nLab geometry of physics -- WZW terms


this entry is one chapter of geometry of physics

previous chapters: groups, principal connections

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WZW terms

We had seen that in higher differential geometry, then given any closed differential (p+2)-form ωΩ cl p+2(X)\omega \in \Omega^{p+2}_{cl}(X), it is natural to ask for a prequantization of it, namely for a circle (p+1)-bundle with connection \nabla (equivalently: cocycle in degree-(p+2)(p+2)-Deligne cohomology) on XX whose curvature is F =ωF_\nabla = \omega. In terms of moduli stacks this means asking for lifts of the form

B p+1U(1) conn F () X ω Ω cl p+2 \array{ && \mathbf{B}^{p+1}U(1)_{conn} \\ &{}^{\mathllap{\nabla}}\nearrow& \downarrow^{\mathrlap{F_{(-)}}} \\ X &\stackrel{\omega}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+2}_{cl} }

in the homotopy theory of smooth homotopy types.

This immediately raises the question for natural classes of examples of such prequantizations.

One such class arises in infinity-Lie theory, where ω\omega is a left invariant form on a smooth infinity-group given by a cocycle in L-∞ algebra cohomology. The prequantum n-bundles arising this way are the higher WZW terms discussed here.

In low degree of traditional Lie theory this appears as follows: On Lie groups GG, those closed (p+2)(p+2)-forms ω\omega which are left invariant forms may be identified, via the general theory of Chevalley-Eilenberg algebras, with degree (p+2)(p+2)-cocycles μ\mu in the Lie algebra cohomology of the Lie algebra 𝔤\mathfrak{g} corresponding to GG. We have ω=μ(θ)\omega = \mu(\theta)where θ\theta is the Maurer-Cartan form on GG. These cocycles μ\mu in turn may arise, via the van Est map, as the Lie differentiation of a degree-(p+2)(p+2)-cocycle c:BGB p+2U(1)\mathbf{c} \colon \mathbf{B}G \to \mathbf{B}^{p+2}U(1) in the Lie group cohomology of GG itself, with coefficients in the circle group U(1)U(1).

This happens to be the case notably for GG a simply connected compact semisimple Lie group such as SU or Spin, where μ=,[,]\mu = \langle -,[-,-]\rangle, hence ω=θ,[θ,θ]\omega = \langle \theta , [\theta,\theta]\rangle, is the Lie algebra 3-cocycle in transgression with the Killing form invariant polynomial ,\langle -,-\rangle. This is, up to normalization, a representative of the de Rham image of a generator c\mathbf{c} of H 3(BG,U(1))H 4(BG,)H^3(\mathbf{B}G, U(1)) \simeq H^4(B G, \mathbb{Z}) \simeq \mathbb{Z}.

Generally, by the discussion at geometry of physics – principal bundles, the cocycle c\mathbf{c} modulates an infinity-group extension which is a circle p-group-principal infinity-bundle

B pU(1) G^ G Ωc B p+1U(1) \array{ \mathbf{B}^p U(1) &\longrightarrow& \hat G \\ && \downarrow \\ && G &\stackrel{\Omega\mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{B}^{p+1}U(1) }

whose higher Dixmier-Douady class class ΩcH p+2(X,) \int \Omega \mathbf{c} \in H^{p+2}(X,\mathbb{Z}) is an integral cohomology lift of the real cohomology class encoded by ω\omega under the de Rham isomorphism. In the example of Spin and p=1p = 1 this extension is the string 2-group.

Such a Lie theoretic situation is concisely expressed by a diagram of smooth homotopy types of the form

B p+1U(1) Ωc θ B pU(1) G ω Ω cl p+2 dRB p+2, \array{ && &\longrightarrow& \mathbf{B}^{p+1}U(1) \\ &{}^{\mathllap{\Omega \mathbf{c}}}\nearrow& &\swArrow_\simeq& \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\theta_{\mathbf{B}^p U(1)}}} \\ G &\stackrel{\omega}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}_{cl}^{p+2} &\stackrel{}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R} } \,,

where dRB p+2 dRB p+2U(1)\flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R} \simeq \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p+2}U(1) is the de Rham coefficients (see also at geometry of physics – de Rham coefficients) and where the homotopy filling the diagram is what exhibits ω\omega as a de Rham representative of Ωc\Omega \mathbf{c}.

