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4.4 Miscellaneous adjustment mechanisms

The importance of the cosmological constant problem has engendered a wide variety of proposed solutions. This section will present only a brief outline of some of the possibilities, along with references to recent work; further discussion and references can be found in [10, 3, 8].

One approach which has received a great deal of attention is the famous suggestion by Coleman [188], that effects of virtual wormholes could set the cosmological constant to zero at low energies. The essential idea is that wormholes (thin tubes of spacetime connecting macroscopically large regions) can act to change the effective value of all the observed constants of nature. If we calculate the wave function of the universe by performing a Feynman path integral over all possible spacetime metrics with wormholes, the dominant contribution will be from those configurations whose effective values for the physical constants extremize the action. These turn out to be, under a certain set of assumed properties of Euclidean quantum gravity, configurations with zero cosmological constant at late times. Thus, quantum cosmology predicts that the constants we observe are overwhelmingly likely to take on values which imply a vanishing total vacuum energy. However, subsequent investigations have failed to inspire confidence that the desired properties of Euclidean quantum cosmology are likely to hold, although it is still something of an open question; see discussions in [10, 3].

Another route one can take is to consider alterations of the classical theory of gravity. The simplest possibility is to consider adding a scalar field to the theory, with dynamics which cause the scalar to evolve to a value for which the net cosmological constant vanishes (see for example [189, 190]). Weinberg, however, has pointed out on fairly general grounds that such attempts are unlikely to work [10, 191]; in models proposed to date, either there is no solution for which the effective vacuum energy vanishes, or there is a solution but with other undesirable properties (such as making Newton's constant G also vanish). Rather than adding scalar fields, a related approach is to remove degrees of freedom by making the determinant of the metric, which multiplies Lambda0 in the action (15), a non-dynamical quantity, or at least changing its dynamics in some way (see [192, 193, 194] for recent examples). While this approach has not led to a believable solution to the cosmological constant problem, it does change the context in which it appears, and may induce different values for the effective vacuum energy in different branches of the wavefunction of the universe.

Along with global supersymmetry, there is one other symmetry which would work to prohibit a cosmological constant: conformal (or scale) invariance, under which the metric is multiplied by a spacetime-dependent function, gµnu -> elambda(x) gµnu. Like supersymmetry, conformal invariance is not manifest in the Standard Model of particle physics. However, it has been proposed that quantum effects could restore conformal invariance on length scales comparable to the cosmological horizon size, working to cancel the cosmological constant (for some examples see [195, 196, 197]). At this point it remains unclear whether this suggestion is compatible with a more complete understanding of quantum gravity, or with standard cosmological observations.

A final mechanism to suppress the cosmological constant, related to the previous one, relies on quantum particle production in de Sitter space (analogous to Hawking radiation around black holes). The idea is that the effective energy-momentum tensor of such particles may act to cancel out the bare cosmological constant (for recent attempts see [198, 199, 200, 201]). There is currently no consensus on whether such an effect is physically observable (see for example [202]).

If inventing a theory in which the vacuum energy vanishes is difficult, finding a model that predicts a vacuum energy which is small but not quite zero is all that much harder. Along these lines, there are various numerological games one can play. For example, the fact that supersymmetry solves the problem halfway could be suggestive; a theory in which the effective vacuum energy scale was given not by MSUSY ~ 103 GeV but by MSUSY2 / MPl ~ 10-3 eV would seem to fit the observations very well. The challenging part of this program, of course, is to devise such a theory. Alternatively, one could imagine that we live in a ``false vacuum'' - that the absolute minimum of the vacuum energy is truly zero, but we live in a state which is only a local minimum of the energy. Scenarios along these lines have been explored [203, 204, 205]; the major hurdle to be overcome is explaining why the energy difference between the true and false vacua is so much smaller than one would expect.

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