M theory through the looking glass: Tachyon condensation in the E8 heterotic string

Petr Hořava, Cynthia A. Keeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We study the spacetime decay to nothing in string theory and M-theory. First we recall a nonsupersymmetric version of heterotic M-theory, in which bubbles of nothing-connecting the two E8 boundaries by a throat-are expected to be nucleated. We argue that the fate of this system should be addressed at weak string coupling, where the nonperturbative instanton instability is expected to turn into a perturbative tachyonic one. We identify the unique string theory that could describe this process: The heterotic model with one E8 gauge group and a singlet tachyon. We then use world sheet methods to study the tachyon condensation in the Neveu-Schwarz-Ramond formulation of this model, and show that it induces a world sheet super-Higgs effect. The main theme of our analysis is the possibility of making meaningful alternative gauge choices for world sheet supersymmetry, in place of the conventional superconformal gauge. We show in a version of unitary gauge how the world sheet gravitino assimilates the Goldstino and becomes dynamical. This picture clarifies recent results of Hellerman and Swanson. We also present analogs of Rξ gauges, and note the importance of logarithmic conformal field theories in the context of tachyon condensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number066013
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 19 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'M theory through the looking glass: Tachyon condensation in the E8 heterotic string'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this