Now, by the very homotopy pullback-characterization of the Deligne complex B p+1U(1) conn\mathbf{B}^{p+1}U(1)_{conn} (here), such a diagram is equivalently a prequantization of ω\omega:

B p+1U(1) conn B p+1U(1) θ B pU(1) G ω Ω cl p+2 dRB p+2. \array{ && \mathbf{B}^{p+1}U(1)_{conn} &\longrightarrow& \mathbf{B}^{p+1}U(1) \\ &{}^\mathllap{\nabla}\nearrow& \downarrow &\swArrow_\simeq& \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\theta_{\mathbf{B}^p U(1)}}} \\ G &\stackrel{\omega}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}_{cl}^{p+2} &\stackrel{}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R} } \,.

For ω=,[,]\omega = \langle -,[-,-]\rangle as above, we have p=1p= 1 and so \nabla here is a circle 2-bundle with connection, often referred to as a bundle gerbe with connection. As such, this is also known as the WZW gerbe or similar.

This terminology arises as follows. In (Wess-Zumino 84) the sigma-model for a string propagating on the Lie group GG was considered, with only the standard kinetic action term. Then in (Witten 84) it was observed that for this action functional to give a conformal field theory after quantization, a certain higher gauge interaction term has to the added. The resulting sigma-model came to be known as the Wess-Zumino-Witten model or WZW model for short, and the term that Witten added became the WZW term. In terms of string theory it describes the propagation of the string on the group GG subject to a force of gravity given by the Killing form Riemannian metric and subject to a B-field higher gauge force whose field strength is ω\omega. In (Gawedzki 87) it was observed that when formulated properly and generally, this WZW term is the surface holonomy functional of a connection on a bundle gerbe \nabla on GG. This is equivalently the \nabla that we just motivated above.

Later, such WZW terms, or at least their curvature forms ω\omega, were recognized all over the place in quantum field theory. For instance the Green-Schwarz sigma-models for super p-branes each have an action functional that is the sum of the standard kinetic action plus a WZW term of degree p+2p+2.

In general WZW terms are “gauged” which means, as we will see, that they are not defined on the given smooth infinity-group GG itself, but on a bundle G˜\tilde G of differential moduli stacks over that group, such that a map ΣG˜\Sigma \to \tilde G is a pair consisting of a map ΣG\Sigma \to G and of a higher gauge field on Σ\Sigma (a “tensor multiplet” of fields).

Here we discuss the general construction and theory of such higher WZW terms.

Model layer

We discuss how every cocycle μ:𝔤b p+1\mu \colon \mathfrak{g} \to b^{p+1} \mathbb{R} in L-∞ algebra cohomology has a Lie integration to a higher WZW term of the form

L μ:G˜B p+1(/Γ) conn \mathbf{L}_\mu \colon \tilde G \longrightarrow \mathbf{B}^{p+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma)_{conn}

where G˜\tilde G is a differential extension of the smooth p+1p+1-group that is the universal Lie integration of 𝔤\mathfrak{g}, and where Γ\Gamma \hookrightarrow \mathbb{R} is the group of periods of μ\mu on that group.

This construction is a differential refinement of Lie integration, so we start with recalling the relevant constructions and facts of Lie integration.

Lie integration

So let 𝔤\mathfrak{g} be an L-∞ algebra of finite type.


  • CE(𝔤)CE(\mathfrak{g}) for the Chevalley-Eilenberg algebra of an L-∞ algebra 𝔤\mathfrak{g};

  • Δ smth :ΔSmoothMfd\Delta^\bullet_{smth} \colon \Delta \to SmoothMfd for the cosimplicial smooth manifold with corners which is in degree kk the standard kk-simpliex Δ k k+1\Delta^k \hookrightarrow \mathbb{R}^{k+1};

  • Ω si (Δ smth k)\Omega^\bullet_{si}(\Delta_{smth}^k) for the de Rham complex of those differential forms on Δ smth k\Delta_{smth}^k which have sitting instants, in that in an open neighbourhood of the boundary they are constant perpendicular to any face on their value at that face;

  • Ω si (U×Δ smth k)\Omega^\bullet_{si}(U \times \Delta_{smth}^k) for USmoothMfdU \in SmoothMfd for the de Rham complex of differential forms on U×Δ kU \times \Delta^k which when restricted to each point of UU have sitting instants on Δ k\Delta^k;

  • Ω vert,si (U×Δ smth k)\Omega^\bullet_{vert,si}(U \times \Delta_{smth}^k) for the subcomplex of forms that in addition are vertical differential forms with respect to the projection U×Δ kUU \times \Delta^k \to U.


