Summary
In physics, lattice gauge theory is the study of gauge theories on a spacetime that has been discretized into a lattice. Gauge theories are important in particle physics, and include the prevailing theories of elementary particles: quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics (QCD) and particle physics' Standard Model. Non-perturbative gauge theory calculations in continuous spacetime formally involve evaluating an infinite-dimensional path integral, which is computationally intractable. By working on a discrete spacetime, the path integral becomes finite-dimensional, and can be evaluated by stochastic simulation techniques such as the Monte Carlo method. When the size of the lattice is taken infinitely large and its sites infinitesimally close to each other, the continuum gauge theory is recovered. In lattice gauge theory, the spacetime is Wick rotated into Euclidean space and discretized into a lattice with sites separated by distance and connected by links. In the most commonly considered cases, such as lattice QCD, fermion fields are defined at lattice sites (which leads to fermion doubling), while the gauge fields are defined on the links. That is, an element U of the compact Lie group G (not algebra) is assigned to each link. Hence, to simulate QCD with Lie group SU(3), a 3×3 unitary matrix is defined on each link. The link is assigned an orientation, with the inverse element corresponding to the same link with the opposite orientation. And each node is given a value in (a color 3-vector, the space on which the fundamental representation of SU(3) acts), a bispinor (Dirac 4-spinor), an nf vector, and a Grassmann variable. Thus, the composition of links' SU(3) elements along a path (i.e. the ordered multiplication of their matrices) approximates a path-ordered exponential (geometric integral), from which Wilson loop values can be calculated for closed paths. The Yang–Mills action is written on the lattice using Wilson loops (named after Kenneth G. Wilson), so that the limit formally reproduces the original continuum action.
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