• Register
PhysicsOverflow is a next-generation academic platform for physicists and astronomers, including a community peer review system and a postgraduate-level discussion forum analogous to MathOverflow.

Welcome to PhysicsOverflow! PhysicsOverflow is an open platform for community peer review and graduate-level Physics discussion.

Please help promote PhysicsOverflow ads elsewhere if you like it.


PO is now at the Physics Department of Bielefeld University!

New printer friendly PO pages!

Migration to Bielefeld University was successful!

Please vote for this year's PhysicsOverflow ads!

Please do help out in categorising submissions. Submit a paper to PhysicsOverflow!

... see more

Tools for paper authors

Submit paper
Claim Paper Authorship

Tools for SE users

Search User
Reclaim SE Account
Request Account Merger
Nativise imported posts
Claim post (deleted users)
Import SE post

Users whose questions have been imported from Physics Stack Exchange, Theoretical Physics Stack Exchange, or any other Stack Exchange site are kindly requested to reclaim their account and not to register as a new user.

Public \(\beta\) tools

Report a bug with a feature
Request a new functionality
404 page design
Send feedback


(propose a free ad)

Site Statistics

205 submissions , 163 unreviewed
5,075 questions , 2,226 unanswered
5,347 answers , 22,743 comments
1,470 users with positive rep
818 active unimported users
More ...

  Why do we need the large N expansion?

+ 3 like - 0 dislike

People say that QCD is a zero-parameter theory because the coupling constant g is changing with the RG flow. And to do a first approximation, we should introduce a parameter to expand in. The parameter turns out to be the N in SU(N). But similar arguments can be given for ϕ4 theory where the coupling λ is also a RG flow dependent quantity. Then why do we naturally and comfortably expand in λ there? And even after we introduce the large N expansion, we still do the analysis with the help of feynman diagrams which means that we already use the perturbation theory. So does it mean that the argument 'large N limit is introduced because QCD is a zero-parameter theory' incorrect and actually it is introduced simply for simplifying the calculations?

asked Jun 20, 2016 in Theoretical Physics by Wein Eld (195 points) [ no revision ]

1 Answer

+ 4 like - 0 dislike

You can expand confortably in a parameter when this parameter is small. Even if the coupling constant depends on the energy scale, one can expand in terms of the coupling constant at a fixed energy scale. This is a good thing to do only if this number is small. In $\phi^4$-theory (in four dimensions), the coupling is small in the IR but big in the UV: perturbation theory will tell you nothing interesting in the UV (and it is quite likely that $\phi^4$ theory does not exist in the UV). In QCD, the coupling constant is small in the UV and perturbation theory in this regime can be done and is done and is extremely ueful in this regime. It just becomes inadequate to understand the IR physics.  Large $N$ limit is another perturbative scheme which is valid in a different range of parameters of the theory: it is useful for some questions, not for others.

answered Jun 21, 2016 by 40227 (5,140 points) [ no revision ]

Your answer

Please use answers only to (at least partly) answer questions. To comment, discuss, or ask for clarification, leave a comment instead.
To mask links under text, please type your text, highlight it, and click the "link" button. You can then enter your link URL.
Please consult the FAQ for as to how to format your post.
This is the answer box; if you want to write a comment instead, please use the 'add comment' button.
Live preview (may slow down editor)   Preview
Your name to display (optional):
Privacy: Your email address will only be used for sending these notifications.
Anti-spam verification:
If you are a human please identify the position of the character covered by the symbol $\varnothing$ in the following word:
Then drag the red bullet below over the corresponding character of our banner. When you drop it there, the bullet changes to green (on slow internet connections after a few seconds).
Please complete the anti-spam verification

user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required

Your rights