For 𝔤\mathfrak{g} an L-∞ algebra, write

  • exp(𝔤) PreSmoothTypes=PSh(CartSp,sSet)\exp(\mathfrak{g})_\bullet \in PreSmoothTypes = PSh(CartSp,sSet)

    for the simplicial presheaf

    exp(𝔤):(U×k)Hom dgAlg(CE(𝔤),Ω vert,si (U×Δ smth k)). \exp(\mathfrak{g}) \colon (U \times k) \mapsto Hom_{dgAlg}( CE(\mathfrak{g}), \Omega^\bullet_{vert,si}(U \times \Delta_{smth}^k) ) \,.

    which is the universal Lie integration of 𝔤\mathfrak{g};

  • dRexp(𝔤) PreSmoothTypes=PSh(CartSp,sSet)\flat_{dR}\exp(\mathfrak{g})_\bullet \in PreSmoothTypes = PSh(CartSp,sSet)

    for the simplicial presheaf

    dRexp(𝔤) :(U×k)Hom dgAlg(CE(𝔤),Ω si 1,(U×Δ smth k)) \flat_{dR}\exp(\mathfrak{g})_\bullet \;\colon\; (U \times k) \mapsto Hom_{dgAlg}( CE(\mathfrak{g}), \Omega^{\bullet\geq 1, \bullet}_{si}(U \times \Delta^k_{smth}) )

    of those differential forms on U×Δ U \times \Delta^\bullet with at least one leg along UU;

  • Ω flat 1(,𝔤) dRexp(𝔤) 0 dRexp(𝔤) \Omega^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) \coloneqq \flat_{dR}\exp(\mathfrak{g})_0 \longrightarrow \flat_{dR}\exp(\mathfrak{g})_\bullet

    for the canonical inclusion of the degree-0 piece, regarded as a simplicial constant simplicial presheaf.


From the discussion at Lie integration:

  1. Ω flat 1(,b p+1)=Ω cl p+2\Omega^1_{flat}(-,b^{p+1}\mathbb{R}) = \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+2}_{cl};

  2. for 𝔤\mathfrak{g} an ordinary Lie algebra, then for the 2-coskeleton

    cosk 2exp(𝔤)BG cosk_2 \exp(\mathfrak{g}) \simeq \mathbf{B}G_\bullet

    for GG the simply connected Lie group associated to 𝔤\mathfrak{g} by traditional Lie theory. If 𝔤\mathfrak{g} is furthermore a semisimple Lie algebra, then also

    cosk 3exp(𝔤)BG cosk_3 \exp(\mathfrak{g}) \simeq \mathbf{B}G_\bullet
  3. for 𝔤=b p\mathfrak{g} = b^{p}\mathbb{R} the line Lie p+1-algebra, then

    exp(b p)B p+1. \exp(b^p \mathbb{R}) \simeq \mathbf{B}^{p+1}\mathbb{R} \,.

The constructions in def. are clearly functorial: given a homomorphism of L-∞ algebras

μ:𝔤𝔥 \mu \;\colon\; \mathfrak{g} \longrightarrow \mathfrak{h}

it prolongs to a homomorphism of presheaves

μ:Ω flat 1(,𝔤)Ω 1(,𝔥) \mu \colon \Omega^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) \longrightarrow \Omega^1(-,\mathfrak{h})

and of simplicial presheaves

exp(μ):exp(𝔤)exp(𝔥) \exp(\mu) \;\colon\; \exp(\mathfrak{g}) \longrightarrow \exp(\mathfrak{h})



A degree-(p+2)(p+2)-L-∞ cocycle μ\mu on an L-∞ algebra 𝔤\mathfrak{g} is a homomorphism of the form

μ:𝔤b p+1 \mu \colon \mathfrak{g} \longrightarrow b^{p+1}\mathbb{R}

to the line Lie (p+2)-algebra b p+1b^{p+1}\mathbb{R}. The formal dual of this is the homomorphism of dg-algebras

CE(𝔤)CE(b p+1):μ * CE(\mathfrak{g}) \longleftarrow CE(b^{p+1}\mathbb{R}) \colon \mu^\ast

which manifestly picks a d CE(𝔤)d_{CE(\mathfrak{g})}-closed element in CE p+2(𝔤)CE^{p+2}(\mathfrak{g}).

Precomposing this μ *\mu^\ast with a flat L-∞ algebra valued differential form

AΩ flat 1(X,𝔤)=Hom dgAlg(CE(𝔤),Ω (X)) A \in \Omega^1_{flat}(X,\mathfrak{g}) = Hom_{dgAlg}(CE(\mathfrak{g}), \Omega^\bullet(X))

yields, by example , a plain closed (p+2)(p+2)-form

μ *AΩ cl p+2(X). \mu^\ast A \in \Omega^{p+2}_{cl}(X) \,.

