensors. Indeed, from the fact that DFT is formulated by way of doubling the underlying manifold, we have to use constraints on the manifold to ensure a consistent physical theory. But this restriction, perhaps as it can be viewed more deeply, ultimately demands satisfaction of what we have discussed as the strong constraint or section condition. So it is again, to word it another way, the idea that we have to restrict the space of vectors and tensors for consistency in our formulation that perhaps makes (11) more intuitive.

There is, of course, a lot more to the strong constraint and what it means [5], but as a gentle introduction we have captured some of its most basic implications.

2. Some Nuances and Subtleties

Given a very brief review of the strong constraint, there are some nuances and caveats that we might begin to think about. The first thing to note is that the strong constraint can be relaxed to some degree, and people have started researching weakly constrained versions of DFT. I’m not yet entirely familiar with these attempts and the issues faced, but an obvious example would be the full closed string field theory on a torus, because this is properly doubled from the outset and subject only to the weak level-matching constraint {\tilde{\partial} \cdot \partial = 0}.

I think a more important nuance or caveat worth mentioning is that, as discussed in [3], the strong constraint does not offer a unique solution. That is to say, from what I currently understand, there is no geometrical information that describes the remaining coordinates on which the fields depend. This contributes to, in a sense, an arbitrariness in construction because there is a freedom to choose which submanifold {P} is the base {M} for the generalised geometry {TM}.

In a future post, we’ll discuss more about this lack of uniqueness and other complexities, as well as detail more thorough considerations of the strong constraint. As related to simplified discussion above, the issue is that we can solve the basic consistency constraints that govern the theory by imposing the strong constraint (11). This is what leads to the implied view that DFT is in fact a highly constrained theory despite doubled coordinates, etc. In this approach, we have restriction on coordinate dependence such that, technically, the fields and gauge parameters may only depend on the undoubled slice of the doubled space. We haven’t discussed the technicalities of the doubled space in this post, but that can be laid out another time. The main point being that this solution is controlled. But there are also other solutions, of which I have not yet studied, but where it is understood that the coordinate dependence is no longer restricted (thus truly doubled) at the cost of the shape of geometric structure. At the heart of the matter, some argue [3] that when it comes to this problem of uniqueness the deeper issue is a lack of a bridge between DFT and generalised geometry. This is also a very interesting topic that will be saved for another time.


[1] B. Zwiebach, ‘Double Field Theory, T-Duality, and Courant Brackets’ [lecture notes]. 2010. Available from [arXiv:1109.1782v1 [hep-th]].

[2] J. Polchinski, ‘String Theory: An Introduction to the Bosonic String’, Vol. 1. 2005.

[3] L. Freidel, F. J. Rudolph, D. Svoboda, ‘Generalised Kinematics for Double Field Theory’. 2017. [arXiv:1706.07089 [hep-th]].

[4] B. Zwiebach O. Hohm. Towards an invariant geometry of double field theory. 2013. [arXiv:1212.1736v2 [hep-th]].

[5] B. Zwiebach O. Hohm, D. Lust. The Spacetime of Double Field Theory : Review, Remarks and Outlook. 2014. [arXiv:1309.2977v3 [hep-th]].

[6] K. van der Veen, ‘On the Geometry of String Theory’ [thesis]. 2018. Retrieved from []

Physics Diary

Generalised Geometry, Non-commutativity, and Emergence

The project I am working on for my dissertation has to do with the notion of emergent de Sitter space. Of course an ongoing problem in string theory concerns whether asymptotic de Sitter spacetime can exist as a solution, and needless to say this question serves as one motivation for the research. With what appears to be the collapse of KKLT (this is something I will write about, as from my current perspective, the list of complaints against KKLT have not yet seemed to be satisfactorily answered), this academic year I wanted to start picking at the question of perturbative string de Sitter vacua from a different line of attack (or at least explore the possibility). Often, for instance, we approach de Sitter constructions by way of a classical supergravity approach with fluxes, non-geometry, or KKLT-like constructions which add quantum effects to stablise the moduli. One could also look at an alternative to compactification altogether and invoke the braneworld formalism. But, as it is, I’ve not been entirely satisfied with existing programmes and attempts. So the question over the autumn months, as we approached the winter break, concerned whether there was anything else clever that we can think of or take inspiration from. I’m not comfortable in divulging too much at this time, not least until we have something solid. Having said that, in this post let’s talk about some of the cool and fun frontier mathematical tools relevant to my current research.