Given an L-∞ cocycle

μ:𝔤b p+1, \mu \colon \mathfrak{g} \longrightarrow b^{p+1}\mathbb{R} \,,

as in example , then its group of periods is the discrete additive subgroup Γ\Gamma \hookrightarrow \mathbb{R} of those real numbers which are integrations

Δ smth p+3μ *A \int_{\partial \Delta^{p+3}_{smth}} \mu^\ast A \in \mathbb{R}

of the value of μ\mu, as in example , on L-∞ algebra valued differential forms

AΩ flat 1(Δ smth p+3), A \in \Omega^1_{flat}(\partial \Delta^{p+3}_{smth}) \,,

over the boundary of the (p+3)-simplex (which are forms with sitting instants on the (p+2)(p+2)-dimensional faces that glue together; without restriction of generality we may simply consider forms on the (p+2)(p+2)-sphere S p+2S^{p+2}).


Given an L-∞ cocycle μ:𝔤b p+1\mu \colon \mathfrak{g} \to b^{p+1}\mathbb{R}, as in example , then the universal Lie integration of μ\mu, via def. and remark , descends to the (p+2)(p+2)-coskeleton

BG cosk p+2exp(𝔤) \mathbf{B}G_\bullet \coloneqq cosk_{p+2}\exp(\mathfrak{g})

up to quotienting the coefficients \mathbb{R} by the group of periods Γ\Gamma of μ\mu, def. , to yield the bottom morphism in

exp(𝔤) exp(μ) B p+2 BG c B p+2(/Γ) . \array{ \exp(\mathfrak{g}) &\stackrel{\exp(\mu)}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathbf{B}G_\bullet &\stackrel{\mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{B}^{p+2} (\mathbb{R}/\Gamma)_\bullet } \,.

This is fairly immediate from the definitions, detailed discussion is in (FSS 12).

Here and in the following we are freely using example to identify exp(b p+1)B p+2\exp(b^{p+1}\mathbb{R}) \simeq \mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R}. Establishing this is the only real work in prop. .

The WZW terms


For μ:𝔤b p+1\mu \colon \mathfrak{g}\longrightarrow b^{p+1}\mathbb{R} an L-∞ cocycle, then there is the following canonical commuting diagram of simplicial presheaves

Ω flat 1(,G) μ Ω cl 2(,𝔾) dRBG dRc dRB 2𝔾Ω flat 1(,𝔤) μ Ω cl p+2 dRexp(𝔤) dRexp(μ) dRB p+2 dRBG dRc dRB p+2 \array{ \Omega^1_{flat}(-,G) &\stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow}& \Omega^2_{cl}(-,\mathbb{G}) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G &\stackrel{\flat_{dR} \mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^2 \mathbb{G} } \;\;\; \coloneqq \;\;\; \array{ \Omega^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) &\stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+2}_{cl} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \flat_{dR}\exp(\mathfrak{g})_\bullet & \stackrel{\flat_{dR}\exp(\mu)}{\longrightarrow} & \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G &\stackrel{\flat_{dR}\mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R} }

which is given

  • on the top by def. , example , remark ,

  • on the bottom by prop. ,

Moreover, this presents a refinement of the canonical Hodge filtration on B p(/Γ)\mathbf{B}^{p}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma), def. , along the cocycle c\mathbf{c} which Lie integrates μ\mu via prop. .



G˜G× dRBGΩ flat 1(,𝔤) \tilde G \coloneqq G \underset{\flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G}{\times} \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g})

for the homotopy pullback of the left vertical morphism in prop. along (the modulating morphism for) the Maurer-Cartan form θ G\theta_G of GG, i.e. for the object sitting in a homotopy Cartesian square of the form

G˜ θ G˜ Ω flat 1(,𝔤) G θ G dRBG. \array{ \tilde G &\stackrel{\theta_{\tilde G}}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ G &\stackrel{\theta_G}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G } \,.

For the special case that GG is an ordinary Lie group, then dRBGΩ flat 1(,𝔤)\flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G \simeq \Omega^{1}_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}), hence in this case the morphism being pulled back in def. is an equivalence, and so in this case nothing new happens, we get G˜G\tilde G \simeq G.

On the other extreme, when G=B pU(1)G = \mathbf{B}^{p}U(1) is the circle (p+1)-group, then def. reduces to the homotopy pullback that characterizes the Deligne complex and hence yields

B pU(1)˜B pU(1) conn. \widetilde{\mathbf{B}^p U(1)} \simeq \mathbf{B}^p U(1)_{conn} \,.

This shows that def. is a certain non-abelian generalization of ordinary differential cohomology. We find further characterization of this below in corollary , see remark .


From example one see the conceptial meaning of def. :

For GG a Lie group, then the de Rham coefficients are just globally defined differential forms, dRBGΩ flat 1(,𝔤)\flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G \simeq \Omega^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) (by the discussion here), and in particular therefore the Maurer-Cartan form θ G:G dRBG\theta_G \colon G \to \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G is a globally defined differential form. This is no longer the case for general smooth ∞-groups GG. In general, the Maurer-Cartan forms here is a cocycle in hypercohomology, given only locally by differential forms, that are glued nontrivially, in general, via gauge transformations and higher gauge transformations given by lower degree forms.

But the WZW terms that we are after are supposed to be prequantizations of globally defined Maurer-Cartan forms. The homotopy pullback in def. is precisely the universal construction that enforces the existence of a globally defined Maurer-Cartan form for GG, namely θ G˜:G˜Ω flat 1(,𝔤)\theta_{\tilde G} \colon \tilde G \to \Omega^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}).


Given an L-∞ cocycle μ:𝔤b p+1\mu \colon \mathfrak{g}\longrightarrow b^{p+1}\mathbb{R}, then via prop. , prop. and using the naturality of the Maurer-Cartan form, we have a morphism of cospan diagrams of the form

Ω flat 1(,𝔤) μ Ω cl p+2 dRBG dRc dRB p+2 θ G θ B p+1(/Γ) G Ωc B p+1(/Γ). \array{ \Omega^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) &\stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+2}_{cl} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \flat_{dR} \mathbf{B}G &\stackrel{\flat_{dR}\mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p+2}\mathbb{R} \\ \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\theta_G}} && \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\theta_{\mathbf{B}^{p+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma)}}} \\ G &\stackrel{\Omega \mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{B}^{p+1} (\mathbb{R}/\Gamma) } \,.

By the homotopy fiber product characterization of the Deligne complex this yields a morphism of the form

L WZW μ:G˜B p+1(/Γ) conn. \mathbf{L}_{WZW}^{\mu} \;\colon\; \tilde G \longrightarrow \mathbf{B}^{p+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma)_{conn} \,.

which modulates a p+1-connection/Deligne cocycle on the differentially extended smooth \infty-group G˜\tilde G from def. .

This we call the WZW term obtained by universal Lie integration from μ\mu.

Essentially this construction originates in (FSS 13).


The WZW term of def. is a prequantization of

ωμ(θ G˜) \omega \coloneqq \mu(\theta_{\tilde G})
B p+1(/Γ) conn L WZW μ F () G˜ μ(θ G˜) Ω p+2. \array{ && \mathbf{B}^{p+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma)_{conn} \\ & {}^{\mathllap{\mathbf{L}_{WZW}^\mu}}\nearrow & \downarrow^{\mathrlap{F_{(-)}}} \\ \tilde G &\stackrel{\mu(\theta_{\tilde G})}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+2} } \,.

Consecutive WZW terms and twists

More generally, one has a sequence of L-∞ cocycles, each defined on the extension that is classified by the previous one – a bouquet of cocycles.

In each stage, for μ 1:𝔤b p 1+1\mu_1 \colon \mathfrak{g}\to b^{p_1+1}\mathbb{R} a cocycle and 𝔤^𝔤\hat {\mathfrak{g}} \to \mathfrak{g} the extension that it classifies (its homotopy fiber), then the next cocycle is of the form μ 2:𝔤^b p 2+1\mu_2 \colon \hat \mathfrak{g} \to b^{p_2+1}\mathbb{R}

𝔤^ μ 2 b p 2+1 𝔤 μ 1 b p 1+1. \array{ \hat {\mathfrak{g}} &\stackrel{\mu_2}{\longrightarrow}& b^{p_2+1}\mathbb{R} \\ \downarrow \\ \mathfrak{g} &\stackrel{\mu_1}{\longrightarrow}& b^{p_1+1}\mathbb{R} } \,.

The homotopy fiber 𝔤^𝔤\hat \mathfrak{g} \to \mathfrak{g} of μ 1\mu_1 is given by the ordinary pullback

𝔤^ eb p 1 𝔤 μ 1 b p 1+1, \array{ \hat \mathfrak{g} &\longrightarrow& e b^{p_1} \mathbb{R} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathfrak{g} &\stackrel{\mu_1}{\longrightarrow}& b^{p_1+1}\mathbb{R} } \,,

where eb p 1e b^{p_1}\mathbb{R} is defined by its Chevalley-Eilenberg algebra CE(eb p 1)CE(e b^{p_1}\mathbb{R}) being the Weil algebra of b p 1b^{p_1}\mathbb{R}, which is the free differential graded algebra on a generator in degree p 1p_1, and where the right vertical map takes that generator to 0 and takes its free image under the differential to the generator of CE(b p 1+1)CE(b^{p_1+1}\mathbb{R}).