For my project the focus is on a number of important concepts, including generalised and non-commutative geometry. Within this, we may also ask questions like whether spacetime – and therefore geometry – is emergent. Sometimes in popular talks, one will hear the question framed another way: ‘is spacetime dead?’ But before getting ahead of ourselves, we may start with a very well known and familiar concept in string theory, namely T-duality. Indeed, one motivation to study generalised geometry relates to T-duality, particularly as T-duality expresses how a string experiences geometry. For example, one will likely be familiar with how, in string theory, if we consider the propagation of a string in spacetime in which one spatial dimension is curled up into a circle, the idea is that when we compactify a dimension (in this case on a circle) we modify the string mass spectrum. Less abstractly, take some 10-dimensional string theory and then compactify on a circle $S^{1}$ of radius $R$. The string moves along the circle with the momenta quantised such that p = n / R (n \in \mathbb{Z}). When compactifying the 10th dimension we obtain for the compactified direction, \displaystyle X_{(s)}^{d} (\tau, \sigma + 2\pi) = X_{(s)}^{d}(\tau, \sigma) + 2 \pi \omega R, where we now have winding modes. This is because, as one will learn from any string theory textbook, the string winds around the circle with coordinate X. We can thus write the statement \delta X = 2\pi R m (m \in \mathbb{Z}). In this basic example T-duality is the statement R \rightarrow \frac{\alpha^{\prime}}{R} with n \longleftrightarrow m. The winding modes that appear are of course a deeply stringy phenomenon. And what is interesting is the question of the generalisation of T-duality. Moreover, how might we think of string geometry in such a way that T-duality is a natural symmetry? Generalised geometry was largely motivated by this duality property, such as in the work by Nigel Hitchin. The basic mathematical statement is that the tangent bundle TM of a manifold M is doubled in the sum of the tangent and co-tangent bundle TM \oplus T \star M. In this formalism we also replace the Lie bracket with a Courant bracket, which we may write as something of the form [X + \xi, Y + \eta]_{C} = [X, Y] + L_{X} \eta - L_{Y}\xi - \frac{1}{2} d(i_{X} \eta - i_{Y}\xi) such that X \xi, Y + \eta \in \Gamma (TM \oplus T \star M). In physics, there is also motivation to ask about the geometry of spacetime in which strings propagate. For instance, the existence of winding modes and the nature in which T-duality connects these winding modes to momentum hints that perhaps the fundamental geometry of spacetime should be doubled. This idea serves as one motivation for the study and development of Double Field Theory, which is something the great Barton Zwiebach has been working on in recent years and which uses the SO(d,d) invariant formalism (see his lecture notes).

Additionally, in these areas of thinking, one will often also come across notions like non-geometry or fuzzy geometry. Sometimes these words seem used interchangably, but we should be careful about their meaning. For instance, non-geometry possess a number of characteristics that contribute to its formal definition, one being that it refers strictly to non-Riemannian geometry. Furthermore, we are also speaking of non-geometry as non-commutative geometry [X_{i}, X_{J}] \approx \mathcal{O}(l_{s}) as well as non-associative geometry [X_{i}, X_{J}] X_{k} \approx (l_{s}). One of many possible ways to approach the concept in this regard is to think quantum mechanically. If General Relativity is a very good approximation at long distances, in which we may think of smooth and continuous manifolds; at the smallest scale – such as the string scale – there are important hints that our typical understanding of geometry breaks down.

We will spend a lot of time on this blog discussing technicalities. For now, I just want to highlight some of the different formalisms and tools. In taking a larger view, one thing that is interesting is how there are many similarities between non-commutative and non-associative algebra and generalised geometry, fuzzy geometry, and finally ideas of emergence and a generalised quantum mechanics, although a precise formulation of their relation remains lacking. But this is the arena, if you will, which I think we might be able to make some progress.

As for my research, the main point of this post is to note that these are the sorts of formalisms and tools that I am currently learning. The thing about string theory is that it allows for is no sharp distinction between matter and geometry. Then to think about emergent space – that spacetime is an emergent phenomena – this infers the idea of emergent geometry, and so now we are also starting to slowly challenge present comforts about such established concepts as locality. When we think about emergent geometry we might also think of the structure of perturbative string vacua and ultimately about de Sitter space as a solution that escapes the Swampland. There is a long way to go, but right now I think in general there is an interesting line of attack.

For the engaged reader, although dated the opening article by Michael Douglas in this set of notes from the 2002 summer school at the Clay Mathematics Institute may serve an engaging introduction or overview. A basic introduction to some of the topics described in this post can also be found for instance in this set of notes by Erik Plauschinn on non-geometric backgrounds. Non-commutative (non-associative) geometry is covered as well as things like doubled geometry / field theory. Likewise, I think this paper on non-associative gravity in string theory by Plauschinn and Ralph Blumenhagen offers a fairly good entry to some key ideas. Dieter Lüst also has some fairly accessible lecture notes that offer a glance at strings and (non)-geometry, while Mariana Graña’s lecture notes on generalised geometry are a bit more detailed but serve as a basic entry. Then there are Harold Steinacker’s notes on emergent geometry from matrix models and on non-commutative geometry in relation to matrix models. Finally, there are these lecture notes by Maxim Zabzine on generalised complex geometry and supersymmetry. This is by no means comprehensive, but these links should at least help one get their feet wet.

Maybe in one of the next posts I will spend some time with a thorough discussion on non-commutativity or why it is a motivation of Double Field Theory to make T-duality manifest (and its importance).

**Cover Image: Study of Curve Folding []