A homotopy fiber sequence of L-∞ algebras 𝔤^𝔤μb p+1\hat \mathfrak{g} \to \mathfrak{g}\stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow} b^{p+1}\mathbb{R} induces a homotopy pullback diagram of the the associated objects of L-∞ algebra valued differential forms, def. , of the form

Ω flat 1(,𝔤^) Ω p+1 d Ω flat 1(,𝔤) μ Ω cl p+2 \array{ \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,\hat {\mathfrak{g}}) &\stackrel{}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+1} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow^{\mathbf{d}} \\ \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) &\stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+2}_{cl} }

(hence an ordinary pullback of presheaves, since these are all simplicially constant).


The construction 𝔤Hom dgAlg(CE(𝔤),Ω ())\mathfrak{g} \mapsto Hom_{dgAlg}(CE(\mathfrak{g}), \Omega^\bullet(-)) preserves pullbacks (CECE is an anti-equivalence onto its image, pullbacks of (pre-)-sheaves are computed objectwise, the hom-functor preserves pullbacks in the covariant argument).

Observe then (see the discussion at L-∞ algebra valued differential forms), that while

Ω cl p+2Hom dgAlg(CE(b p+1),Ω ()) \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+2}_{cl} \simeq Hom_{dgAlg}(CE(b^{p+1}), \Omega^\bullet(-))

we have

Ω p+1Hom dgAlg(W(b p),Ω ()). \mathbf{\Omega}^{p+1} \simeq Hom_{dgAlg}(W(b^{p}), \Omega^\bullet(-)) \,.

With this the statement follows by lemma .


We say that a pair of L-∞ cocycles (μ 1,μ 2)(\mu_1, \mu_2) is consecutive if the domain of the second is the extension (homotopy fiber) defined by the first

𝔤^ μ 2 b p 2+1 𝔤 μ 1 b p 1+1 \array{ \hat {\mathfrak{g}} &\stackrel{\mu_2}{\longrightarrow}& b^{p_2+1} \\ \downarrow \\ \mathfrak{g} &\stackrel{\mu_1}{\longrightarrow}& b^{p_1+1}\mathbb{R} }

and if the truncated Lie integrations of these cocycles via prop. preserves the extension property in that also

G^GΩc 1B p 1+1(/Γ 1) \hat G \to G \stackrel{\Omega \mathbf{c}_1}{\longrightarrow} \mathbf{B}^{p_1+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)

is a homotopy fiber sequence of smooth homotopy types.


The issue of the second clause in def. is to do with the truncation degrees: the universal untruncated Lie integration exp()\exp(-) preserves homotopy fiber sequences, but if there are non-trivial cocycles on 𝔤\mathfrak{g} in between μ 1\mu_1 and μ 2\mu_2, for p 2>p 1p_2 \gt p_1, then these will remain as nontrivial homotopy groups in the higher-degree truncation BG 2τ p 2exp(𝔤^)\mathbf{B}G_{2} \coloneqq \tau_{p_2}\exp(\hat\mathfrak{g}) (see Henriques 06, theorem 6.4) but they will be truncated away in BG 1τ p 1exp(𝔤)\mathbf{B}G_1 \coloneqq \tau_{p_1}\exp(\mathfrak{g}) and will hence spoil the preservation of the homotopy fibers through Lie integration.

Notice that extending along consecutive cocycles is like the extension stages in a Whitehead tower.

Given two consecutive L-∞ cocycles (μ 1,μ 2)(\mu_1,\mu_2), def. , let

L 1:G˜B p 1+1(/Γ 1) conn \mathbf{L}_1 \colon \tilde G \longrightarrow \mathbf{B}^{p_1+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)_{conn}


L 2:G^˜B p 2+1(/Γ 2) conn \mathbf{L}_2 \colon \widetilde {\hat G} \longrightarrow \mathbf{B}^{p_2+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_2)_{conn}

be the WZW terms obtained from the two cocycles via def. .


There is a homotopy pullback square in smooth homotopy types of the form

G^˜ Ω p 1+1 G˜ L 1 B p 1+1(/Γ 1) conn. \array{ \widetilde {\hat G} &\stackrel{}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p_1+1} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \tilde G &\stackrel{\mathbf{L}_1}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{B}^{p_1+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)_{conn} } \,.

Consider the following pasting composite

Ω p 1+1 * * d Ω p 1+2 dRB p 1+2 θ B p 1(/Γ 1) B p 1+1 μ 1 dRBG Ωc 1 Ω flat 1(,𝔤) dRBG θ G G, \array{ \mathbf{\Omega}^{p_1+1} &\longrightarrow& \ast &\longleftarrow& \ast \\ {}^{\mathllap{\mathbf{d}}}\downarrow &\swArrow& \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathbf{\Omega}^{p_1+2} &\longrightarrow& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{p_1+2}\mathbb{R} &\stackrel{\theta_{\mathbf{B}^{p_1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)}}{\longleftarrow}& \mathbf{B}^{p_1+1}\mathbb{R} \\ \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\mu_1}} && \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\flat_{dR} \mathbf{B}G}} && \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\Omega \mathbf{c}_1}} \\ \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,\mathfrak{g}) &\stackrel{}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G &\stackrel{\theta_G}{\longleftarrow}& G } \,,


  • the top left square is the evident homotopy;

  • the bottom left square is from prop.

  • the right square is the naturality of the Maurer-Cartan form construction.

Under forming homotopy limits over the horizontal cospan diagrams here, this turns into

Ω p 1+1 B p 1+1(/Γ 1) conn L 1 G˜ \array{ \mathbf{\Omega}^{p_1+1} \\ \downarrow \\ \mathbf{B}^{p_1+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)_{conn} \\ \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\mathbf{L}_1}} \\ \tilde G }

by prop. . On the other hand, forming homotopy limits vertically this turns into

Ω flat 1(,𝔤^) dRBG 2 θ G^ G^ \array{ \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,\hat \mathfrak{g}) &\longrightarrow& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G_2 &\stackrel{\theta_{\hat G}}{\longleftarrow}& \hat G }

(on the left by corollary , on the right by the second clause in def. ).

The homotopy limit over that last cospan, in turn, is G^˜\widetilde{\hat G}. This implies the claim by the fact that homotopy limits commute with each other.


Prop. says how consecutive pairs of L L_\infty-cocycles Lie integrate suitably to consecutive pairs of WZW terms.


In the above situation there is a homotopy fiber sequence of the form

B p 1(/Γ 1) conn G^˜ G˜. \array{ \mathbf{B}^{p_1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)_{conn} &\longrightarrow& \widetilde {\hat G} \\ && \downarrow \\ && \tilde G } \,.

By prop. and the pasting law, the homotopy fiber of G^˜G˜\widetilde {\hat G} \to \tilde G is equivalently the homotopy fiber of Ω p 1+1Ω cl p 1+2\mathbf{\Omega}^{p_1+1}\to \mathbf{\Omega}^{p_1+2}_{cl}

B p 1(/Γ 1) conn G^˜ Ω p 1+1 * G˜ L 1 B p 1+1(/Γ 1) conn. \array{ \mathbf{B}^{p_1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)_{conn} &\longrightarrow& \widetilde {\hat G} &\stackrel{}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^{p_1+1} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \ast &\longrightarrow& \tilde G &\stackrel{\mathbf{L}_1}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{B}^{p_1+1}(\mathbb{R}/\Gamma_1)_{conn} } \,.

Corollary says that G^˜\widetilde {\hat G} is a bundle of moduli stacks for differential cohomology over G˜\tilde G. This means that maps

ΣG^˜ \Sigma \longrightarrow \widetilde{\hat G}

(which are the fields of the higher WZW model with WZW term L 2\mathbf{L}_2) are pairs of plain maps ϕ:ΣG˜\phi \colon \Sigma \to \tilde G together with a differential cocycle on Σ\Sigma, i.e. a p 1p_1-form connection on Σ\Sigma, which is twisted by ϕ\phi in a certain way.

This oocurs for the (properly globalized) Green-Schwarz super p-brane sigma models of all the D-branes and of the M5-brane. For the D-branes p 1=1p_1 = 1 and so there is a 1-form connection on their worldvolume, the Chan-Paton gauge field. For the M5-brane p 1=2p_1 = 2 and so there is a 2-form connection on its worldvolume, the self-dual higher gauge field in 6d.

Semantic layer

We discuss the general abstract formulation of WZW terms in a cohesive (infinity,1)-topos.

Throughout, let

  • H\mathbf{H} an cohesive (∞,1)-topos;

  • 𝔾H\mathbb{G} \in \mathbf{H} be an object equipped with the structure of a braided ∞-group, i.e. with specified double delooping B 2𝔾\mathbf{B}^2 \mathbb{G}.

  • Ω cl 2(,𝔾) dRB𝔾\Omega^2_{cl}(-,\mathbb{G}) \to \cdots \to \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}\mathbb{G} a chosen Hodge filtration;

  • GHG \in \mathbf{H} be any object equipped with ∞-group structure, i.e. with specified delooping BG\mathbf{B}G;

  • c:BGB 2𝔾\mathbf{c} \;\colon\; \mathbf{B}G \longrightarrow \mathbf{B}^2 \mathbb{G} a morphism, hence a cocycle in the group cohomology of GG with coefficients in 𝔾\mathbb{G}.


Refinement of Hodge filtrations


A refinement of the Hodge filtration of 𝔾\mathbb{G} along the cocycle c\mathbf{c} is a choice of 0-truncated object Ω flat 1(,G)H\Omega^1_{flat}(-,G) \in \mathbf{H} and a completion to a diagram

Ω flat 1(,G) μ Ω cl 2(,𝔾) dRBG dRc dRB 2𝔾 \array{ \Omega^1_{flat}(-,G) &\stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow}& \Omega^2_{cl}(-,\mathbb{G}) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G &\stackrel{\flat_{dR} \mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^2 \mathbb{G} }

We write G˜\tilde G for the homotopy pullback of this refinement along the Maurer-Cartan form θ G\theta_G of GG

G˜ θ G˜ Ω flat 1(,G) G θ G dRBG. \array{ \tilde G &\stackrel{\theta_{\tilde G}}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,G) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ G &\stackrel{\theta_G}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G } \,.

Let H=\mathbf{H} = Smooth∞Grpd and 𝔾=B pU(1)\mathbb{G} = \mathbf{B}^p U(1) the circle (p+1)-group.

For GG an ordinary Lie group, then μ\mu may be taken to be the Lie algebra cocycle corresponding to c\mathbf{c} and then G˜G\tilde G \simeq G.

On the opposite extreme, for G=B pU(1)G = \mathbf{B}^p U(1) itself with c\mathbf{c} the identity, then G˜=B pU(1) conn\tilde G = \mathbf{B}^pU (1)_{conn} is the coefficients for ordinary differential cohomology (the Deligne complex under Dold-Kan correspondence and infinity-stackification).

Hence a more general case is a fibered product of these two, where G˜\tilde G is such that a map ΣG˜\Sigma \longrightarrow \tilde G is equivalently a pair consisting of a map ΣG\Sigma \to G and of differential pp-form data on Σ\Sigma. This is the case of relevance for WZW models of super p-branes with “tensor multiplet” fields on them, such as the D-branes and the M5-brane.

WZW terms


In the situation of def. there is an essentially unique prequantization

L WZW:G˜B 2𝔾 conn \mathbf{L}_{WZW} \colon \tilde G \longrightarrow \mathbf{B}^2 \mathbb{G}_{conn}

of the closed differential form

μ(θ G˜):G˜θ G˜Ω flat 1(,G)μΩ cl 2(,𝔾) \mu(\theta_{\tilde G}) \colon \tilde G \stackrel{\theta_{\tilde G}}{\longrightarrow} \mathbf{\Omega}^1_{flat}(-,G) \stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow} \mathbf{\Omega}^2_{cl}(-,\mathbb{G})

whose underlying 𝔾\mathbb{G}-principal ∞-bundle is modulated by the looping Ωc\Omega \mathbf{c} of the original cocycle.

This we call the WZW term of c\mathbf{c} with respect to the chosen refinement of the Hodge structure.


The morphism in question is the image under forming homotopy limits of the morphism of cospan diagrams

Ω flat 1(,G) μ Ω cl 2(,𝔾) dRBG dRc dRB 2𝔾 θ G θ B𝔾 G Ωc B𝔾, \array{ \Omega^1_{flat}(-,G) &\stackrel{\mu}{\longrightarrow}& \Omega^2_{cl}(-,\mathbb{G}) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}G &\stackrel{\flat_{dR}\mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \flat_{dR}\mathbf{B}^2 \mathbb{G} \\ \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\theta_G}} && \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\theta_{\mathbf{B}\mathbb{G}}}} \\ G &\stackrel{\Omega \mathbf{c}}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbf{B}\mathbb{G} } \,,

where the top square is from def. and where the bottom square is the naturality square of the homotopy fiber sequence that defines the Maurer-Cartan forms (see here).

Definite globalization of WZW terms

definite globalization of WZW terms

Syntax layer


Last revised on June 27, 2019 at 12:28:49. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.